THE BISHOP’S PAWN by Steve Berry

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(The Lorraine Motel, Memphis, TN, April 4, 1968 and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King)

For a retired historian picking up a Steve Berry novel is like revisiting an old friend.  Berry’s central character Harold Earl “Cotton” Malone, lawyer, former member of an elite Justice Department group, pilot, and naval officer, leads the reader through interesting plot lines within the context of fascinating historical palates.  In his latest iteration of Cotton Malone, Berry returns the reader to Malone’s early career by examining his first mission that dealt with the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Era.  We are exposed to a great deal of information that is not available in Berry’s other novels, and in THE BISHOP’S PAWN the author fills in the blanks that have existed throughout the series.  The subject of Berry’s latest effort is very timely as we approach the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. King at the hands of James Earle Ray.

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(Rev. Jesse Jackson, Dr. Martin Luther King, Rev. Ralph Abernathy)

THE BISHOP’S PAWN is different from all other books in the Malone series.  Berry presents his story in the first person, something he has never done.  Usually Berry narrates his stories through multiple characters and viewpoints, but in this case the single narrator creates an inviting immediacy.  Further, it is a much more personal approach as we learn a great deal more about Malone’s background and his relationships, particularly with Stephanie Nelle, who would become his boss at the Magellan Billet, a special investigative unit within the Justice Department.  At the outset of the novel Nelle and Malone meet for the first time in a Jacksonville, Florida jail where Lt. Malone is being held as a suspect in a shooting while a member of the US Navy.  Nelle offers Malone his first mission as she had pegged him correctly in that he was bored as a JAG officer in the Navy and this afforded him an opportunity to prove himself in a more challenging environment.  Malone’s mission was to recover a waterproof box that contained what could be considered important historical files and a gold coin worth approximately $1 million in the area off Key West.  This would be a pattern which would mark their relationship for many years to come as Nelle did not present the entire story leaving out details that could place Malone in a very precarious position.

Berry introduces a number of interesting characters from Juan Lopez Valdez, former FBI, CIA and possibly linked to James Earle Ray; the Reverend Benjamin Foster, who was present at the Lorraine Motel, the night Dr. King was assassinated and was a member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; Coleen Perry, Rev. Foster’s daughter who is obsessed with the contents of the waterproof box and her father’s role in the civil rights movement; Tom Oliver, retired Deputy Director of the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover who was in charge of COINTELPRO, Hoover’s counter-intelligence program developed to target groups that he believed were threats – especially “Black Nationalist” groups that had to be “neutralized; and Jim Jansen, former FBI who is a major impediment to Malone’s mission.  These characters are all intertwined as the plot emerges – what is in the files in the waterproofed box?  What role did the FBI possibly play in the assassination of Dr. King?  How does the relationship between the FBI and the Justice Department fit?  What are the agendas of each major character, particularly, Nelle, Foster, and Oliver?

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Berry’s grasp of history is at its usual high level.  His description of individuals, i.e., J. Edgar Hoover is quite accurate, especially his obsession with Dr. King and supposed communist influence over the Civil Rights Movement.  Further, some of the documents Berry integrates into the dialogue are straight out of FBI files that became available years after Dr. King’s death that lend credence to conspiracy theories that have made the rounds for decades.  It is clear that the FBI wants to eradicate any evidence that it was involved in the King assassination.  But the problem that emerges is that there are remnants of the FBI of the 1960s that still influence policy, as opposed to the more open new generation of FBI bureaucrats who have a different approach to historical accuracy.

As is the case in all of his novels, Berry offers a writer’s not at the conclusion of the story that highlights what is considered factual history and what the author has made up employing his artistic license.  The result is that Berry has created an intricate example of counterfactual history that may not be as farfetched as might appear at first glance.

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THE HYPNOTIST by Lars Kepler

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(Stockholm, Sweden)

My wife and I have been very fortunate to have traveled to many foreign countries and one of my favorite pastimes is to visit bookstores.  My goal is to acquire mysteries written by local authors of that venue because it is a wonderful way to learn about different countries and cultures.  Scandinavia is of particular interest and I have discovered numerous excellent writers that include; Henning Mankell, Jo Nesbo, Kristina Ohlsson, Hakan Nesser, among many others.  Crime in Stockholm, Oslo, or Helsinki and how the different law enforcement characters approach their work, their attitude toward criminals, and their personal lives fascinates me.  Until recently, I had not come across Lars Kepler (who happened to be a literary couple), but having just read their first novel, THE HYPNOTIST I have added them to my list of authors that I intend to read.  The book is a spellbinding mystery that introduces the Detective Joona Lenna series.  Lenna is a no nonsense investigator who is a member of Sweden’s National Criminal Investigation Department and is called to the scene of a brutal murder that has left a father, and his wife and daughter murdered.

The father, Anders Ek is a high school science teacher who after refereeing a soccer game was brutally stabbed.  The murderer then proceeded to Ek’s house and slashed to death his wife, and daughter, but his fifteen year old son, Josef is found alive.  Evelyn, the twenty three year old daughter had moved out, but investigators are worried that the killer is after her to complete the eradication of the entire family.  Once Lenna arrives at the scene he realizes it is imperative that they get as much information from Josef as they can to save his older sister.  In so doing Lenna contacts Dr. Erik Marin, a trauma specialist and a practitioner of the hypnotic arts to hypnotize Josef to gain information.  The problem is that Marin, ten years earlier had sworn to his wife and family that he would never practice hypnosis again.

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Marin carries a great deal of personal baggage.  His marriage to his wife Simone is crumbling as she has lost trust in her husband from past events and cannot decide to leave him or not. Their fifteen year old son, Benjamin suffers from Willebrand’s disease, a rare blood disorder that requires that Marin inject his son with medication on a weekly basis.  Marin himself appears to be addicted to pain killers and other drugs, but when lucid he is an expert in his field.  Lenna convinces him to hypnotize Josef which provides an opening from which the novel explodes.

Three major stories evolve in the plot.  First, Kepler pays particular attention to the Marin family dynamic that also includes his father in law, Keenet Strang a retired Stockholm detective who becomes very involved in an investigation involving the family, his relationship with his wife, and problems faced by Benjamin as he tries to deal with issues in family.  Second, the investigation into the Ek family murders that center around their son Josef and his sister Evelyn.  Third, the moral and ethical issues that surround using hypnosis as a tool for criminal interrogation as applied to Marin’s work ten years before the brutal Ek family murder.

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Kepler’s style is crisp and to the point.  Humor and sarcasm are present, but not to the extent of many writers of this genre.  The scenes that present the actual crimes, and how people respond are somewhat unnerving for the characters.  These characters are developed in depth and we learn a great deal of behavioral motivation and how private lives influence how the different characters go about their public actions.  A number of personal crisis are developed in an intricate fashion that carry forth the story.  Erik’s broken promise concerning the practice of hypnosis and the intense study of Josef’s childhood are of the utmost importance.  Lenna’s approach to solving the murder reflects strong critical thinking, but also a methodology that some consider “out of the box.”  What is different in Kepler’s approach is that Lenna, the central character does not dominate the novel.  What evolves are other important characters that Lenna must share the central stage.  The difference is that in most books of this type the “police officer” tends to dominate, but not here.

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After thoughtful and raises many questions in the reader’s mind as the pages turn very quickly.  The fact that Marin must revisit his own uncomfortable past in order to try and save his family and the depths that it takes him is very unique.  There are three novels in the Lenna series and I look forward to THE NIGHTMARE which reading THE HYPNOTIST, Lars Kepler has hooked me.  Their approach to crime fiction is next.

