The problem with memoirs by ex-secret agents is that they usually make their careers sound about as exciting as that of $6-an-hour bowling alley security guard, unless you're of the opinion that filing papers and making phone calls is the epitome of thrills. Antonio Mendez, however, has produced a tome that makes the life of a CIA agent sound every bit the slam-bang world of intrigue and skulking in the shadows that movies like Mission: Impossible
make it out to be.
Honored by the CIA on its 50th anniversary as being one of the agency's 50 "Trailblazers," the now-retired Mendez spins a fast-paced tale of intriguing characters partaking in skullduggery in exotic locales, made all the more appealing because Mendez himself is the featured star of the proceedings. In an almost offhand manner, he writes about seeing and doing things that would wilt the flower of courage in almost any reader. "Was I proud to be enlisting," he rhetorically ponders at one point, "on our side in the Cold War? You bet." Originally drafted by the CIA as a "technical artist" to provide cover for agents behind enemy lines, Mendez worked his way up the ladder and progressed to a full-fledged agent in the field, sneaking diplomats past enemy guards and spiriting informants into the night, eluding capture and torture at every turn--and using his artist's eye for detail to paint vivid word pictures of his predicaments. Mendez possesses a remarkably keen sense of the mechanics of a good cloak-and-dagger story, and fortunately pours it on in abundance here in his quite hefty--and surprisingly lively--autobiography. --Tjames Madison
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Mendez, a 25-year CIA operative who rose to the position of "Chief of Disguise," works hard to demystify the workings of Cold War spy culture. Though he alludes romantically to the agency's work as "a domain of shadows" in his introduction, his approach to this memoir is mostly pragmatic (fans of Robert Ludlum-type spy stories should stick with fiction). Recruited in the 1960s for his skills as an artist, he worked first on forging documents of foreign governments. He then ventured into the field, creating disguises to help "exfiltrate" spies from enemy territory. Was he engaged in CIA "dirty tricks"? Mendez claims not, defending his work as part of a very real "war." Reader Hill, a longtime Brilliance veteran, manages to translate ably the sense of awe that Mendez experienced as he learned the tools of his trade. More important, he makes the events sound credible and real, aided by Mendez's clear-eyed descriptive writing style. Based on the 1999 Morrow hardcover. (Dec.)
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