Memoir Literature

Q - R

Richardson, John H.

1. My Father the Spy: An Investigative Memoir. New York: HarperCollins, 2005.

DKR, AFIO WIN 25-05 (4 Jul. 2005), notes that the author's father "began as a left-leaning romantic but matured sufficiently to become station chief in Vienna, Manila and Saigon. The son sees his father as a decent, principled officer who coped effectively with difficult circumstances." For Thomas, Washington Post, 31 Jul. 2005, the author "writes in a maddeningly breezy style ill-suited to describing such complex events as the coup machinations in Saigon in the fall of 1963.... Richardson does have an insider's eye, and the book includes some wonderful snapshots."

The reviewer for Kirkus Reviews, 1 Jun. 2005, comments that the author "never learns exactly what his father did, but he does artfully draw the familiy's home life in all its stress, distance, and disconnect.... A beautiful, gracious act of connection with a man who kept his secrets." Publishers Weekly, 23 May 2005, calls this work a "heartfelt if shapeless saga." However, "Richardson's conflation of his father's profession with his personal life lacks much substance or perspective."

To Peake, Studies 50.1 (Mar. 2006), the author adds too much "detail about their family life, telling the reader more than needs be said about his own hippy, LSD lifestyle, which contributed to periodic estrangement from his father.... Richardson, the father, adhered rigidly to his vows of secrecy and did not tell his son much about what he did, so the book's account is spotty.... [W]e do learn the attributes of a good clandestine services intelligence officer and, family difficulties aside, they have changed little since those days in Vienna."

2. “My Father, the Spy.” Esquire, Mar. 1999, 132-141.

John Richardson, Sr. (Jack), the author’s father, “was a spy, a high-ranking member of the CIA, one of those idealistic men who came out of World War II determined to save the world from tyranny. Like so many of his colleagues, he ended up bitter at a world that mocked and frustrated and finally vilified him…. [A]n officer of Dad's named Bill Hood centered a spy novel called Mole on the Vienna station. Dad appears as the savvy, tough spymaster Joel Roberts.”

Clark comment: Richardson's memories of "my father, the spy" are interwoven with the ugly but touching story of how one generation watched the previous generation through the last throes of the passage into death.

3. "Spies in the House." New York Times, 17 Jul. 2005. [http://www.nytimes.com]

In the summer of 1969, at the age of 14, the author was told that his father worked for the CIA. Clark comment: I wonder how many of us did this in a way truly understandable to our children?

4. "The Spy Left Out in the Cold." New York Times, 7 Aug. 2005. [http://www.nytimes.com]

In 1963, John H. Richardson was exposed as a CIA officer in the U.S.press by a "'high official source.' ... Behind the leak was a policy dispute." Richardson, CIA station chief in Saigon, opposed supporting a coup against Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem. However, U.S. Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge favored a coup. Richard Starnes, a Washington Daily News reporter, wrote "that the C.I.A.'s station chief in Saigon was a man named John H. Richardson who had twice refused to carry out Lodge's explicit orders.... Soon the story was everywhere.... Exposed by name in the papers, accused of insubordination -- it was about the worst thing that could have happened. [Richardson] flew back to Washington and went into hiding."

5. See also: Lynne Duke, "His Father's Secrets: CIA Man John Richardson Was a Stellar Spy, Leaving Few Clues, Even for His Son," Washington Post, 18 Aug. 2005, C1. [http://www.washingtonpost.com]

This article orbits around an interview with Richardson about his book My Father the Spy. There is some faintly interesting father-vs.-son thoughts here, but they are surrounded with too much mush. Whether that is the journalist's fault or Richardson's is not clear.

Rizzo, John. Company Man: Thirty Years of Controversy and Crisis in the CIA. New York: Scribner, 2014.

Campbell, CIRA Quarterly 34.1 (Spring 2014), notes that the author "occupied a front row seat as a participant in and witness to the many political, legal, policy, and operational complexities inherent to the planning, coordination, approval, and execution of covert action.... Rizzo has produced a book full of unique insights and thoughtful reflection, with a good dose of humor along the way."

To Peake, Studies 58.2 (Jun. 2014), and Intelligencer 20.3 (Spring-Summer 2014), the author "provides a forthright account of his career's progress and along the way makes clear the contributions lawyers make. In a matter-of-fact writing style that shuns self-promotion, Rizzo describes one challenging episode after another that raised unprecedented legal issues.... He gives a detailed account of his role in the origins and implementation of the interrogation program." This book makes "clear why Rizzo acquired a reputation for competence and intellectual honesty."

Kaplan, New York Times, 3 Jan. 2014, is basically downbeat about these memoirs. He seems to want Rizzo to have said more negative things about the CIA, its actions, and the people he worked with and for: "[T]he book suffers from the lack not merely of a critical perspective ... but of any perspective whatever." Admittedly, there are a few "tidbits" here, but there should have been more. And the author "shies away from substance on many policy matters.... His chief failing here is that he took part in so much but tells us so little."

For Temple-Raston, Washington Post, 10 Jan. 2014, "[f]ew books have this scope or insider perspective on the CIA.... The book is by turns withholding and matter-of-fact, aggrieved and smug, and in the end could be read in one of two ways: as the diary of a legal enabler for the agency or as an atlas to navigate the dark, murky morality that governs the business of intelligence." Chapman, IJI&C 27.4 (Winter 2014), calls Rizzo's "an insider's explanation of many important events.... But too many questions remain as to how certain, often destructive, actions were taken without proper judgment being exercised at numerous points in the decision channel."

