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The Master of Disguise: My Secret Life in the CIA [Kindle Edition]

Antonio J. Mendez
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (432 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.99
Kindle Price: $12.60
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Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
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Book Description

From the author of Argo comes an unforgettable behind-the-scenes story of espionage in action. In the first ever memoir by a top-level operative to be authorized by the CIA, Antonio J. Mendez reveals the cunning tricks and insights that helped save hundreds from deadly situations.

Adept at creating new identities for anyone, anywhere, Mendez was involved in operations all over the world, from "Wild West" adventures in East Asia to Cold War intrigue in Moscow. In 1980, he orchestrated the escape of six Americans from a hostage situation in revolutionary Tehran, Iran. This extraordinary operation inspired the movie Argo, directed by and starring Ben Affleck.

The Master of Disguise gives us a privileged look at what really happens at the highest levels of international espionage: in the field, undercover, and behind closed doors.



Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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

From Publishers Weekly

Former CIA chief of disguise Mendez was an award-winning spy (yes, they have awards). Here, given unique permission by that agency to write about his career, he offers an entertaining and action-filled, though restrained, memoir of his Cold War clandestine service, emphasizing the gritty, complicated realities of intelligence work. Experienced as an illustrator and seeking a little excitement, in 1965 he answered a newspaper ad for navy artists to work overseas, and soon found himself signing on with "the Company" as a graphics specialist in the technical services division. Mendez effectively conveys the tension of forging documents on short notice and knowing that an agent's life depended on his accuracy. The ambitious Mendez quickly sought overseas transfer; this, coupled with his innovations in the then nascent fields of alias creation, countersurveillance and disguise, made him into a sought-after specialist who was brought in to numerous hot spots to perform daunting tasks. The book is packed with these stories, but the detail on espionage techniques his team developed can be excessively dry, and Mendez at times turns abruptly circumspect to avoid divulging current components of spycraft. Mendez offers a balanced and humanized portrait of life within the CIA, acknowledging the strain on agents' families, and grounds his tale in the Cold War era's historical realities, producing a volume with appeal for both spy buffs and the simply curious. 8 pages of photos not seen by PW. 6-city author tour.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
180 of 190 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tony Mendez was a true cold war hero. November 9, 1999
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I worked very closely with Tony for many years and can attest to the authenticity of this book. I was saddened to learn through the book of the death of Karen Mendez . Tony truly was an action oriented person and his operational career was certainly not representative of Authentication Officers. This book says something about America and the Agency. The fact that a guy named Mendez , undereducated , from a town so small and isolated ( I spent the summer of 1946 there myself) could be so honored speaks volumes. For those who want to know about the can do sprirt that so characterized the Agency I knew , this is a must read.
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74 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Heart-Thumping Read November 30, 1999
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Mr. Mendez has shared with his readers a very real sense of what it was to be inside the CIA, and then inside some of their most exciting (and up to this point) secret operations. It is interesting that the CIA has allowed these stories to be told now, but in fact, after reading them, it is apparent that the intelligence equities are not affected. In each case the or foreign source has been safely rescued and resettled or the case has been finalized, once with the ultimate sacrifice on the part of the asset. I was thoroughly caught up in these tales of rescue and escapes from danger. It is amazing that these true stories are even more exciting than the Clancey books. His first book is a definite must read and will be on my Christmas gift list for several of my friends.
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43 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Real Cloak & Dagger Adventure January 10, 2000
Format:Hardcover
I was given this book for my thirtieth birthday approximately a month ago and since receiving it, I really had a difficult time putting it down!
From his hiring to training to actual field experiences, Mr. Mendez really allows the reader to know each event in great detail. Each chapter provides a new adventure!
I actually found myself feeling nervous as I read his stories of exfiltrations. I cannot imagine the amount of fear a person must experience as they provide phony identification to government officials in unfriendly countries. What becomes quickly apparent is the extreme courage of Mr. Mendez and others who truly risked their lives to protect the American way of life. This book also leaves the reader with a philosophical view towards why such espionage activities are necessary.
Of particular interest was the way Mr. Mendez related childhood activities to his career. I think that most people, myself included, can often relate such early experiences to current day career paths. In that respect, I feel that everyone in any profession will learn some life lessons from this book.
