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The Master of Disguise: My Secret Life in the CIA Paperback – November 7, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 376 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (November 7, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060957913
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060957919
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (400 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #86,552 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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 --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.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

A very good book and interesting to read.
Avid Reader
The movie "Argo" based on Tony Mendez's adventures in the CIA is winning awards, but this story behind the fictionalized events is an exciting read in itself.
S. Rhoades
I found this book to be incredibly fascinating and written in such a way very far removed from the dry, facts-only writing I had first expected.
Shelly Olmstead

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

176 of 186 people found the following review helpful By Walter S. Mcintosh on 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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71 of 75 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 30, 1999
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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42 of 46 people found the following review helpful By David Nardella on 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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43 of 51 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 7, 1999
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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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Day Williams on 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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41 of 49 people found the following review helpful By "sunproperties" on 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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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Lorraine on 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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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 3, 1999
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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