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The Wolf and the Watchman: A Father, a Son, and the CIA Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (May 20, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393239802
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393239805
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #69,936 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

When Johnson was a teenager living in suburban Detroit after years of living in exotic places around the world, his father revealed the secret that had guided their lives: he was a CIA agent. That revelation gave Johnson license to deceive and cover up as well, joining his father in a double life. Feelings of fear and isolation never left him, even later as he pursued a career as a journalist. As a foreign correspondent, he found astounding parallels between his father’s work and his own, including source development and the sometimes clandestine nature of the work. Johnson traces his life as son and journalist from the U.S. to Mexico to the Middle East and Europe, tracking secrets and wondering about the morality and authenticity of his and his father’s lives together and apart. He ponders the impact of secretiveness on his father’s marriages and on his own failed relationships. An enthralling look at a complicated father-son relationship and a painful investigation of the messiness of truth in journalism, intelligence ops, and life. --Vanessa Bush

Review

“A beautifully written memoir, and a cautionary tale about double lives. . . . I couldn’t put this book down.” (Robert Baer, former CIA case officer and author of See No Evil)

“Scott Johnson has written a fine book of unusual honesty; he grapples with the nature of his beloved father’s secret life and the profound consequences it has had in his own. This is an extraordinary story, astonishingly well-told.” (Jon Lee Anderson, author of Che Guevara)

“A mesmerizing book . . . beautifully written, deeply moving, and compulsively readable.” (David Finkel, author of The Good Soldiers)

“Brave and memorable . . . a rare glimpse into the private life of a spy that digs into the love, lies, and ambiguities between father and son.” (Megan Stack, author of Every Man in This Village Is a Liar)

“An aching, lyrical father-son story of the spy world that is dark and intriguing.” (Evan Thomas, author of The War Lover)

“This stunning memoir could be ripped from the pages of a John le Carré novel. . . . A fascinating and important book by one of the great American foreign correspondents of his generation.” (Michael Hastings, author of The Operators)

“[A] searingly honest memoir… [Johnson] deftly explores the eerie parallels between these professional worlds: the CIA case officer who labors to recruit sources to provide secret information to assist the United States in its pursuit of foreign policy objectives worldwide, and the journalist who also recruits inside sources, but ones who will speak for publication.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

“Evokes John le Carré’s dark autobiographical thriller The Perfect Spy.” (Washington Post)

“An enthralling look at a complicated father-son relationship and a painful investigation of the messiness of truth in journalism, intelligence ops, and life.” (Booklist)

“Johnson’s engrossing memoir, through the layers of subterfuge, uncovers many basic truths of familial conflict.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Gripping, emotional depictions of the conflicts that rage in the interior and exterior worlds of a spy—and of a journalist.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Though there’s plenty of covert action and espionage in this fabulous book, the real heft of it is in Johnson’s moving account of his relationship with his father and how the secrets of the CIA affected that relationship.” (School Library Journal)

“With rare emotional subtlety, and in finely etched prose worthy of Evelyn Waugh or Graham Greene, [Johnson] captures the perspectives of people on various sides of [a] bloody equation.” (Emma Garman - The Daily Beast)

More About the Author

Scott C. Johnson was a Newsweek foreign correspondent and Bureau Chief for over twelve years, reporting from over fifty countries on five continents. Scott has spent much of the last decade in the Middle East, covering the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and in Africa, reporting on politics and current affairs. He has been the chief of Newsweek's Mexico, Baghdad, and Africa bureaus, as well as a special correspondent from Paris. He was part of the team that contributed to Newsweek's 2003 National Magazine Award for reportage of the Iraq war, and in 2004 the Overseas Press Club honored his reports on Latin America. He has appeared in various American media, including CNN ,National Geographic Explorer , and National Public Radio, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, Granta, Guernica, and elsewhere. He writes frequently about trauma, PTSD, and violence, and was the recipient of a fellowship by the California Endowment from 2010-2013. He is currently at work on a novel. Scott lives in California with his wife, and his cat, Dude.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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See all 35 customer reviews
All of this makes for a gripping, hard to put down read.
Darren
Too bad, because it is a good story, but needed to be told with a bit more care and passion.
mgr
The descriptions are lyrical and concise at the same time.
Jason P Bremer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By J. Robideau TOP 1000 REVIEWER on June 10, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was quickly drawn in by the immediacy of Johnson's descriptive storytelling, but the more I read, the more I realized that each story was also telling a secondary story. The story behind the stories was not flashy, but it was deep and though provoking. It was the story of a father that lived a lie and his son who had to deal with it. The father/son dynamic is the most interesting part of this book and it will lead you through a range of emotions.