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(Stockholm in winter)

 

RUSSIAN ROULETTE: THE INSIDE STORY OF PUTIN’S WAR ON AMERICA AND THE ELECTION OF DONALD TRUMP by Michael Isikoff and David Corn

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(Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump)

Each day it seems there is a new revelation related to Russian actions during the 2016 presidential election.  Today for example, the New York Times reported that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller has subpoenaed records of the Trump Organization to examine its relationship with Russia.  As the information keeps flowing in newspapers and cable TV, and having read COLLUSION: SECRET MEETINGS, DIRTY MONEY, AND HOW RUSSIA HELPED DONALD TRUMP WIN by Luke Harding, and FIRE AND FURY by Michael Wolff my head is spinning.  How does one connect all the dots to see if there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and whether Trump is guilty of obstruction of justice?  David Corn and Michael Isikoff may have gone a long way in doing so in their just released book, RUSSIAN ROULETTE: THE INSIDE STORY OF PUTIN’S WAR ON AMERICA AND THE ELECTION OF DONALD TRUMP.  Both authors are investigative journalists and this is there second joint effort, the first being there well received, HUBRIS: THE INSIDE STORY OF SPIN, SCANDAL, and AND THE SELLING OF THE IRAQ WAR.

The arguments presented by Corn and Isikoff mirror those of others that have investigated Trump’s relationship with the Russians, simply put, “follow the money.”  According to the authors Trump has been obsessed with building a Trump Tower in Moscow for decades.  It seems it is the missing piece to his real estate empire and a segment of his ego, as he wanted to be known as a “global oligarch.”  Most recently the obsession manifested itself in 2013 at the Miss Universe Pageant that took place in Moscow.  For Trump to achieve his tower in Moscow he needed affirmation from Russian President Vladimir Putin.  During the beauty contest it seemed that Trump was on pins and needles as to whether the Russian leader would make an appearance.  The authors point to a number of Russian oligarchs and close Putin companions in showing who Trump tried partner with to build the tower, and others he had been involved with in the past.  A number of oligarchs emerge, one of which was Aras Agalarov, known as “Putin’s builder” who was Trump’s partner in the Miss Universe Pageant; in fact a letter of intent was signed between Agalarov and Trump to finance the tower but eventually fell through.

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(Flelix Sater and Donald Trump)

Another interesting character is Felix Sater, a Russian born, and one time felon with links to the Mafia and Russian organized crime who in the 2000s was a New York real estate developer who partnered with Trump with the Trump SoHo Hotel in lower Manhattan.  Further in 2010 he became a Trump advisor for a short period of time though during the presidential election campaign Trump denied knowing him or even what he looked like.  In effect, Sater was a go between Trump and the oligarchs.  By October, 2015 Trump signed a letter of Intent with I.C. Expert Investment to move forward with the Trump Tower venture.  Discussions about financing linked I.C. Expert Investment Company with Russian banks under US economic sanctions, including Sberbank, which cosponsored the 2013 beauty pageant in Moscow.  According to Sater another source for investment was VTB Bank, an institution partly owned by the Kremlin and also under US sanctions.  The result was that the Trump Organization was putting together a deal that could well depend on Russian financing from blacklisted banks linked to Putin’s regime.  In fact, Sater emailed Michael Cohen, Trump’s lawyer and “pit bull,” “I will get Putin on this program and will get Donald elected….Buddy our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it.  I will get all of Putin’s team to buy in on this. I will manage the process.” (81)  At the same time Trump was cozying up to Putin on MSNBC’s Morning Joe declaring Putin as a more effective leader than Obama, who had accomplished much more than the American president.  In 2008, Donald Trump, Jr. remarked; “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets….certainly with our project in SoHo and anywhere in New York…We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”  In 2014, Eric Trump, Trump’s second oldest son said, “his father’s business did not rely on US banks for financing golf resort projects….We have all the funding we need out of Russia.” (89)  Corn and Isikoff effectively delve into Trump’s Russian connections dating back years, and the only conclusion that can be drawn is that he was financially involved with Russian oligarchs and other unseeingly characters to the point that he still needed their assets to finance his projects.  The problem was that he needed Putin’s approval.

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(Sergei Magnitsky)

Corn and Isikoff lay out Putin’s worldview, in particular his attitude toward President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  The authors weave a fascinating portrait that links a number of important characters.  For example, when the Obama administration tried for a “reset” in Russian relations, Foreign Minister Lavrov requested that the US provide a visa for Oleg Deripaska, a Russian billionaire close to Putin, and a business partner of Paul Manafort, who had been engaged in all kinds of duplicitous economic and political shenanigans in the Ukraine that resulted millions for his businesses.  Putin himself was a Russian nationalist who wanted to restore Russia to its rightful place in the world.  He strongly resented US “unipolar power” particularly as practiced by overthrowing autocracy in Iraq and Libya.  Domestically, Putin felt that President Medvedev was too soft in dealing with Obama and announced in 2010 that he would run for President.  Russia headed for a political crisis in 2011 and Putin blamed Clinton for the pro-democracy demonstrations against his election, along with domestic criticism.  Putin’s resentment of Clinton would smolder for years, particularly as the State Department complained about the assassinations of Putin critics like Sergei Magnitsky which led to the Magnitsky Act in Congress geared against those who were responsible for his death.  Putin would accuse the US of destabilizing the Ukraine and would seize the Crimea forcing Obama into further economic sanctions.  By 2014, Putin would send troops into Ukraine.

Corn and Isikoff spend a great deal of time explaining how the American election was compromised by Russian interference in 2016.  They take a step by step approach which reads like a legal brief.  In 2013, General Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the General Staff of Russian Armed Forces wrote an article that argued that information warfare could be used to weaponize political divisions within another nation.  Instead of conventional warfare of the past, hackers and skilled propagandists trained to exploit existing rifts within the ranks of the adversary would be employed.   A US informant explained that these networks were extremely extensive “in Europe-Germany, Italy, France and the UK-and in the US….Russia has penetrated media organizations, lobbying firms, political parties, governments, and militaries in all these places.” (52)  The Obama administration decided not to do anything about it as it needed Putin’s support over the Iranian nuclear situation and events in Syria.

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(Julian Assange)

Corn and Isikoff’s information dealing with Russian Troll Farms is very concerning.  Company’s like the Russian Internet Research Agency employed hundreds of people who troll Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram stealing identities, creating false individuals and news praising Putin, denouncing Obama, and attacking the European Union.  Payments to these trolls was made by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a restaurateur oligarch known as Putin’s chef.  By 2015 there were repeated attacks against the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the State Department, and the White House.  Again, Obama believing he needed Putin on Iran and Syria, did nothing.  Interestingly, a Russian hacker named “Cozybear” had been inside the DNC network since July, 2015 and among the information stolen was their entire opposition research file on Donald Trump.  Cybersecurity experts surmised that APT 28, a Russian hacker tied to the GRU, Russian military intelligence had launched 19,000 separate attacks against the US between March 2015 and May 2016.

The FBI and US intelligence aware of these breaches kept warning the DNC and Clinton’s campaign as to the Russian penetration of their systems.  At first they could not find the breach, but finally when it was located they had difficulty closing it.  Their cyber assault would snare the top official in the Clinton campaign, John Podesta, and no one in the campaign had a clue.  Corn and Isikoff do an admirable job providing the links in the chain dealing with the hacking of the DNC and Clinton campaign, as well as their links to Russian intelligence.  They point to WikiLeaks and the attitude of Julian Assange toward Hillary Clinton and the US in general, and the numerous contacts between the Trump people and Russian intelligence.  The preliminaries to the June 9, 2016 meeting between Trump, yr. Manafort, Kushner, Goldstone and the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, her translator, a Agalarov executive implicated in Russian money laundering, and Rinat Akmetshin, a former Russian intelligence officer and lobbyist in Washington is carefully explored with the now infamous comment by Trump. Jr. before the meeting in response to possible information on Clinton, “If it’s what you say, I love it.”

