HISTORY

The Quiet Americans: Four CIA Spies at the Dawn of the Cold War—A Tragedy in Three Acts

Doubleday. Sept. 2020. 576p. ISBN 9780385540452. $30. HIST
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With this latest work, Anderson (Lawrence in Arabia) brings together the lives of four different yet remarkably similar men, who each shared a dissatisfaction with everyday life and had a taste for action. They found an appropriate outlet in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II, later to become the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the late 1940s. In a manner reminiscent of Douglas Waller’s Disciples, Anderson weaves his narrative among the lives of his subjects, highlighting aspects of their livelihoods as American spies that were at times equally frustrating, ridiculous, and chillingly dangerous. Through the lives of four unassuming spies, readers have an opportunity to learn about the complex challenges and unique characteristics of spying and living during World War II and the Cold War era later on. An impression of the CIA emerges as well, depicting an agency that was creative, frequently desperate, yet perpetually confident. Even more, readers can sense what life as a spy can do to those whose job is to carry out these missions; how some find a level of comfort and achieve success in their chosen profession, and how others reach a point where continuing on is no longer sustainable.
VERDICT A fascinating and compulsively readable account of warime spying.

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