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Guests of the Ayatollah: The Iran Hostage Crisis: The First Battle in America's War with Militant Islam [Kindle Edition]

Mark Bowden
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (173 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Five years in the works, from the best-selling author of Black Hawk Down, comes a riveting, definitive chronicle of the Iran hostage crisis, America’s first battle with militant Islam. On November 4, 1979, a group of radical Islamist students stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran. Inspired by the revolutionary Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini, they hoped to stage a three-day sit-in protest of the American decision to allow exiled Iranian leader Shah Mohammed Reza to enter the United States for medical treatment. But these modest, peaceful aims were supplanted by something much more severe and dangerous. The students took sixty-six Americans hostage and kept the majority of them for 444 days in a prolonged conflict that riveted the world. The Iran hostage crisis was also a dramatic story that captivated the American people. Communities across the country launched yellow ribbon campaigns. ABC began a new late-night television program—which became Nightline—recapping the latest events int the crisis and counting up the days of captivity. The hostages’ families became celebrities, and the never-ending criticism of the government’s response crippled Jimmy Carter’s reelection campaign.
Guests of the Ayatollah tells this sweeping story through the eyes of the people who lived it, on both sides of the crisis. Mark Bowden takes us inside the hsotages’ cells, detailing the Americans’ terror; confusion, boredom, and ingenuity in the face of absurd interrogations, mock executions and a seemingly endless imprisonment. He recreates the exuberance and naïveté of the Iranian hostage takers. He chronicles the diplomatic efforts to secure the hostages’ release and offers a remarkable view of President Jimmy Carter’s Oval Office, where the most powerful man in the world was handcuffed by irrational fanatics halfway around the world. Throughout this all, Bowden weaves the dramatic story of Delta Force, a new Special Forces unit poised for their first mission, Operation Eagle Claw. This was an impossible, courageous, and desperate attempt to snatch the hostages from the embassy in Tehran, which, despite the heroism of Delta Force, exploded into tragic failure in the Iranian desert.

            Twenty-six years after the hostage crisis began, Iran, and America’s confrontation with militant Islam, is more relevant than ever before. Guests of the Ayatollah is a remarkably detailed, rigorously researched, brilliantly re-created, suspenseful account of the first battle in this conflict, a crisis that gripped and ultimately changed the world.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Bowden, whose Black Hawk Down won him a National Book Award nomination, turns his sights to the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. The audio abridgment is generally smooth, though it's often difficult to keep the cast of characters straight: 66 original hostages, dozens of Iranian captors and untold numbers of diplomats, bureaucrats and family members. On audio, such a dizzying array of stories and backstories can become confusing. Bowden is a capable and competent narrator; while there are no tour de force performances here, the reading is solid and consistent, with no annoying vocal tics or other distractions. The real bonus of the audio over the print version is the final disc, which contains several visual enhancements: a PDF map of the embassy compound; a map of Iran, with markings not only for cities but also the landing site of the ill-fated 1980 rescue mission; and, most impressively, almost nine minutes of footage from the Discovery Channel's four-part documentary Guests of the Ayatollah, featuring compelling interviews with surviving members of the rescue team.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Mark Bowden proved he knows how to tell a gripping narrative in Black Hawk Down and Killing Pablo. In this latest book he takes on a story with more immediate topical consequence, with similar results. It's a "painstaking recreation of those 444 days" (Cleveland Plain Dealer), told mostly from the red, white, and blue perspective. Some reviewers knock Bowden for focusing almost exclusively on the American captives and providing little insight into the motives and emotions of the Iranian hosts. Others note a tendency to get caught up in the finer details of the hostage crisis. But the skill with which he tells his story trumps all such concerns.<BR>Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1882 KB
  • Print Length: 710 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0802143032
  • Publisher: Grove Press (April 1, 2007)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001563LS6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #49,281 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An in depth, 360 degree view of the event August 2, 2006
I have read other books by Mark Bowden and he did not dissappoint me with "Guests..". True to his style that made his other books so good were his ability to get a 360 degree view of the situation by getting accounts from all sides of an event. He has the ability to create stories with in the story of all the people involved on all sides and it left me wondering how he was able to make such contacts, get precise information and draw the lines he did especially in regards to a radically Islamic Iran.

The only part of the book that dragged was the day to day routine the prisoners dealt with (only a few were tortured i.e. beaten, most were just holed up, some alone for months on end and repeatedly interrogated and harrassed by uneducated fundamental "students"). The prisoners were held hostage for ever 440 days and like their monotonous time spent sitting in their rooms, the book got a little monotonous talking about it. One reason I bought the book was to hopefully learn something about the history of our two cultures and where it went wrong. Mr. Bowden's storytelling capabilities are so strong that to a point, the history lesson I was looking for was somewhat clouded by the situation he was writing about. This isn't a complaint, but I may have to re-read part of the book to find some of facts I was initially looking for.

His character development was excellent, and added strength to the stories when talking about clashing personalities, prisoners harrassing the guards or doing un-Islamic things in front of the guards to embarrass them. His research on the failed Delta mission was first class (and very sad in regards to the time and energy spent along with the loss of such capable men) as was his research on Carter and his administration during the whole crisis.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Captivating Piece of Journalism June 2, 2006
The newest book from Mark Bowden again delves into the murky realm where political scheming and military manuevering meet. Detailing the 1979 Iranian Hostage Crisis, Bowden tells a compelling story that weaves the personal experiences of those involved together with the clash of cultures and global politics.