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It is clear that George Papadopoulos, a Trump foreign policy advisor, who produced the comment by Steve Bannon, “how the fuck did he get on the list” of possible advisors, was fully engaged in trying to bring about a Trump-Putin meeting.  Papadopoulos’ “big mouth” in a bar as he bragged about his work to an Australian diplomat led eventually to his indictment by Robert Mueller.  Further, the buffoonish Carter Page went to Moscow to express his pro-Putin views with the permission of Trump campaign manager Cory Lewandowski – seen by Moscow as a signal from the Trump campaign.  It is clear that what motivated Putin in this game of political intelligence, and hacking, was to end the American sanctions imposed by the Obama administration.  For the Russian president it was simple, elect Trump who had hinted strongly he would be favorable, and as a secondary benefit gain his revenge against Hillary Clinton.  The question is why was Trump so favorable?  What did Putin have on Trump, and/or what promises were made if an acceptable outcome was reached?

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(Christopher Steele)

The answer to these questions becomes clearer when the authors discuss the Russian concept of kompromat, a strategy to obtain compromising material on people they want to manipulate employing blackmail and threats to achieve their goals.  A Russian tactic that dates back to the Cold War it is a major theme put forth by Corn and Isikoff who argue it probably applies to Trump dating back at least to 2013 and the Miss Universe Contest which is laid out in Christopher Steele’s “dossier,”  which contained the salacious information pertaining to Trump’s possible sexual escapades.  The authors explain how it was employed and it goes a long way to explain why Trump is so obsessed with the Mueller investigation as one can only wonder what Putin has on Trump.

Corn and Isikoff review details of the actual presidential campaign following their respective party conventions.  All the information that the public was bombarded with for months is present including the role of social media, particularly important today with the digital relationship between Facebook and Cambridge Analytica making news headlines and its relationship to the Trump campaign.  The authors analyze events to determine their impact on the election.  From Wikipedia’s 64,000 email dump, including John Podesta designed to protect Trump and hurt Clinton, i.e., the email release following the Access Hollywood tape etc.  The presidential debates are covered as was the ongoing indecision on the part of the Obama administration to educate the public that they had proof of Russian interference in the election and that an FBI investigation of Russian influence during the campaign was ongoing.  After a careful examination of the campaign the authors conclude that Julian Assange and Wikileaks were acting in concert with the Russians.  There were too many coincidents ranging from Roger Stone’s public comments to actual events to conclude otherwise.

The evidence produced by a wonder of investigative reporting makes RUSSIAN ROULETTE the most important book to emerge from the morass of the 2016 election to date.  If you are confused with the daily bombardment of information, Corn and Isikoff have done a service in putting it all together in a succinct and easy to read format.  What is scary is that I assume Mueller knows exactly what’s in this book, the characters, the disingenuous deals and behavior, the lies, and the mistakes, by those who should have known better.  It is no wonder that Trump engaged in the “Friday night massacre” a few days ago.

 

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THE SABOTEUR: THE ARISTOCRAT WHO BECAME FRANCE’S MOST DARING ANTI-NAZI COMMANDO by Paul Kix

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It is very rare when a work of non-fiction approaches a work of fiction.  For a book to tell a story that is true, but keeps you riveted as if it were a spy novel, is special.  Such is the case with Paul Kix’s first book, THE SABOTEUR: THE ARISTOCRAT WHO BECAME FRANCE’S MOST DARING ANTI-NAZI COMMANDO which tells the story and exploits of Robert de Rochefoucauld, the scion of a rich French family who at the age of sixteen escaped to England, to be educated as a soldier, spy, and safe cracker in the service of British intelligence during World War II.  He would return to France to organize Resistance cells to harass, bomb, and kill Germans, and at the same time save as many of his countrymen that was possible.

Rochefoucauld, henceforth Robert’s life lends itself to an amazing biography of a man who joined the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) at the age of seventeen, underwent extensive training, and worked with the French Resistance from 1943 to the end of the war.  He was part of a group that parachuted behind German lines to assist the allied landing at Normandy by sabotaging German railroads, munitions dumps, and the harassment of German soldiers.  For those who question the role of the SOE and the Resistance, General Dwight D. Eisenhower summarized their effectiveness as he later estimated that “after D-Day it was the equivalent of fifteen extra divisions, or up to 375,000 soldiers.”

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The shame and humiliation felt by the La Rochefoucauld family after the French capitulation to the Germans in June, 1940 became a burden as the family had to escape south to their grandmother’s Maille estate, at the same time as their father, Olivier was taken to a German POW camp.  Kix provides the reader with just enough of the historical material to place Robert and his compatriot’s actions in their historical context, particularly stressing the motivations for their decision making.  Robert’s first major decision was to leave the family and try and make his way to London after listening for months to radio broadcasts by General Charles de Gaulle.  Robert felt that family honor rested upon his shoulders and grew angrier by the day when faced with the capitulation of his countrymen.  By the time he turned nineteen he was anonymously denounced as a supporter of de Gaulle and against collaboration.  He left his family immediately from their estate in Saissons taking with him a false identity to try and get to Paris and on to London to join the Free French.  Kix will describe in detail Robert’s harrowing journey across the Pyrenes assisted by the fact that he had a French-Canadian passport as he traveled through Vichy France.

If there is a theme to Kix’s biography apart from Robert’s bravery in the face of capture and torture, it would be how he led a charmed existence throughout the war.  Whether it was the assistance of British officials, French farmers, Resistance members, local merchants, and others or just plain luck, Robert was able to usually be successful in his operations.  Upon arriving in London and meeting with de Gaulle who suggested his decision was correct in joining the SOE, Robert’s career as a saboteur begins.  Kix takes the reader through the vigorous and often dangerous training that included how to deal with torture, safe cracking, parachuting, killing with one’s hands, explosives, as well as physical preparation.  Perhaps one of Kix’s best chapters is his description of how the British developed asymmetrical warfare, a strategy that was implemented by Neville Chamberlain right before he was replaced by Winston Churchill as Prime Minister.  Churchill’s own life story as a guerilla fighter and observer of asymmetrical strategy played into his increasing support and equipping the SOE with weapons, planes, and money despite opposition from the British air force.  This would be the first time the British engaged in subversion and sabotage against the enemy overseas, and Winston “loved it.”

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(British SOE fighters)

Kix describes in detail many of Robert’s important missions.  During his first mission he parachuted into central France behind German lines as a nineteen year old and set up a training cell for the French Resistance who were surprised by his age and ability to equip them.  Soon his bravery and tenacity would gain their respect.  Kix details of these experiences are so exact, much of which is based on Robert’s memoirs and interviews with family members that the reader can feel as if they are alongside of him during his experiences. The success of the Resistance prods the Germans to bring in the SD/Gestapo and the Abwehr resulting in numerous arrests and executions in the winter of 1943 (over 500 by the war’s end).  Robert will be captured and sentenced to death on March 20, 1944 after months of torture by Dr. Karl Haas in the notorious Auxerre prison.  Robert’s application of his training as explained by Kix reflects his resolve and ability to escape.  Kix provides an effective approach in highlighting what it was like to be a Resistance fighter during the war, in fact over 75,000 were killed by 1945.

