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A gripping account of four American spies at the dawn of the Cold War and the CIA's covert battles against communism, from the bestselling author of Lawrence in Arabia.
"ENTHRALLING...CAPTIVATING READING, especially in the hands of a storyteller as skilled as Anderson...the climate of fear and intolerance that it describes in Washington also feels uncomfortably timely. "--Kevin Peraino, The New York Times Book Review
THE QUIET AMERICANS chronicles the exploits of the CIA's four original spies: Michael Burke, a charming former football star fallen on hard times, Frank Wisner, the scion of a wealthy Southern family, Peter Sichel, a sophisticated German Jew who escaped the Nazis, and Edward Lansdale, a brilliant ad executive. The four ran covert operations across the globe, trying to outwit the ruthless KGB in Berlin, parachuting commandos into Eastern Europe, plotting coups, and directing wars against Communist insurgents in Asia.
But time and again their efforts went awry, thwarted by a combination of incompetence and ideological rigidity at the highest levels of the government. The intertwined lives of these men began in a common purpose of defending freedom, but the ravages of the Cold War led them to different fates. Two would quit the CIA in despair, stricken by the moral compromises they had to make; one became the archetype of the duplicitous and destructive American spy; and one would be so heartbroken he would take his own life.
THE QUIET AMERICANS is the story of these four men. It is also the story of how the United States, at the very pinnacle of its power, managed to permanently damage its moral standing--a tragic outcome with consequences that echo around the world today.
About the Author
SCOTT ANDERSON is the author of two novels and four works of nonfiction, including Lawrence of Arabia, an international bestseller which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and a New York Times Notable Book. A veteran war correspondent, he is a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine.
A New York Times Notable Book
“ENTHRALLING...Lying and stealing and invading, it should be said, make for captivating reading, especially in the hands of a storyteller as skilled as Anderson...the climate of fear and intolerance that it describes in Washington also feels uncomfortably timely. "
—Kevin Peraino, The New York Times Book Review
“Anderson’s look at four men who ran covert operations around the globe after World War II is AS THRILLING AS IT IS TRAGIC, as each man confronts the moral compromises he made in the name of democracy.”
—The Washington Post
“A DARKLY ENTERTAINING tale about American espionage, set in an era when Washington’s fear and skepticism about the agency resembles our climate today.“
—The New York Times
“In his skillful and fascinating “The Quiet Americans”…Mr. Anderson ingeniously tells his story through the entwined sagas of four of the secret service’s most adept and intrepid operatives”
—Edward Kosner, Wall Street Journal
“This intriguing book is an indictment. From its first page it argues that the CIA lost its way, in all senses, in the first decade of the cold war. Its witnesses are four courageous and initially idealistic patriots. Frank Wisner oversaw some of the earliest efforts to “roll back” communism in Europe. Michael Burke was a daredevil figure in the same game. Edward Lansdale was an éminence grise in the Far East. Peter Sichel, a German-born Jewish wine-merchant and Wunderkind—and the only one of the four still alive—held his nose as he co-opted former Nazis into the agency, an initiative cited as one of its original sins....Many of the CIA’s failures stemmed from familiar shortcomings. ‘We all have this tendency to look for information that confirms our beliefs and to ignore what conflicts with them,” explains Mr Sichel. “It’s very hard to give somebody information he doesn’t want to hear, and the more senior they are, the worse it is.’
— The Economist
"In this sweeping, vivid, beautifully observed book, Scott Anderson unearths the devastating secret history of how the Unites States lost the plot during the Cold War. By focusing on the twisty, colorful lives of four legendary spies, Anderson distills the larger geopolitical saga into an intimate story of flawed but talented men, of the 'disease of empires,' and of the inescapable moral hazard of American idealism and power. It's a hell of a book, with themes about the unintended consequences of espionage and interventionism that still resonate, powerfully, today."
—Patrick Radden Keefe, author of SAY NOTHING
“[A] highly entertaining history of four Cold War spies...”
—Evan Thomas, Air Mail
“Anderson delivers a complex, massively scaled narrative, balancing prodigious research with riveting storytelling skills…Over the course of the narrative, the author amply shows how the CIA was increasingly pushed to function as an instrument of politically charged ambitions. An engrossing history of the early days of the CIA.”
—Kirkus Review (Starred)
"Anderson notes the harrowing emotional cost on his subjects…as the U.S. threw its support behind autocratic leaders and missed opportunities to aid legitimate liberation movements such as the 1956 Hungarian revolution. Such blunders, Anderson writes, recast the U.S. from WWII savior to “one more empire in the mold of all those that had come before.” Laced with vivid character sketches and vital insights into 20th-century geopolitics, this stand-out chronicle helps to make sense of the world today."
—Publisher’s Weekly (Starred)
"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…A fascinating and compulsively readable account of wartime spying."
— Library Journal