As usual, Mark Bowden does a superb job of cutting through the mitigating complexities to deliver a strong narrative that imbues the reader with a clear picture of the unfolding events. He delivers nuanced portraits of many of the hostages, candidly exploring both their strengths and weaknesses. Simultaneously, he tells the saga of the birth of Delta Force, and the botched rescue attempt that was their infamous first mission.

While I found "Guests of the Ayatollah to be enjoyable and compelling, it fell short of Bowden's "Killing Pablo", and "Black Hawk Down". I believe the primary reason is that Bowden is at his best when depicting scenes of action and mayhem, whether Special Operations firefights or Columbian drug wars. While "Guests" does contain many action driven passages, the bulk of it is devoted to the ways in which the hostages dealt with the tedium of captivity. Obviously that is an essential part of the story, but I found it led to some passages that seemed repetitive, especially the ones that detail criticisms of the hostage's guards, and of the philosophy of the Iranian cultural revolution. The secondary weakness of the book is the ending, in which Bowden switches to a first person perspective to discuss his own ideas about Iran in the present day. For me it lessened the impact carried by the rest of the book.

My two complaints are very minor, but enough to prevent a full five star rating. This fascinating and imformative book is a great aid for understanding the current crisis developing between America and Iran. Ultimately, any reader should find this to yield many rewards.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The First Crisis With Persia (Iran) May 13, 2006
"Guests of the Ayatollah" is a riveting account of the seizure of the American Embassy in Tehran by militant Islamic radicals and students in 1979. Fifty-two Americans (an additional 14 had been released earlier) were held hostage for 444 days until Ronald Reagon's Inauguration in 1981. With such a large cast of characters, it is helpful that each of the six chapters is opened with a page of photographs of the principals for that chapter (with two pages of maps).

The author of "Black Hawk Down" chillingly describes the doomed Delta One Task Force rescue attempt in the midst of a presidential election year. His research will make this book the definitive account of this crisis. Mr. Bowden seems to have interviewed everyone involved : the hostages, the Iranians, Delta Force soldiers, and American politicians. He injects himself into the epilogue as he traveled four times to Iran in 2003-2004 to track down the key Iranian participants. "Guests of the Ayatollah" is a page-turner that sheds background and light onto the current nuclear crisis with Iran.
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44 of 56 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Guests of the Ayatollah is by far Mark Bowden's best work. If he doesn't win a Pulitzer Prize for this brilliant piece of journalism he will have been robbed! His outstanding research, interviews, and story telling weave the most compelling narrative of what actually occurred behind the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran during the 444 days that America was held captive. You actually feel like you are right there amongst the American hostages battling anger, fear, depression, smiling inward with every small personal victory over the Iranian students, and comtemplating ways to escape the nightmare both physically and mentally. You also get a clear picture of a President who is angered by the turn of events in Iran, but is too weak to do anything about it. The inclusion of the details of the bold, but ill-fated American rescue mission (Operation Eagle Claw) is fascinating in itself and brilliantly woven into the story. Twenty-six years after the U.S. Embassy takeover you would think that everything that needed to be said about the crisis would have been said, but as Mark Bowden shows that's clearly not the case! THIS IS AN ABSOLUTELY MUST READ BOOK! A note to Mark Bowden: A great piece of journalism, Mark! I hope you pick up a Pulitzer Prize. You deserve it!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Suspenseful with fine detail
I came to this account having forgotten much of the event, other than being somewhat suspicious of the hostages' release in relation to the election. Read more
Published 1 month ago by KENNETH OPLAND
4.0 out of 5 stars a fascinating read
An interesting account of the non-Argo hostages. Well-written, meticulously researched, and full of detail. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Gretchen Krantz Evans
5.0 out of 5 stars great book
this is a current account of what happen the day that the seals landed to get the ayatollah. great book
Published 4 months ago by donna
2.0 out of 5 stars Not Bowden's best for sure
Bowden has done much better in previous books. I found this one boring and very repetitive. Had a very hard time finishing this one but kept hoping it would get better, it... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Jeff Spring
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Well done.
I was an adult during this historic time but so busy with work, housework, hubby, children, and college that I really didn't KNOW or APPRECIATE the circumstances and sacrifices our... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Special mom
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent history of the lengthy and dramatic Iranian hostage-taking...
Some of the best histories keep you in suspense even when you know the outcome. (If you liked the movie Argo, you'll like this. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Barbara D. Bovbjerg
4.0 out of 5 stars Very informative
It's very informative and gives light to the current relational tensions between the USA and Iran. The thing I don't like: some of the details is too much which causes it to become... Read more
Published 5 months ago by LeahMC
5.0 out of 5 stars Bowden does it Again
Bowden does it again. A terrific book that is spell binding and accurate. He writes the details of the failed rescue mission as though he had been there. Read more
Published 5 months ago by W.W. Frankenberger
5.0 out of 5 stars Iran
A great book by a great reporter. This is an inspiring story about one of the most difficult periods in recent american history.
Published 5 months ago by richard harris
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!
This may be one of the finest historical works I have ever read. Meticulously researched on both sides sides of the equation. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Jeffrey D. Kerner
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More About the Author

Mark Bowden is the bestselling author of Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War, as well as The Best Game Ever, Bringing the Heat, Killing Pablo, and Guests of the Ayatollah. He reported at The Philadelphia Inquirer for twenty years and now writes for Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, and other magazines. He lives in Oxford, Pennsylvania.


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