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(French Resistance fighters)

Kix describes the progression of Resistance successes through 1944 and another wonderful chapter narrating how Robert organized another SOE cell and with his men were dropped behind enemy lines on June 7, 1944.  The cell coordinated its rebellious acts with the Resistance and inflicted tremendous damage against the Nazis.  Unfortunately, Robert was captured again, but was rescued in a hail of bullets.  Perhaps Robert’s greatest escape took place when he was recaptured and sent to the notorious prison at Ft. Du Ha with its reputation for torture under the aegis of Frederick Dohse a member of SD-IV that cleared the Resistance from southwest France.  After contemplating suicide he devised a plan that resulted in walking right out of the prison’s front gate!

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(General Charles de Gaulle)

Robert’s last mission perhaps was his most dangerous.  After Paris was liberated the haughty de Gaulle refused to give the Resistance fighters credit for their effort.  He demanded they be dispersed, and if they wanted to continue to fight they had to join the Free French Army, which 200,000 did, including Robert.  His final operation was to blow up a German artillery casement on a beach in southern France.   His superiors reluctantly approved his plan which in the end was successful.  Robert’s war came to an end when he stepped on a mine and injured his knee which resulted in a slight limp for the remainder of his life.

Kix explores the contentiousness in French society in the decades that followed the war.  In fact, only 2% of Frenchmen actually fought, and about 20% were collaborationist.  These figures reflect the fissures in French society as postwar trials and some executions resulted.  Though Kix has not written a long narrative, it covers a great deal of material and presented with an eye for what is most historically important.  If you want to gain a sense of what it was like to resist the Germans during the war and its impact on family and the larger French society it is worth consulting.

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(de Rochefoucauld training French Resistance soldiers)

THE GHOST: THE SECRET LIFE OF CIA SPYMASTER JAMES JESUS ANGLETON by Jefferson Morley

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(James J. Angleton)

When one thinks of the history of the CIA the names that readily come to mind are “Wild” Bill Donavan, Allen W. Dulles, and a host of others.  One name that sometimes remains in the shadows is James J. Angleton.  Of these men it is safe to say that Angleton probably affected American national security the most between the onset of the Cold War and the investigation into CIA activities that permeated the mid to late 1970s. Angleton’s life and intelligence career is the subject of Jefferson Morley’s new study, THE GHOST: THE SECRET LIFE OF CIA SPYMASTER JAMES JESUS ANGLETON that successfully answers the questions: Was Angleton a defender of the republic? Did he become the embodiment of double government? Was he an avatar of the emerging “deep state?”  For Morley the answer to these question seems to be an emphatic, yes.

Morley’s monograph is not a complete biography, but more of a work of synthesis that briefly explores Angleton’s background then delves into the affect that the spymaster had on American foreign and intelligence policies.  As one explores his life the author uncovers numerous policy decisions and actions taken by Angleton that on the surface seem controversial and once implemented evolve into the dominant policy of the emerging national security state.  In examining certain aspects of US intelligence history we can see Angleton’s imprint and historical importance.  Morley’s analysis reflects his influence in many ways.  First, his relationship with Kim Philby, the British spy who served as his mentor and teacher as Angleton became consumed with counterintelligence after the World War II.  Philby along with Norman Pearson educated Angleton on the ins and outs of the German spy system called ULTRA where he learned how deception could shape the battlefield of powerful nations at war.  The Angleton-Philby friendship is important because the Englishman, along with Guy Burgess and Donald McClean were part of the Cambridge five who spied for the Soviet Union for years.  The greatest shock in Angleton’s life was learning Philby’s true identity and how he facilitated his spy craft.

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(Russian spy, Kim Philby)

The second area that most people are not aware of is Angleton’s culpability in recruiting and protecting the freedom of former Nazis after the war, i.e., Eugene Dollman, a translator for Hitler and Mussolini and Walter Rauff who was responsible for the death of over 250,000 Jews during the war.  A third area that might surprise some is Angleton’s role in developing the CIA experimentation and use of LSD as a tool in compelling suspected spies to tell the truth.  The program known as MKULTRA encompassed a wide range of experiments to control the workings of the human mind in the name of national security.  As a result a number of people died and many others had their lives ruined.  Once Dwight D. Eisenhower assumed the presidency and appointed Allen W. Dulles as the head of the CIA, Angleton’s influence increased markedly.  Angleton was able to convince Dulles, an old friend and compatriot of the need to develop a staff of people who were knowledgeable and understood the KGB and its methods.  This was designed to oversee covert operations and protect against Soviet penetration of the US government and the CIA.  As a result we have Angleton’s fourth area of importance, the development of his own clandestine service within the CIA – his own empire.  Furthering his influence, Angleton was able to convince FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to cooperate by sharing domestic counterintelligence dealing with the Soviet Union.  If this was not enough Angleton developed LINGUAL, a program in concert with the FBI’s COINTELPRO operation to illegally open the mail bound for the Soviet Union.  It was through this program that Morley effectively introduces the reader to Lee Harvey Oswald and Angleton’s knowledge and possible culpability in the Kennedy assassination.

One of the criticisms, if in fact it can be considered as such is that Morley presents these aspects of Angleton’s career in a cursory way for the first half of the book.   As a shorter work I guess this is acceptable, but I would have liked the author to engage in the type of exploration of motive and effect as he did with Angleton’s role in covering up the Kennedy assassination investigation.  In the fifth and most important area Morley examines Angleton’s investigation of Oswald from 1959 to 1963, from his defection to the Soviet Union and return to the United States, his affiliation with pro-Fidel Castro organizations, his visits to the Cuban embassy in Mexico City, a hotbed of pro-Castro activity, and where Oswald wound up in September, 1963.  After the assassination Angleton gave the impression he knew very little about Oswald before November 22, 1963, when in fact his staff had monitored his movements for years and his special investigations provided him with numerous reports of Oswald’s travels.  Obviously this led to an epic counter-intelligence failure.  One of Angleton’s major roles was tracking defectors and he received three FBI reports on the intelligence function of the Cuban embassy in Mexico City the two months leading to Kennedy’s death, but he would never speak publicly about this.  We are all aware of the CIA conspiracy theories concerning the Kennedy assassination because of their anger over the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile crisis, anger that Angleton shared.

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(Moments before the Kennedy assassination, November 22, 1963, Dallas, TX)

Angleton’s power was at its apex during the investigation into the Kennedy assassination which happened on his watch.  In perhaps his best chapter, Morley describes how Angleton managed to wind up in charge of the CIA’s investigation of Oswald.  During the Kennedy administration, Angleton’s staff knew more about the obscure and “unimportant” Lee Harvey Oswald than anyone in the US government.  After Kennedy’s death, Angleton would orchestrate the cover-up of what the CIA knew and engaged in obstruction of justice as he did not want anyone to find out that he had been investigating Oswald for years.  In addition, Angleton hid the knowledge that Castro probably knew of the CIA’s recruitment of Rolando Cubela to assassinate the Cuban dictator – in a sense Castro got Kennedy, before Kennedy got him.  Angleton should have been fired for malfeasance; instead he would remain in a position of supreme power for another ten years.  Despite that power, Angleton would be beleaguered by Kennedy’s death and would spend his time putting out fires when others came forth with new information, fires that ruined careers, resulted in the seizure of personal material, and a few questionable deaths.

