Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames


Today's nonfiction review is The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames by Kai Bird. It is 416 pages long including notes, index, and bibliography. It is published by Crown. The cover is orange-red with a Arabic newspaper and coffee in the top. The intended reader is someone who is interested in history, spies, and the middle east. There is no sex, some mild language, and violence in this book. The story is told from third person with first person interviews and other first hand documents. There Be Spoilers Ahead.

From the back of the book- The Good Spy is Pulitzer-Prize-winning biographer Kai Bird's compelling portrait of the remarkable life and death of one of the most important operatives in CIA history- a man, who had he lived, might have helped heal the rift between Arabs and the West.
On April 18, 1983, a bomb exploded outside the American embassy in Beirut, killing 63 people. The attack was a geopolitical turning point. It marked the beginning if Hezbollah as a political force, but even more important, it eliminated America's most influential and effective intelligence officer in the Middle East- CIA operative Robert Ames. What set Ames apart from his peers was his extraordinary ability to form deep, meaningful connections with key Arabs intelligence figures. Some operatives relied on threats and subterfuge, but Ames worked by building friendships and emphasizing shared values- never more notable than with Yasir Arafat's charismatic intelligence chief and heir apparent Ali Hassen Salameh (aka “the Red Prince”). Ames's deepening relationship with Salameh held the potential for a lasting peace. Within a few years, though, both men were killed by assassins, and America's relations with the Arab world began heading down a path that culminated in 9/11, the War on Terror, and the current fog of mistrust.

Review- This book sounded so interesting but it is so bogged down with details that it is hard to really stay with the narrative. With very long chapters, details upon details about people that you never read about it again, and long passages of descriptions this is not an easy read. I know very little about how the Middle East so I was hoping to not only learn about a long lived spy and about the region during a key point in time but that is not what I got. Yes I did learn some about that and some about Ames but it is so long that I had to force myself to finish this. I think that if this book was edited down to half it would be so much better and easier to read. The notes are just references to outside sources that added really nothing to the narrative. Because of how long and really boring this book I would not read any of the books Bird used as outside information. I will not be reading Bird again. I do not care if he has won a Pulitzer-Prize.

I give this book a Three out of Five stars. I get nothing for my review and I was given this book as a gift.