- Paperback: 119 pages
- Publisher: Brass Cannon Books (March 1, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1595959904
- ISBN-13: 978-1595959904
- Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 0.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,461,265 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Perfect Spy: A Memoir Paperback – March 1, 2016
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Clarity, humor, polished writing,and an engaging narrator make for an enjoyable read.- Kirkus
This book is the runner-up in the Biography / Autobiography category at the San Francisco Book Fair.
KIRKUS REVIEW An Iowa college student discovers anew life filled with sex and adventure in this debut memoir by Hamit (Meltdown,2012, etc.).
Excerpted from a much longer,forthcoming memoir, this book focuses solely on Hamit's experiences while attending the University of Iowa in the 1960s, just as the Vietnam War gathered steam from the U.S. perspective. Fleeing a rough two years at an unidentified Bible college, Hamit blossomed at his new school and found himself enthralled with theater work, photography, playwriting, poker, and women. But Hamit's time was taken up by more than just the distaff side of the college population. In a strange twist, he started working as an off-the-books undercover informant,looking for leads to help stem the tide of LSD and other drugs that Hamit viewed as harmful ("Knowing the risks, I stepped up and made a deal with the cops. Leave my friends alone, and I will give you the dealers"). Several of thewomen he was involved with were drug abuse survivors. He acquired a Waltherpistol that he planned to carry only at night ("I might well have to kill someone if things got sticky and they came at me"). As one might expect, these different pursuits collided in unexpected and sometimes-dangerous ways, andHamit ended up with an unusual, multifaceted education. Given that Hamit has made a living as a writer since his college years, readers should be unsurprised to find his prose smooth and confident, nailing the tenor of the times with verve while exploring the exultation and heartbreak of a young man discovering the dimensions of his character. While his days weren't all filled with peace and love--besides his undercover activities, Vietnam War service layin his future--Hamit's voice remains cleareyed and optimistic. There's no melancholy or darkness in his outlook, even when recalling grim events. There is, however, a lot of sex in these pages, so those uncomfortable with adultsituations, including frank, though nonpornographic, descriptions of various acts, may wish to look elsewhere for their memoir reading.
Clarity, humor, polished writing,and an engaging narrator make for an enjoyable read.
About the Author
Francis Hamit is the author of two Civil War espionage novels, The Shenandoah Spy and The Queen of Washington, a thriller, Meltdown, and several plays, including Marlowe: An Elizabethan Tragedy.
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Top customer reviews
I have to say that it was quite, quite different from my life at 20! LOL So I found it fun to read since we are close enough in age that much of the setting he used was familiar to my early years as well...By 18, however, I was already working on a university campus while Hamit was attending college... And at one point squired 3 girls around campus, with everybody assuming he was bedding all of them... Interesting comparison, I must say, at least from my perspective...
I've enjoyed two of Hamit's historical novels: The Shenandoah Spy and The Queen of Washington, as well as Meltdown, a story about Chernobyl. The historical novels featured two female women war heroes that you may never have heard of--you should since not many are written about... But none of these compare with Hamit's personal life! LOL This portion of what will be his later memoir is just 119 pages. If you have not read his work yet, this is an excellent way to become acquainted with his writing and at the same time, read his personal "coming-of-age" which turned out to be quite a fun story.
Francis Hamit was the son of a career military man and planned to later join him, after finishing college--his father's dream for him since he had never been able to attend. Because of his SAT scores, however, he wound up at a small Bible College and left as quickly as he could escape, moving on to the University of Iowa. He majored in Drama, was assumed to be a homosexual and got the bullying that went along with that assumption. He was able to build sufficient creds to move forward in Theatre and began freelance photography...Somehow all that he was involved in provided a great place to meet girls...
That was the 60s--when freedom was the goal--Vietnam, Civil Rights and, sexual experimentation...and drugs... That's when Francis began to see that the partying on campus was "unhealthy...." and volunteered to be an undercover spy to try and reduce the drugs coming into town... No, he was not a CI--he was totally on his own, was not paid anything, and only reported in when he had something to share. In the meantime we was out there in the midst of everything and with his beard and long hair, everybody assumed he was a hippie... So much so that he almost was killed two times and wasn't sure about the third close call on his life! One of his "jilted" (you'll have to find out why!) girlfriends had told what he was doing and the word spread fast!
And then there was playing poker with Don Justice, his teacher and involved with the Iowa Writers' Workshop, "the oldest MFA program in Creative Writing, which is notoriously difficult to get into, even 50 years later"... And where he also came to despise the then famous author, Nelson Algren. Let's just say his remarks reflect that feeling...
Soon after that, he met Helga who was working on her MFA in Costuming and shared that she wanted to change her nature--she wanted to be "liberated..."
And then came the fateful day that Howard Stein suggested he take an upcoming course in fiction writing...which Hamit claims was a "life-changing moment..." And he's been writing novels ever since!
I found it very interesting to learn the details of how Francis Hamit started his writing career. But that is just part of this book. His taking a stand against drugs when it was "the thing" to try them, speaks to his basic character. Those same moral standards are certainly reflected in his novels... But the one thing most clear is that Francis Hamit loves women. And his flashbacks into those early years is fun to learn about while, I must say, also reflecting his basic humanistic approach to others with whom he has related during his extensive life experiences.
Especially if you have read any of his books, I think you'll really enjoy A Perfect Spy. I don't normally read memoirs as a genre, but I found this book enlightening, reminiscent of a bygone era in which I lived, and a reflection of an author I have come to admire. Into memoirs? Highly recommended!
ARC Provided for Review