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(Lee Harvey Oswald)

There are numerous other areas of Angleton’s shadowy work and influence.  As he grew up and was educated he held many anti-Semitic views, but would come to realize the importance of Israel’s intelligence community.  Almost from the foundation of the Jewish state, Angleton developed a strong relationship with the Mossad and Shin Bet, Israeli intelligence agencies that would benefit both countries, as they shared intelligence, weaponry, and other information geared against the Soviet Union and the Arab world.  Two useful examples are KKMOUNTAIN which resulted in millions in annual cash payments to the Mossad and in return the Israelis authorized their agents to act as American surrogates throughout North Africa, and Angleton’s surreptitious support for the Israeli development of a nuclear weapons program.  Further, Angleton assisted Israel during the 1967 War and helped whitewash the investigation into the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty.  In fact one high ranking Israeli intelligence official described Angleton as a Zionist and the Jewish state almost seemed like his second home.

One of the major themes that Mosley develops throughout the book is how the suspicious mole hunter that Angleton had become throughout his career grew more and more paranoid by the late 1960s.  Angleton’s conspiracy theories about the Soviet Union and the KGB provoked questioning within the CIA, but as long as Richard Helms, his old friend and compatriot was DCIA he was safe.  Angleton’s paranoia ruined many careers of innocent people and he eventually lost the support of J. Edgar Hoover.  One thing was clear, as Angleton grew old he became more obsessive about Russian infiltration and spying, and to his dying day believed that the Soviet Union had a mole inside the CIA for decades.

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Angleton’s role in domestic surveillance is one that lives on today with the NSA and other aspects of the Patriot Act.  In the 1960s as the anti-war movement and a black insurgency were seen as threats, Helms and Angleton set up a new intelligence collection program – Operation CHAOS.  It would infiltrate the anti-war movement, index the names of over 300,000 Americans, and create files on 7200 people.  As more and more domestic violence took place President Nixon resorted the Huston Plan which emerged three years later during Watergate, a plan that was the brainchild of Angleton.  The plan called for a dramatic expansion of domestic intelligence collection and Nixon lifted any restrictions that might get in its way.  Nixon would have to shut down the Huston Plan months later because of the opposition of Attorney General John Mitchell, and J. Edgar Hoover, but Angleton continued to oversee its operation.

The reelection of Richard Nixon in 1972 witnessed the firing of Helms which signaled a bad time was coming.  Without Helms as cover Angleton would have to deal with William Colby as the new DCIA, a man he had been in conflict with for years.  Colby understood that the CIA had to adapt to the new realities in American politics and society in the 1970s, something Angleton could not.  Colby would suspend a number of surveillance programs and limit others.  Angleton also made an enemy out of Henry Kissinger as he seemed to have misread intelligence pertaining to the Arab attack that launched the 1973 Yom Kippur War.  Despite these problems, Angleton remained obsessed with Russian deception operations and even argued that British Prime Minister Harold Wilson was a Soviet agent.  Once the Nixon tapes were released, the domestic role of the CIA and Angleton in particular came into plain view.  This would lead to Seymour Hirsh’s expose in the New York Times, and the formation of the Senate Church Committee which would attack and question Angleton’s beliefs and life’s work.

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(CIA Director William Colby)

Morley tells Angleton’s story in a concise and lucid manner with numerous important observations.  His research and analysis, particularly in the second half of the book are top drawer.  For those who worry about civil rights and the abuse of power, Angleton’s life is a lesson that should be studied by all, as his career is emblematic of what some would describe as the “deep state.”

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THE GREAT ALONE by Kristin Hannah

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(Kachemak Bay, Alaska)

The year is 1974 and the United States is in turmoil.  The Watergate investigation rages on, there are bombings by the Weatherman, planes are being hijacked, Patty Hearst has been kidnapped and robs a bank, and the truth about the Vietnam War keeps emerging.  It is in this background that Ernt Allbright returns to his family, having spent six years in a POW camp after being shot down over North Vietnam and forced to watch the death of his fellow soldier and good friend Bo Harlan.  Allbright shows all the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder with repeated nightmares, temper tantrums, and the inability to concentrate.  The family made up of Cora, his wife, and Eleni his fourteen year old daughter must endure his unpredictable moods and behavior that can be violent and can be affected by the time of year and weather.  The family is extremely dysfunctional as they pick up and constantly move based on Ernst’s needs.  The Allbright family forms the core of Kristin Hannah’s new novel, THE GREAT ALONE, a story that on one level is quite disturbing, and at another, very heartwarming.

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After repeated failures Ernt picks up his family and moves to the Kachemak Bay area of Alaska, across the water from Homer.  The title of the book describes the wilderness region they have settled in as Bo had willed Ernt a small homestead.  Ernt believes that this is the opportunity of a life time to finally quell his daemons and move away from what he perceives to be the ills of the larger society.  It is here that Hannah introduces a number of fascinating characters.  Mad Earl the head of the Harlan family, Large Marge Birdsall, a former Washington, DC prosecutor, Tom Walker, whose father helped settle the town of Kaneq, and his son Matthew, in addition to others.

There are a number of themes that permeate the novel.  First, is the Allbright family itself as Leni realizes the that her parents’ marriage is not normal as her mother continuously enables her father’s dream that over the next horizon he will be able to provide for his family and be happy.  The problem is that Ernt cannot seem to control himself as his wife and daughter become victims of his past, and have to constantly walk on egg shells around him.  Second, the stunning beauty of Alaska, but with that beauty comes a darkness that only the wilderness offers.  Despite being seen as a panacea for so many, escaping to Alaska becomes a parable of survival.  Third, the bonding of people who share the same battles with nature each day.  Even though people are drawn together they carry significant world views that are affected by the life they lived before, and now the life they live in Alaska.  Fourth, the issue that is splitting the community – whether to allow development or remain as a sanctuary for people who are escaping the larger society.  Lastly and most important, the haunting nature of people’s past and the unknown future that can unfold.

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By 1978 the community is split between Tom Wallace, who wants to attract visitors as Alaska becomes more and more a tourist destination, and Ernt Allbright, who wants to retain his escapist reality.  There are number of other issues that separate these men and the attempted resolution of their disagreements dominates a significant segment of the novel.  Another important relationship that develops is between Matthew and Eleni, who seem to mature together and develop a platonic relationship that evolves into something more.  No matter what twists and turns the story takes, Alaska with all its beauty and wickedness dominates.

For Hannah, the novel draws on her own families experience living in the Alaskan frontier as in the 1980s, her parents co-founded what is now the Great Alaska Adventure Lodge which still is operating in Sterling, Alaska.  Hannah has written 20 novels, but it took THE NIGHTINGALE, a story of two sisters caught up in the French Resistance during World War II, published in 2015 to put her on the map.  Obviously, THE GREAT ALONE bears no resemblance to her previous effort, but it appears to be just as popular.  The book is written in a style geared toward young adults with Eleni as the narrator, and suffers from a sort of “bumper sticker” phrasing in some of the dialogue.  But, in the end it is fast paced, concisely written in a dramatic style, and keeps the reader hoping that it will end happily, but with a constant feeling of dread.

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(Dawn over Kachemak Bay, Alaska)

IRAQ WAR READING LIST

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IRAQ WAR READING LIST         Steven Z. Freiberger, Ph.D

Please keep in mind this is a partial list and is in no way the most comprehensive list.

