Duane Clarridge


  Clarridge, Duane R. ("Dewey"), with Digby Diehl. A Spy for All Seasons: My Life in the CIA. New York: Scribner's, 1997.

Clark comment: These are the memoirs of a long-time, senior CIA officer whose personal and sartorial eccentricities are known to all who came into contact with him. Clarridge's close association with running the Reagan administration's anti-Sandinista war, as well as with other major operations in his lengthy career, makes this book interesting reading.

In dealing with memoirs, the question of "truth" is always an issue. With this book, the reader gets Clarridge's truth. When he tells his story of life in the CIA's Clandestine Service, he tells it "as it was." His judgments about the meaning of his experiences are, however, another matter. There is too much settling of old scores here for my taste, but it would be foolish to expect any less from a man who had the end piece of his career pounded flat on the anvil of domestic politics. Question: Is Dewey, like Patton, the last of his kind? Should the world be relieved or saddened?

Chambers suggests that this book is "well worth reading.... Clarridge gives us a clear look at the ways the Clandestine Service has operated at several levels, including the interaction with the NSC. There are insights into the inner circles of Washington decision making, the clandestine campaigns in Central America and against terrorism.... Finally, there is Clarridge himself: a man of action, strong beliefs and opinions. One may not agree with him all the time, or even all that often, but that makes him all the more interesting." For Chambers' full review, click HERE.

Warren, Periscope 22.1 and CIRA Newsletter 22.2), views A Spy for All Seasons as "the standard self-serving, set-the-record-straight, tell-it-like-it-is, avenge-all-slights memoir" that is typical of intelligence literature. Nevertheless, Clarridge presents "an unsurpassed description of the life of a DO case officer"; former colleagues "will find themselves saying constantly, 'Yes, that's the way it was.'" The perspective central to this book is one of a black and white world, but "[e]spionage is mostly a world of grey."

For Wise, WPNWE, 24 Mar. 1997, this is a "swaggering, defiant memoir" in which Clarridge "settles old scores with undisguised glee.... Although Clarridge suffers from a chronic case of machismo and an unbounded ego..., his memoir is redeemed in part by flashes of unusual candor." In addition, he also "offers some interesting, even valuable, thoughts on the agency's problems and its future."

Fein, WIR 16.1, comments that "Clarridge shows himself as a man of dash and action, not of scholarship and reflection." What is startling is "Clarridge's very detailed descriptions of methods of recruiting informants." Along the way, Clarridge "intermittently offers glib political commentary that betrays a gross lack of understanding."

To Cohen, FA 76.4, A Spy for All Seasons is "[o]ne of the best spy memoirs in recent years." Isenberg, IntellectualCapital.com, 15 May 1997, calls the book "an eminently readable, delightfully acidic and barbed memoir.... The most interesting parts of the book deal with the mundane nuts and bolts of espionage tradecraft." Horton, IJI&C 10.1, finds that the "tone, the words, the expressions[] are so faithful to Dewey Clarridge's conversation that the text reads as oral rather than written history." But Clarridge's story "bogs down where he milks tiring detail from the cases he chose to dramatize his exploits."

Pincus, Washington Monthly, Jan.-Feb. 1997, comments that "whether you love or hate the CIA, Duane R. 'Dewey' Clarridge's memoir … is worth reading. Its freshness, openness, and plain arrogance make it by far a better starting point for discussing where the trouble-laden clandestine side of U.S. intelligence has been and should go than the myriad presidential, congressional, and think-tank studies churned out in the post-Aldrich Ames era.”

[CIA/80s/Nic; CIA/Memoirs; GenPostwar/80s/Iran-Contra][c]

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