Finally, I'd only like to say that I wish the book was longer. Who knows, maybe Mr. Mendez will honor the American public with a second book.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spymaster August 29, 2004
Format:Paperback
The ambitious Mendez rose from his roots in a Nevada mining camp to become one of the top 50 agents in the CIA's first 50 years. His stories, based on his real-life adventures, crackle more than than many spy novels and movies. The CIA authorized Mendez to write this book, which casts the Company in a favorable light as the rescuer of double agents on the run and Americans caught in a revolution. With deft descriptions, Mendez portrays cities and operations in the Far East, the Middle East and Communist Moscow. Relying on Hollywood techniques, Mendez became the master of disguise who could make a Soviet agent unrecognizable to a KGB associate. The writing is straightforward and fast-paced.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Master of Disguise: My Secret Life in the CIA July 20, 2005
Format:Paperback
If you are interested in the CIA and the Cold War then you will love this book. Tony Mendez really did a super job in writing this. I found it very interesting and informative. I love Tom Clancy's novels and this is really so much more informative and more like real life as it actually is in the CIA. Men and women putting their life on the line every minute of the day somewhere in this world to help the USA remain a free country.
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41 of 50 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
In his autobiography, decorated CIA veteran Tony Mendez has written a detailed and fascinating account of spy operations during the Cold War. Other books have told us what the CIA did, but this is the first and only to expose the secrets of how they did it! Tony's unique career, and mastery of disguises, deception, forgery, and exfiltration, show us that the gadgets utilized by "James Bond" weren't alwaus fictional! Spy agencies worldwide will make THE MASTER OF DISGUISE required reading for intelligence officers; the new KGB will probably charter a plane to rush the first 100 copies straight to Moscow! H Keith Melton; author of THE ULTIMATE SPY BOOK
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41 of 50 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars EXCELLENT IDEA BADLY EXECUTED February 8, 2001
Format:Paperback
Although this book does shed light on a few details of tradecraft and mission, it is poorly written and has nil factor in entertainment value (except chapters 8 and 9 about work in Moscow and Teheran). I read "Master of Disguise" while also rereading Pete Early's "Confessions of a Spy" and I couldn't help but to think how wonderful "Master" could have been with the level of scholarship and thought in Pete Early's book. On top of it all this book doesn't have an index and in a book this boring it would have been really nice to have one.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Master of Disguise Tells a Masterful Story December 3, 1999
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
The book is well written making it a quick and interesting read. Tony details behind the scene facts that have never been exposed before. He provides an insight into the spy world that ended the cold war. I have read several books on the CIA and this is by far the best one I have read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Modern history for every man
Looking at modern history through a spy glass was fascinating. Clearly written and told with integrity. Another viewpoint on the last 60 years.
Published 4 hours ago by M. L. Brown
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book!
Very interesting insight into secrect agent daily business during cold war.
Published 14 days ago by Petr
5.0 out of 5 stars would recommend it to anyone who is interested in America's history
I was thoroughly engrossed in this man's story; would recommend it to anyone who is
interested in America's history.
Published 16 days ago by Judy
5.0 out of 5 stars My father worked for Air America in Laos during the ...
My father worked for Air America in Laos during the Vietnam war, and after retiring, he told us how one of his associates was rescued using Hollywood makeup techniques and a... Read more
Published 17 days ago by Sophie Lauren
3.0 out of 5 stars True story of the movie Argo
In the debate of books vs movies I am firmly in the "books are better" camp. However I was a bit disappointed with this one. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Banquero
5.0 out of 5 stars Good and thrilling narration
Very interesting real story of the cold war times. Good and thrilling narration.
Published 1 month ago by Mario Ramirez Gurria
4.0 out of 5 stars Disguise & Deception
A very good read from a "master' of disguise and deception. From such a simple background, the author embarks on a successful career in the CIA full of significant advances in... Read more
Published 2 months ago by studebhawk
3.0 out of 5 stars OK book
OK book,
Published 2 months ago by Kjell Oddvar Welde
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved this book
I loved this book. My only complaint is that often times I wished Tony described things in more detail, but clearly this is not possible due to the secrecy of the CIA. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Lenzjac
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing and enjoyable read!
Great read! Antonio Mendez is now one of my heroes. He is an artistic genius. Well written and interesting the whole way through. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Jon
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