Aburish, Said. SADDAM HUSSEIN: THE POLITICS OF REVENGE

Agresto, John. MUGGED BY REALITY: THE LIBERATION OF IRAQ AND THE FAILURE OF GOOD INTENTIONS

Allawi, Ali A. THE OCCUPATION OF IRAQ: WINNING THE WAR, LOSING THE PEACE

Anderson, Scott. LAWRENCE OF ARABIA

Anderson, Terry. BUSH’S WARS

Bacevitch, Andrew. THE LIMITS OF POWER: THE END OF AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM

_______________. AMERICA’S WAR FOR THE GREATER MIDDLE EAST: A HISTORY

Baker, Peter. DAYS OF FIRE: BUSH AND CHENEY IN THE WHITE HOUSE

Bamford, James. A PRETEXT FOR WAR: 9/11, IRAQ, AND THE ABUSE OF AMERICA’S INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES

Benjamin, Daniel and Steven Simon. THE AGE OF SACRED TERROR

Bergen, Peter L. HOLY WAR INC.: INSIDE THE SECRET WORLD OF OSAMA BIN LADEN

Blix, Hans. DISARMING IRAQ: SEARCH FOR WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION

Bodansky. THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE IRAQ WAR

Bremer, Paul. MY YEAR IN IRAQ

Bush, George, Scowcroft, Brent. A WORLD TRANSFORMED

Bush, George. DECISION POINTS

Catherwood, Christopher. WINSTON’S FOLLY: IMPERIALISM AND THE CREATION OF MODERN IRAQ

Clarke, Richard. AGAINST ALL ENEMIES: INSIDE AMERICA’S WAR ON TERROR

Chandrasekaran, Rajiv. LIFE IN THE EMARLD CITY: INSIDE IRAQ’S GREEN ZONE

Cockburn, Andrew and Patrick Cockburn. OUT OF ASHES

_________________________________. SADDAM HUSSEIN: AN AMERICAN OBSESSION

Cockburn, Patrick. THE RISE OF THE ISLAMIC STATE

Coll, Steve. GHOST WARS: THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE CIIA, AFGHANISTAN, AND BIN LADEN FROM THE SOVIET INVASION TO SEPTEMBER 10, 2001

Coughlin, Con. SADDAM: THE SECRET LIFE

Daalder, Ivo and Lindsay, James. AMERICA UNBOUND: THE BUSH REVOLUTION IN FOREIGN POLICY

Danner, Mark. THE SECRET WAY TO WAR: THE DOWNING STREET MEMO AND THE IRAQ’S BURIED HISTORY

DeYoung, Karen. SOLDIER: A LIFE OF COLIN POWELL

Diamond, Larry. SQUANDERED VICTORY: THE AMERICAN OCCUPATION AND BUNGLED EFFORT TO BRING DEMOCRACY TO IRAQ

Draper, Robert. DEAD CERTAIN: THE PRESIDENCY OF GEORGE W. BUSH

Engel, Richard. WAR JOURNAL: MY FIVE YEARS IN IRAQ

Fallows, James. BLIND INTO BAGHDAD: AMERICA’S WAR IN IRAQ

Ferguson, Charles H. NO END IN SIGHT: IRAQ’S DESCENT INTO CHAOS

Ferguson, Niall COLOSSUS: THE PRICE OF AMERICA’S EMPIRE

Filkins, Dexter. THE FOREVER WAR

Friedman, Alan. THE SECRET HISTORY OF HOW THE WHITE HOUSE ILLEGALLY ARMED IRAQ

Galbraith, Peter. THE END OF IRAQ: HOW AMERICAN INCOMPETENCE CREATED A WAR WITHOUT END

Gardner, Lloyd. C. THE LONG ROAD TO BAGHDAD: A HISTORY OF US FOREIGN POLICY FROM THE 1970S TO THE PRESENT

Gates, Robert. DUTY: MEMOIRS OF A SECRETARY OF WAR

Gellman, Barton. ANGLER: THE CHENEY VICE PRESIDENCY

Glantz, Aaron. HOW AMERICA LOST IRAQ

Gordon, Micheal R, and General Bernard E. Trainor. THE ENDGAME: THE INSIDE STORY OF THE STRUGGLE FOR IRAQ, FROM GEORGE W. TO BARACK OBAMA

_________________________________________. THE GENERAL’S WAR

_________________________________________. COBRA II

Graham, Bradley. BY HIS OWN RULES: THE AMBITIONS, SUCCESSES, AND ULTIMATE FAILURES OF DONALD RUMSFELD

Graubard, Stephen. MR BUSH’S WAR

Greenberg, Karen J. and Joshua Dratel eds. THE TORTURE PAPERS: THE ROAD TO ABU GHRAIB

Hayes, Stephen F. CHENEY: THE UNTOLD STORY OF AMERICA’S MOST POWERFUL AND CONTROVERSIAL VICE PRESIDENT

Hersh, Seymour. CHAIN OF COMMAND: THE ROAD FROM 9/11 TO ABU GHRAIB

Herspring, Dale. RUMSFELD’S WARS: THE ARROGANCE OF POWER

Hiro, Dilip. IRAQ: IN THE EYE OF A STORM

________. SECRETS AND LIES

________. THE LONGEST WAR: THE IRAN-IRAQ MILITARY CONFLICT

________. DESERT SHIELD TO DESERT STORM: THE SECOND GULF WAR

Isikoff, Michael, Corn, David. HUBRIS: THE INSIDE STORY OF SPIN, SCANDAL, AND THE SELLING OF THE IRAQ WAR

Jones, Seth. IN THE GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES: AMERICA’S WAR IN AFGHANISTAN

Junger, Sebastian. WAR

Kaplan, Fred. DAYDREAM BELIEVERS: HOW A FEW GRAND IDEAS WRECKED AMERICAN POWER

Karsh, Efraim. SADDAM HUSSEIN: A POLITICAL BIOGRAPHY

Keegan, John. THE IRAQ WAR

Lando, Barry. WEB OF DECEIT: THE HISTORY OF WESTERN COMPLICITY IN IRAQ, FROM CHURCHILL TO KENNEDY TO GEORGE W. BUSH

Little, Douglas. AMERICAN ORIENTALISM: THE UNITED STATES AND THE MIDDLE EAST SINCE 1945

Mackey, Sandra. THE RECKONING: IRAQ AND THE LEGACY OF SADDAM HUSSEIN

Mann, James. RISE OF THE VULCANS: THE HISTORY OF BUSH’S WAR CABINET

___________. GEORGE W. BUSH

Mayer, Jane. THE DARK SIDE: THE INSIDE STORY OF HOW THE WAR ON TERROR TURNED INTO A WAR ON AMERICAN IDEALS

McClellan, Scott. WHAT HAPPENED INSIDE THE BUSH WHITE HOUSE AND WASHINGTON’S CULTURE OF DECEPTION

Meacham, Jon. DESTINY AND POWER: THE AMERICAN ODYSSEY OF GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH

Napoleoni, Loretta. INSURGENT IRAQ: AL ZARQAWI AND THE NEW GENERATION

Nasir, Vali. THE SHI’A REVIVAL

Nixon, John. DEBRIEFING THE PRESIDENT: THE INTEROGATION OF SADDAM HUSSEIN

Packer, George. THE ASSASSIN’S GATE

Pollack, Kenneth. THE THREATENING STORM

Powell, Colin, Joseph Persico. MY AMERICAN JOURNEY: COLIN POWELL

Prados, John, ed. HOODWINKED: THE DOCUMENTS THAT REVEAL HOW BUSH SOLD US A WAR

Rashid, Ahmed. DESCENT INTO CHAOS: THE US AND DISASTER IN PAKISTAN, AFGHANISTAN, AND CENTRAL ASIA

Razoux, Pierre. THE IRAN-IRAQ WAR

Ricks, Thomas. FIASCO: THE AMERICAN MILITARY ADVENTURE IN IRAQ

___________. THE GAMBLE: GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS AND THE MILITARY ADVENTURE IN IRAQ

Risen, James. STATE OF WAR: THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE CIA AND THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION

Ritter, Scott, Hersh, Seymour. IRAQ CONFIDENTIAL: THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE CONSPIRACY TO UNDERMINE THE UNITED NATIONS AND OVERTHROW SADDAM HUSSEIN

Rogan, Eugene. THE FALL OF THE OTTOMANS

Sands, Philippe. AMERICA AND THE MAKING AND BREAKING OF GLOBAL RULES FROM FDR’S ATLANTIC CHARTER TO GEORGE W. BUSH’S ILLEGAL WAR

Scahill, Jeremy. BLACKWATER: THE RISE OF THE WORLD’S MOST POWERFUL MERCENARY ARMY

Shadid, Anthony. NIGHT DRAWS NEAR: IRAQ’S PEOPLE IN THE SHADOW OF AMERICA’S WAR

Smith, Jean Edward. BUSH

Sparrow, Bartholomew. STRATEGIST: BRENT SCOWCROFT AND THE CALL OF NATIONAL SECURITY

Tenet, George with Bill Harlow. AT THE CENTER OF THE STORM: MY YEARS IN THE CIA

Unger, Scott. HOUSE OF BUSH, HOUSE OF SAUD

__________. THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF BUSH

Weiss, Michael and Hassan Hassan. ISIS: INSIDE THE WORLD OF TERROR

Wilson, Jeremy. LAWRENCE OF ARABIA

Woodward, Bob. OBAMA’S WARS

_____________. BUSH AT WAR

_____________. PLAN OF ATTACK

_____________. STATE OF DENIAL

_____________. THE WAR WITHIN: A SECRET WHITE HOUSE HISTORY 2006-2008

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VIETNAM WAR READING LIST

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VIETNAM WAR BIBLIOGRAPHY         S.Z. Freiberger, Ph.D

Please keep in mind this is not a complete list.  It is for a course I am teaching comparing the wars in Vietnam and Iraq.

Acacia, John. Clark Clifford: The Wise Man of Washington

Appy, Christian G. American Reckoning: The Vietnam War and Our National Identity

______________. Patriots: The Vietnam War Remembered from all Sides

Bartholomew-Feis, Dixee. The OSS and Ho Chi Minh: Unexpected Allies in the War Against Japan

Baskir, Lawrence and William Strauss. Chance and Circumstance: The Draft, the War and the Vietnam Generation

Berman, Larry. The Incredible Double Life of Pham Xuan An, Times Magazine Reporter and Vietnamese Communist Agent

Bernstein, Irving. Guns or Butter: The Presidency of Lyndon Johnson

Boot, Max. The Road Not Taken: Edward Landsdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam

Bowden, Mark. Hue 1968

Bilton, Michael and Kevin Sim. Four Hours in My Lai

Caputo, Philip. A Rumor of War

Caro, Robert. The Years of Lyndon Johnson. Vol 4. The Passage of Power

Chapman, Jessica M. Cauldron of Resistance: Ngo Dinh Diem, the United States, and the 1950s Southern Vietnam

Clifford, Clark with Richard Holbrooke. Counsel to the President: A Memoir

Colby William, with James McGrager. Lost Victory: A Firsthand Account of America’s Sixteen-Year Involvement in Vietnam

Cooper, Chester. The Lost Crusade in Vietnam

Curry, Cecil B. Edward Landsdale: The Unquiet American

Daddis, Gregory A. Withdrawal: Reassessing America’s Final Years in Vietnam

Dallek, Robert. Flawed Giant: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1961-1973

Duiker, William, J. The Communist Road to Power in Vietnam

______________. Ho Chi Minh.

Ellsberg, Daniel. Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers

Engelman, Larry. Tears Before the Rain: An Oral History of the Fall of South Vietnam

Fall, Bernard. Hell in a Very Small Place: The Siege of Dien Bien Phu

__________. Street Without Joy

__________. The Two Vietnams: A Political and Military Analysis

Fall, Dorothy. Bernard Fall: Memories of a Soldier-Scholar

Farrell, John A. Richard Nixon: A Life

Ferguson, Nial. Henry Kissinger, Vol. 1, 1923-1968

Fitzgerald, Francis. Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam

Gardner, Lloyd C. Approaching Vietnam: From World War II through Dienbienphu

_____________. Pay Any Price: Lyndon Johnson and the Wars for Vietnam

Gardner, Lloyd and Gittinger, Ted, eds. International Perspectives on Vietnam

_______________________________. The Search for Peace in Vietnam, 1964-1968

Gitlin, Todd. The Sixties: Years of Hoppe, Days of Rage

Goodwin, Doris Kearns. Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream

Greene, Graham. The Quiet American

Greiner, Bernd. War Without Fronts: The USA in Vietnam

Halberstram, David. The Best and the Brightest

________________. Ho

Hammer, Ellen. A Death in November: America in Vietnam 1963

Hanhimaki, Jussi. The Flawed Architect: Henry Kissinger and American Foreign Policy

Hendrickson, Paul. The Living Dead: Robert McNamara and the Five Lives of a Lost War

Herken, Greg. The Georgetown Set: Friends and Rivals in the Cold War

Herr, Michael. Dispatches

Hersh, Seymour. The Dark Side of Camelot

_____________. My Lai

Hiam, C. Michael. Who the Hell are We Fighting: The Story of Sam Adams and the Vietnam Intelligence Wars

Higgins, Marguerite. Our Vietnam Nightmare

Jacobs, Seth. Cold War Mandarin: Dgo Dinh Diem and the Origins of America’s War in Vietnam, 1950-1963

Johnson, Denis. Tree of Smoke

Jones, Howard. Death of a Generation: How the Assassination of Diem and JFK Prolonged the Vietnam War

____________. My Lai: Vietnam, 1968, and the Descent into Darkness

Kaiser, David. American Tragedy: Kennedy, Johnson, and the Origins of the Vietnam War

Karnow, Stanley. Vietnam: A History

Kendrick, Alexander. The Wound Within: America in the Vietnam Years, 1945-1974

Ketwig, John. And a Hard Rain Fell: A GI’s True Story of the War in Vietnam

Kimball, Jeffrey. Nixon’s Vietnam War

Kolko, Gabriel. Anatomy of a War: Vietnam, the United States, and the Modern Historical Experience

Kissinger, Henry. The White House Years

Lagguth, A.J. Our Vietnam: The War 1954-1975

Landsdale, Edward G. In the Midst of Wars: An American’s Mission to Southeast Asia

Laurence, John. The Cat from Hue: A Vietnam War Story

Lederer, William J., and Eugene Burdick. The Ugly American

Lewy, Guenter. America in Vietnam

Logevall, Fredrik. Choosing War: The Lost Chance for Peace and the Escalation of War in Vietnam

_____________. Embers of War: The Fall of An Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam

MacDonald, Peter. Giap

Mangold, Tom, Penycate. The Tunnels of Chu Chi: The Untold Story of Vietnam

Marlantes, Karl. Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War

Maraniss, David. The Things They Carried: War and Peace, Vietnam and America, October, 1967

Mason, Robert. Chickenhawk

McMaster, H.R. Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies that Led to Vietnam

McNamara, Robert. In Retrospect: The Tragedies and Lessons of Vietnam

_______________. Argument Without End: In Search of Answers to the Vietnam Tragedy

________________. The Fog of War

Miller, Edward. Misalliance: Ngo Dinh Diem, the United States, and the Fate of Vietnam

