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Agents of Innocence: A Novel Paperback – September 17, 1997
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From Library Journal
The factional strife in Lebanon feeds on rumor, deliberate lies, and half-truths, and spawns mercenaries and agents of every ideological stripe. Most share a harsh morality that allows terrorism to advance. A very few others are committed to relationships built on trust, honesty, and a sense of mutual responsibility. One such is Tom Rogers, a CIA agent who penetrates a prime Palestinian unit and makes a secret agreement with a young deputy chief of Fatah intelligence. This first novel is a suspenseful account of the excruciating ambiguity of the undertaking. Ignatius, a former Middle East correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, writes with a fatalistic affection for his subject and deep understanding of its complexity. As a storyteller, Ignatius deploys drama, pace, and character to make this a spy novel of formidable power. Barbara Conaty, Library of Congress
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“A first-rate achievement in the best tradition of Graham Greene.” (Los Angeles Times)
“An uncommonly informative and intriguing espionage thriller.” (Time)
“An unparalleled and hauntingly accurate portrait of how the intelligence game is really played.” (Bob Woodward)
“One of the best of all American spy novels…It resonates with the fraught work of making clandestine contacts with today's murderous extremists.” (Stephen Grey - The Guardian)
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Top Customer Reviews
The tale is set primarily in the labyrinthine world of Lebanon in the 1970's and 1980's, and follows the career of the fictional CIA case officer, Tom Rogers. When Rogers arrives in Beirut, it is September 1969, the eve of the tragic implosion of cosmopolitan Lebanon. By the conclusion of the story, terrorists have brought the nation to its knees. Throughout it all, Rogers desperately tries to keep from being overcome by events as he develops "assets"-and relationships-in an attempt to keep tabs on the growing threat of militant radicalism. If you know your history, then I don't have to tell you that this is a tragic tale.
The author draws heavily from his experience covering the growth of terrorism in Lebanon for the Washington Post. To an extent, the book is a fictionalization of life of real-world CIA man, Robert Ames. Purportedly, this novel is on the reading list at "The Farm" (the CIA's training ground at Camp Peary near Williamsburg, VA), and CIA Director George Tenet himself recommended this book in an interview on NPR several years ago. On top of that, it also does an admirable job of making sense (as far as possible) of the wild and varied religious, cultural and political forces operating in the region today.
That being said, this is fiction, not journalism; while the history it covers is essentially true, it would be a good idea to do some non-fiction reading as well if you want to more fully understand the Middle East picture. Still, the glimpse it gives of life in the field is fascinating, and as entertainment it is an excellent read. The prose is straightforward, the plot is gripping, and the characters are believable and engaging.
In summary, I give this book four out of five stars. It is not wonderful literature, nor is it deeply researched history, but it doesn't attempt to be. It is immensely entertaining and at the same time lightly informative. So far, it is the only novel on my Warblogger's Bookshelf. James Bond fans should look elsewhere, mind you, but if you love Le Carre, you'll love this.
The novel tears away my assumption that politics and hatred and cultural and religious import is the only motivation to characters, players in the deepest machinations of spy chicanery. Instead, humanity raises its "ugly" head to cause all kinds of "problems" for the humans--on any side. Spy masters search out agents, and agents respect and admire their supposed chess masters. Vice versa. And often life or death, success or failure of any character depends on not only the politics and governmental actions of nation states, but of the timing of a heart, the opening of a soul, the running after a car when it's about to be bombed.... and why? Because their humanity will not let them be robots to any cause.
Ignatius has done a brilliant job of affirming the human condition by showing that it is tethered to boss's orders and to the consciences of little kings of the soul. Love. Passion. Respect. Admiration. All are present and motivations for the characters in this strangely compelling little novel.
I left the book, sad, that I could not continue in the world Mr. Ignatius had created. For this world is actually a world of hope, promise... and that we all ache for something, for someone, for the fog to clear to know how to proceed and stay the course of a decent heart.
I loved this book because it is about relationships, believable ones, particularly the agent, his contact, and the proud, annoying scalawag from the PLO's inner circle they have happened on but can't tame. A host of other fascinating men and women populate it as well. I especially enjoyed the corrupt, sexy Lebanese couple and Levi, the nervous shape-shifting Mossad agent who hated his job. The tradecraft seems authentic, as well as the bureaucrat's dullness and the diplomatic corps.' pettiness. The sense of place is superb.
Incidental learning bonus: why did other Moslems not take in the stateless Palestinians? Apparently they were pains in the butt destabilizing Lebanon and Jordan with gun toting militants strutting about.
The novel is based loosely upon real people and real events, part of why the CIA called it a "novel but not fiction."