Rodriguez, Felix I., and John Weisman. Shadow Warrior: The CIA Hero of a Hundred Unknown Battles. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989. New York: Pocket Books, 1990. [pb]

Surveillant 1.1: Rodriguez takes the reader from the Bay of Pigs to the capture of Che Guevara (he was "the last man to interrogate him") to Vietnam to Oliver North and the Iran-Contra affair.

Rodriguez, Jose, Jr., with Bill Harlow. Hard Measures: How Aggressive CIA Actions After 9/11 Saved American Lives. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012.

Peake, Studies 56.2 (Jun. 2012), finds that the "central focus" of this book "is on two controversial issues" the author dealt with while head of the Counterterrorism Center (the destruction of the videotapes of the interrogations of two al Qaeda terrorists) and the National Clandestine Service (the use of enhanced interrogation techniques). "Hard Measures presents the veteran officer's position with candor and clarity and should be considered carefully."

Rogers, Leigh Platt . Sticky Situations: Stories of Childhood Adventures Abroad. Haverford, PA: 2004.

Peake, Studies 48.3 (2004), notes that in this book the daughter of CIA operations officer Jack Platt "tells what it is like to grow up undercover and overseas.... This is a charming book for its friendly candor and may well help other young dependents adjust and even look forward to life as a CIA brat."

Roosevelt, Archie. For Lust of Knowing: Memoirs of an Intelligence Officer. Boston: Little, Brown, 1988.

Clark comment: These are the memoirs of a grandson of Teddy Roosevelt and a cousin of FDR. Roosevelt served in military intelligence in World War II and joined the Central Intelligence Group (CIG) in early 1947. More than half the book is devoted to these early years. Roosevelt retired from the CIA in 1974, after a succession of headquarters positions, culminating his career as a division chief in the clandestine services.

In a decidedly unkind review, Leary, JAH 76.1, writes off the book as "disappointing," and notes that "Roosevelt was not in a position to shape events." Clark comment: With regard to the latter point, very few people are truly in such positions; and if we wait for them to write their versions of events, we will have very little to read.

Roosevelt, Kermit. Countercoup: The Struggle for the Control of Iran. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1979. 1981. [pb]

Kermit Roosevelt died on 8 June 2000 at the age of 84. Bart Barnes, "Kermit Roosevelt, CIA Mideast Agent, Dies," Washington Post, 10 Jun. 2000, B6.

Clark comment: The book details the planning and execution of Operation Ajax, the American-British operation which overthrew Iranian Prime Minister Mossadegh in 1953 and restored the Shah to his throne. Roosevelt was the American case officer for the operation and was on the scene in Teheran to oversee its successful implementation.

Powers, The Nation (12 Apr. 1980) and Intelligence Wars (2004), 159-168, notes the unusual history of this book. The first printing was pulped because of British concerns about mentions of the SIS role in the 1953 coup. The second printing was held for the release of the American hostages in Iran. According to the reviewer, Roosevelt's account has little to say about the politics of the coup, either in Washington or Teheran. "This version of events is not so much untrue as it is incomplete, offhand, and unreflective.... It is a book about clandestine technique, a kind of guide for covert political manipulation."

For Constantinides, Countercoup "is necessary for an understanding of the covert ... history of Ajax.... But its shortcomings lessen its usefulness as a fully reliable reference." See also, Kenneth L. Adelman, "A Clandestine Clan," International Security 5 (Summer 1980): 152-171. This is a review essay on Countercoup and Powers' The Man Who. Adelman was Director of ACDA, 1984-1987.

Roosevelt, Selwa "Lucky". Keeper of the Gate. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990.

Clark comment: Selwa Roosevelt was Archie Roosevelt's wife. Surveillant 1.3 notes that Selwa Roosevelt was the chief of protocol in the Reagan White House. In Chapter Sixteen, "CIA Wife," she "briefly details the impact and contrasts of her husband's 30-year CIA career, on her duties as wife, mother, news reporter, and protocol chief."

Rositzke, Harry. The CIA's Secret Operations: Espionage, Counterespionage, and Covert Action. New York: Reader's Digest Press, 1977.

Rositzke died on 4 November 2002 at the age of 91. Bart Barnes, "Harry Rositzke Dies; Spymaster, Scholar," Washingtom Post, 7 Nov. 2002, B12.

Clark comment: Rositzke is identified on this book's dust jacket as having served two years with OSS and 25 years with the CIA, where his jobs included work in Munich in the early 1950s, station chief in New Delhi 1957-1962, and Washington assignments until his retirement in 1970.

Pforzheimer notes that the secret operations discussed are "heavily disguised as to places and dates." The author both praises and criticizes, and offers solutions to problems in his concluding chapter. Constantinides finds that the focus of the book is on Rositzke's "major professional interest: secret operations against the Soviet Union.... His experience of secret operations and reflection give him a special perspective." Nonetheless, there are some "questionable facts and opinions" in the book.

Ruth, Steven. My Twenty Years as a CIA Officer: It's All About The Mission. Charleston, SC: CreateSpace, 2011. [pb]

According to Peake, Studies 56.2 (Jun. 2012), this memoir tells the story of the author's "20-year career -- under cover, as a, intelligence support officer" -- in the CIA. Ruth provides "an honest look at his career."

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