The author doesn't tell you who the "bad guy" or "good guy" is, but rather tells the story of his life through his eyes and lets you draw your own conclusions.

As an expat with two sons myself, I especially appreciated his descriptions of what it was like to live in these foreign lands as a child. It is interesting to read what he remembered or thought of as important during those times. I can personally use these insights to understand what my children are going through.

Great qoutes were found throughout: "I loved it that a place you called home could also be incomprehensible."

If you saw "CIA" and bought this book looking for an action packed memoir, you will be sorely disappointed.

I recommend this book for anyone who appreciates a good story.

*This book was well formatted on my Gen4 Kindle with properly linked chapters and table of contents*
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By P. Opel on July 11, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I guess in some way, I had hoped that the real-life story of someone growing up a son of a spy would be a little more interesting. Instead, it's a pretty one-note story: "My father lied to me my whole life and that's why I'm screwed up." I was hoping for some redeeming qualities either in the author or his father, making me feel some empathy for them, but just didn't get that.

It's not all bad, though, hence the 3 stars. There are some interesting insights in how the business of espionage really works and how one gets started in the business. And the exotic international locations are fascinating.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By readerbarb on August 19, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book came well reviewed but I found it rather disappointing. The first section dwelling on the author's early life was fast moving and interesting but his adult life and his obsessive relationship with his father became rather tedious and repetitive. I cannot see that it would make a good movie as some reviewers suggested.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Kristin on August 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I think the term "memoir" can be a deterrent to some readers who don't want to hear some privileged author complain about the rough patches in his/her life.

This book is anything but that.

Scott Johnson thoroughly examines the relationship between him and his father and how it molded who he is today, while taking readers through a 30-year timespan from Pakistan to the United States to Afghanistan and everywhere in between. It's a quick and compelling read with very smart writing--you definitely can understand how Johnson became one of the most respected foreign correspondents of his time through his sharp tongue and gift with words. I'd be surprised if this book doesn't make it to the big screen down the line.

This book is for lovers of all genres--fiction, non-fiction, drama, travel, self-help, the list goes on. It's painful at times to see how self-deprecating Johnson could be toward himself--as well as how harsh he could be to his father--but it also encourages readers to delve deeper into who they are people and what made them so.

As someone who couldn't be less interested in politics, I wasn't sure I was going to love this book, as it does get into the Afghani and Iraqi culture as well as the United States' role in the war, but it wound up being one of the best books I've read in years, probably since The Glass Castle debuted.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jason P Bremer on June 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an amazing story and a beautifully written book. I've read many stories told from the perspective of the spy, but never one told from the perspective of the son, who wasn't in on his father's secret. In this case, the story is true and the author's many attempts to really learn about his father's actions makes for an honest and at the same time mesmerizing memoir. The author's job as a war corespondent keeps the book moving from one exotic location to another. The descriptions are lyrical and concise at the same time. Deception always has consequences, but it doesn't seem to be any easier when mandated by the government...
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Pandora B. on May 24, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
How many of us have wished that our parents worked in something so awe inspiring and mysterious as espionage... that we shared in their secret double life to protect our country? This is the narrative of how one boy grew up complicit in his father's secret, that he was a CIA spy. It's such a captivating and gripping story, so much so, I feel as though I read Scott Johnson's diary. He is such an eloquent and mesmerizing writer, it's incredibly raw and lyrical in prose and such a seductive take on his experiences. I found it difficult to put down, but refused to finish it for over a month as I felt I was losing a close friend. I highly recommend this for anyone that loves memoirs, non-fiction or spy thrillers. I actually recommend this to anyone & everyone. I think I may have to start reading it again tonight! Bravo Scott Johnson...
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