Memoir Literature

O - P

O'Connell, Jack, with Vernon Loeb. King’s Counsel: A Memoir of War, Espionage, and Diplomacy in the Middle East. New York: Norton, 2011.

According to Peake, Studies 55.4 (Dec. 2011) and Intelligencer 19.1 (Winter-Spring 2012), the author, a CIA officer, maintained a close relationship with Jordanian King Hussein from 1958 until he left the Agency in 1972. Afterward he served as Jordan's lawyer in the United States. This is "more than a biography of a king, it is a valuable memoir with an unusual perspective on events in the Arab world."

Young, Boston Globe, 27 May 2011, sees this as a "straight-shooting book" by "a former CIA agent [sic] who served as station chief in Amman, Jordan, and acted as King Hussein's adviser, attorney, and diplomatic counselor for three decades." In fact, King's Counsel "is as much an apologia for the late monarch as a memoir." For Pillar, Washington Post, 14 Jul. 2011, "Hussein relied on the CIA not only for intelligence vital to his own security but also as his principal conduit to the U.S. government and a partner in his diplomatic endeavors." The book has "the obligatory spy vignettes,... but these are digressions from the main story about Hussein, war and peace."

Osborne, Leutrell M., Sr. Black Man in the CIA: An Autobiography. [Temple, TX?]: Jongleur Music Book Publishing, 2012.

Peake, Studies 56.4 (Dec. 2012) and Intelligencer 19.3 (Winter-Spring 2013), notes that the author served in the CIA from 1957 to 1984, retiring as a GS-12 operations officer. "Osborne views the Agency through an African-American's eyes and is candid in describing what his race meant to his career."

Panetta, Leon, with Jim Newton. Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace. New York: Penguin, 2014.

Ignatius, Washington Post, 6 Oct. 2014, finds Panetta's memoir "very readable," with "frank descriptions of personalities and events." This work is "engaging" because it is "suffused with the personality of the man himself." As CIA Director, "Panetta was an inspired, if surprising, choice.... Panetta's CIA career reached its peak with the discovery and assassination of Osama bin Laden ... in May 2011." His "account of his 18 months as defense secretary is almost an anticlimax after the CIA chapters." For Mead, FA 94.1 (Jan.-Feb. 2015), this "candid memoir offers a useful window into recent U.S. history."

Paseman, Floyd L. A Spy's Journey: A CIA Memoir. St. Paul, MN: Zenith, 2005.

Floyd L. Paseman, 64, died 7 May 2005. Louie Estrada, "Former CIA Senior Official Floyd Paseman Dies," Washington Post, 21 May 2005, B6. [http://www.washingtonpost.com]

Clark comment: The author's anecdotes go down smoothly, even though there is a repetitious feel at times. The stories would have been even better if Paseman had been able to identify the places of his assignments in something other than the vaguest of terms. Nevertheless, anyone who has served overseas with the CIA will find situations (funny and otherwise) with which they can identify. For someone seemingly as out-spoken as Paseman, it is a minor miracle that he made it all the way to division chief; but, then, he had and maintained a reputation as a straight shooter.

Goedeken, Library Journal, Jan. 2005, calls this "[o]ne of the best CIA memoirs published in a long while." This work is an "excellent introduction to the world of espionage [and] is recommended for all collections." DKR, AFIO WIN 17-05 (25 Apr. 2005), says that the author "delivers a firsthand account" of the CIA's development since the early 1960s. "For outsiders, Paseman has written an excellent introduction to the world of intelligence."

For Hedley, Studies 49.3 (2005), this is "a personal retrospective by a consummate nice guy, a straight arrow who recounts a life that offers helpful introductory reading for someone considering a career in the operations directorate. It contains precious little that is prescriptive, devoting only six pages out of nearly 300 to 'what's wrong and what's right with the CIA.' The shortcomings he cites are neither original nor surprising."

Peterson, Martha D. The Widow Spy: My CIA Journey from the Jungles of Laos to Prison in Moscow. Wilmington, NC: Red Canary Press, 2012. [pb]

From publisher: This "is the first hand account" of a Cold War spy operation in Moscow. Peterson "was one of the first women to be assigned to Moscow.... Her story begins in Laos ... where she accompanied" her CIA officer husband and where he was killed. "[H]er own thirty year career begins in Moscow, where she walks the dark streets alone, placing dead-drops and escaping the relentless eye of the KGB."

Peake, Studies 56.2 (Jun. 2012), finds that the author "conveys the personal and professional pressures of working in Moscow.," thereby providing "an unusually close look at the life of a CIA case officer operating under difficult conditions." Lukes, IJI&C 27.1 (Spring 2014), believes "[s]cholars of Soviet intelligence will find The Widow Spy to be indespensable, as will those seeking to understand the sometimes shaky role played by intelligence in the American political system."

For Steelman, Star News (Wilmingon, NC), 10 Mar. 2012, the author's privately published book "could have used a better editing job. Peterson's bob-and-weave storytelling technique might confuse some readers, especially those who aren't up on their Cold War history. For those still fascinated by that period, though, Peterson's book will be an invaluable addition."

Phillips, David Atlee. The Night Watch; Twenty-five Years of Peculiar Service. New York: Atheneum, 1977. London: Robert Hale, 1978. New York: Ballantine, 1982. [pb] JK468I6P54

Clark comment: Phillips retired from the CIA in 1975 after a 25-year career during which he rose to the position of Chief, Western Hemisphere Division, Directorate of Operations. Pforzheimer calls Night Watch the "well-written, anecdotal and philosophic story" of the author's "intelligence career. It gives a meaningful account of the work and thoughts of a successful career officer." Constantinides finds "some primary-source nuggets" among the generalities of Phillips' careful presentation. For Lowenthal, the book contains "interesting and sometimes thoughtful insights."

See the author's account of Operation SHERWOOD, the clandestine radio portion of PBSUCCESS.

Phillips, David Atlee. Secret Wars Diary: My Adventures in Combat, Espionage Operations and Covert Action. Bethesda, MD: Stone Trail Press, 1989.

Polgar, Thomas. "Assignment: Skyjacker." Studies in Intelligence 16, no. 3 (Fall 1972): 53-63.

Braniff Flight 14, hijacked on 2 July 1971, eventually ended up in Buenos Aires. The author, the CIA Buenos Aires Chief of Station, was the U.S. on-the-scene liaison with the Argentine authorities. He later became the intermediary who boarded the airplane to negotiate with the hijacker. He convinced the hijacker to surrender.

Return to CIA Memoirs Table of Contents