Milne, David. America’s Rasputin: Walt Rostow and the Vietnam War

Morgan, Ted. Valley of Death: The Tragedy of Dien Bien Phu that Led America into the Vietnam War

Moyar, Mark. Phoenix and the Birds of Prey: The CIA’s Secret Campaign to Destroy the Viet Cong

__________. Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965

Nguyen, Lien-Hang T. Hanoi’s War: An International History of the War for Peace in Vietnam

Newman, John. JFK and Vietnam: Deception, Intrigue, and the Struggle for Power

Oberdorfer, Don. Tet! The Turning Point in the Vietnam War

O’Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried

O’Neill, William. Coming Apart: An Informal History of America in the 1960s

Prados, John. Vietnam: The History of an Unwinnable War, 1945-1975

__________. The Blood Road: The Ho Chi Minh Trail and the Vietnam War

Prados, John and Margaret Pratt Porter, eds.  Inside the Pentagon Papers

Preston, Andrew. The War Council: McGeorge Bundy, the NSC, and Vietnam

Prochnau, William. Once Upon a Distant War: Young War Correspondents and the Early Vietnam Battles

Prouty, L. Fletcher. JFK, the CIA, Vietnam, and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy

Reedy, George. Lyndon B. Johnson: A Memoir

Reeves, Richard. President Kennedy: Profile of Power

Rostow, Walt. The Diffusion of Power: An Essay in Recent History

Rudenstine, David. The Day the Presses Stopped: A History of the Pentagon Papers Case

Santoli, Al. Everything We Had

Schell, Jonathan. The Real War: The Classic Reporting on the Vietnam War

Schlesinger, Arthur. A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House

Schmitz, David F. Richard Nixon and the Vietnam War

Schultz, Richard H. The Secret War Against Hanoi: Kennedy’s and Johnson’s Use of Spies, Saboteurs, and Covert Warriors in North Vietnam

Schultzinger, Robert D. A Time for War: The United States and Vietnam, 1941-1975

Shapley, Deborah. Promise and Power: The Life and Times of Robert McNamara

Sheehan, Neil. A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam

Snepp, Frank. Decent Interval: An Insider’s Account of Saigon’s Indecent End Told by the CIA’s Chief Strategy Analyst in Vietnam

Sorley, Lewis. A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America’s Last Years in Vietnam

Taylor, Maxwell D. Swords and Plowshares

Terry, Wallace. Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans

Thomas, Evan. Being Nixon: A Man Divided

___________. Robert F. Kennedy: His Life

Truong Nhu Tang with David Chanoff and Doan Van Toai. A Viet Cong Memoir

Viorst, Milton. Fire in the Streets: America in the 1960s

Weiner, Tim. Legacy of Ashes: The Histyory of the CIA

White, Mark J. against the President: Dissent, Decision-Making in the White House; a Historical Perspective

Woods, Randall. Warrior: William Egan Colby and the CIA

Woodward, Bob. The Last of the President’s Men

Wright, Stephen. Meditations in Green: A Novel of Vietnam

Young, Marilyn B. The Vietnam War

Zaffiri, Samuel: Westmoreland: A Biography of General William C. Westmoreland

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THE KREMLIN’S CANDIDATE by Jason Matthews

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(Russian President Vladimir Putin)

Jason Matthews’s RED SPARROW set the bar extremely high in creating a unique approach to the espionage thriller. He followed that with PALACE OF TREASON which met the bar and may have raised it. Matthews, a retired officer of the CIA’s Operations Directorate who specialized in recruitment and obtaining national security secrets creates his scenes based on his vast experience with spy craft which is exemplified throughout the novel.  In his third installment of his American-Russian spy series THE KREMLIN’S CANDIDATE the plot develops more slowly than his previous successes.  Aspects of story line are the same, particularly the love affair between Colonel Dominika Egorova of the Russian SVR and Nathaniel Nash, her CIA handler.  Dominika is known as DIVA and she is the highest placed CIA operative in Putin’s Russia who has worked her way up through the Russian intelligence network from a “sparrow” to one of the Russian president’s most trusted operatives.

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(CIA headquarters, Langley, VA)

In the current rendition of CIA-SVR competition, Vladimir Putin seems to have a larger presence than in previous novels.  He is involved in all operations and seems to hover over a great deal of the dialogue.  Other characters reappear; Tom Forsyth, CIA Chief European Division, Marty Gable, a career long friend of Forsyth and in charge of Nash, Simon Benford, Chief of Counter Intelligence, Dr. Anton Gorelikov, close to Putin and a Kremlin recruiter who handles Dominika. There are a number of new characters integrated into the cast.  One of the most important is US Navy Lieutenant, later Admiral Audrey Rowland, a particle physicist intimately involved in US Navy railgun technological research.  A lesbian targeted by the SVR in 2005 on a student trip to Moscow, she becomes Russia’s most important asset in the United States.  Another is Grace Gao, a Chinese “sparrow type” called Zhanniao or “poison-feather bird” – an assassin, who appears as a restaurateur and yoga expert.

There are a number of tributaries that flow from the main plot line.  The Russian president is angry over the publication of corruption in a Russian joint-stock company, OAK that combines private and state owned assets with the lion’s share of its wealth going into the pockets of Putin’s favored oligarchs.  Putin wants to stem the leaks and seeks revenge for the besmirching of his carefully choreographed image and ego.  The man with the eyes of ice hopes to kill the CIA Director Arthur Larson to settle the score and replace him with an American asset, known by the CIA as MAGNIT.  Throughout the novel we feel the current state of American politics and relations with Russia with a “Trump like” US president, and a Russian leader who is constrained by no boundaries.

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A number of other plots are developed to provide background or digressions from the main story with a certain amount of continuity.  The employment of a Cold War Polish group of agents that has not been used for years is resurrected by Nash called WOLVERINE.  Marty Gable is sent to the Sudan to deal with an incompetent Chief of Station in Khartoum.  Another involves a Russian operation dealing with North Korean nuclear technology, as well as an op to arm Kurdish rebels as a means of destabilizing Turkey and driving a wedge between the US and an important NATO ally. The dispatch of Nash to Hong Kong to work on a joint US-Australian China op involving the People’s Liberation Army is also amusing.  Finally, Dominika is instructed to try and recruit a Chinese MSS officer named General Sun.

Russian spy techniques are on full display throughout the novel as are the internecine jealousies and conflicts within the Kremlin.  Disinformation was the key in attempts to manipulate the news, be it in digital, written, or spoken form as Matthews trolls Moscow’s tool box.  The author’s approach is very contemporary as Putin deals with the American president who he is able to manipulate easily.  Since the reader is exposed to nightly news stories of the Mueller and Congressional investigations the book at times seems to be ripped right from the headlines.

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(The Kremlin)

At times the plot will hold the reader, but it does not have the bite and crispness of the first two books in the series.  In fact, it took about two-thirds of the book for the plot to gather speed and grab this reader.  Dominika and Nash’s relationship has become very predictable.  Matthews shifts from operation to operation at times, with little connection to the main plot, and some of the twists and turns seem on an island from the main story line.   To Matthews’ credit his signature sarcasm and humor is on full display in much of the dialogue.  Further, he has continued the tradition including recipes at the end of each chapter that are a nice addendum to the material the reader has just “ingested.”  Overall, the book is a good read that builds on the first two novels as it arrives at an ending that may disappoint some and surprise others.

(Point of information – saw the film “Red Sparrow” this afternoon – as good as the book!)

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