Tag: CIA

A Woman Of No Importance by Sonia Purnell

August 2nd, 2019 — 2:33pm

Woman of No Importance-The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II by Sonia Purnell

Virginia Hall was born in the United States, grew up in Baltimore and studied at Columbia University. She moved to France prior to World War II. As a young woman, she also had a tragic accident during a hunting trip where she shot her leg and ended up with a wooden prosthesis.

When World War II broke out and the Germans invaded France, circumstances plus dedication and brilliance led her to become one of the key figures in the French Resistance Movement. The author of this book, Sonia Purnell, spent a great deal of time and effort painstakingly studying the life and the amazing accomplishments of this woman who worked with the French underground. Virginia used numerous forged documents and also had a cover of being a correspondent for the New York Post, but in reality, she was organizing and participating in deadly sabotage against the occupying Nazis. She trained hundreds of members of the French underground. She risked her life numerous times in various operations. She went to extreme efforts to secretly maintain contact with the British for whom she was working via radio coded message. She guided many missions which included arranging the parachute drops of guns, explosives, and other supplies needed in the activities of the French underground against the occupying Germans. She devised complicated plots to free captured prisoners. She had many close calls and could have been captured and tortured as was the fate of many of her comrades. After D-Day she arranged numerous attacks on the German troops who were heading towards Normandy.

As a reader of this book, we got the feeling that we are by her side as she plans and carried out dangerous missions. She then escapes France via walking through the snow-covered mountains through Spain. Ultimately, Virginia falls in love with a young man who she encountered in her work and they eventually got married. This book is well written and will keep you on the edge of your seat. Virginia was ultimately awarded many medals including the highest French Medal of Honor. After the end of World War II, she worked for the CIA, assisting in spy activities directed against the communists.

As exciting and informative as this amazing story was, at times, I found it difficult to keep track of all the characters many of whom had French names. I also could not always picture the exact geography as she moved through different parts of France as well as during her escape via Spain. It would have been great if there could have been a directory of the many characters that we meet in this book and a brief description of them as well as a map where the reader could trace her adventures and travel. That being said, any student of history, especially if one wants the inside view of World War II should read this book. It also will be a satisfying read for anyone looking for a well-written spy story.

If you wish to purchase this book from Amazon please click here

Comment » | B - Biography, HI - History, P - Political

Season Of The Witch by David Talbot

June 23rd, 2015 — 4:41pm

SEASON OF THE WITCH BY DAVID TALBOTScreen Shot 2015-06-15 at 10.18.45 AM

If you have ever lived in San Francisco (as I did for one year in 1965) or perhaps visited the city and have fallen under its magical spell then this book is for you. This is especially true if your connection occurred between the 20-year period of 1965 to 1985. This may also apply if you identify with the social movements or news events that originated or were closely connected to The City by the Bay.

Here is a partial list of the fascinating people, places and events that were described in great detail in this very interesting book:

Haight-Ashbury, giving birth to the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Human Be In, the Hippy Revolution, Summer Of Love.

Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman, Timothy Leary, Runaway Children, Beatnik Society, Free Clinic, rock concerts, and Bill Graham.

San Francisco Chronicle, Herb Caen, Mobey Grape, Openly Gay Community, The Cockettes, Finnochios, STD, LSD, CIA, Susan Atkins, Charles Manson, Sharon Tate, Hell’s Angels, Rolling Stones, and Mick Jagger.

Joseph L. Alioto, Good Earth, Vincent Hallinan, SLA (Symbinese Liberation Army), Cinque, Bill Harris, Patty Hearst, Zebra Murders, Zodiac Serial Killer, Asian Law Caucus. Margo St. James, Hookers Liberation, Lenny Bruce, Ken Kesey.

George Moscone, Harvey Milk, Dianne Feinstein, Willie Brown, People’s Temple, Jim Jones, Jonestown, Guyana, Dan White , assassinations at City Hall, Edward DeBartolo, Joe Montana, Bill Walsh, HIV and the AIDS epidemic.

Although this book leaves at the end of the AIDS epidemic, we know this is just 20 years of a small but important part of the history of this great city. David Talbot, in my opinion, has earned the title of Story Teller Supreme for San Francisco. He told it like it was and what a story it has been and continues to be.

At the conclusion of this book, we are also treated to a section with photographs of some of the important players in the history of this great city that were described. These photos and the narration that accompanies, each one of them are a special dessert to the great meal this book has been.

Comment » | HI - History, Uncategorized

Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews

June 24th, 2013 — 11:11pm

Red SparrowThe Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews  –  The Sparrow School is a school for specialized training of selected Russian spies in the art of sexual seduction which becomes helpful in recruiting people to betray their government and work for Russia. One of the central  characters of this book did go through this school although this is not the main emphasis of this true to life spy story. It is true to life because the author, Jason Matthews, like John La Carre, Ian Flemming and other well known writers did serve as an agent but not for the British as they did, or for the Russians, but for the Americans. He worked for the CIA for 33 years having postings all over the world, being a station chief in several countries and by his own admission recruiting double agents and training many of his junior colleagues in the art of spycraft. The details of carrying out espionage in a foreign country or trying to catch a traitor in your own country apparently requires meticulous attention to detail, complicated dead end drops, surveillance, counter- surveillance, studying everyone and every thing in the street, parks or alleys  around you , looking for people who might be looking for you, taking circuitous routes, doubling back, using parallel patterns of following targets, making “fish-hook” changes in direction and being a master of code words and code messages. There are hidden video cameras and microphones, special transmitters that shoot signals to satellites. There are agents from both sides that try to recruit each other and there are moles deep in the government of  one side or the other. Yet the story rings true not only because the author lived in this world but because we all know from the newspapers and television something about this history of the real world of espionage that continues even after the end of the so called “cold war”. Matthews does more than present us with authenticity. He also shows us his ability to write and capture images that imprint in the reader’s imagination. Here is a passage which the author is setting up an important event.

Thick and ragged as a  plug of surgical cotton from the the box, the fog occasionally licked up over the roadway of the bridge.  The lamps along the bridgeway came on and caught the fog, blowing right to left making it seem as if the bridge itself were moving on casters along the riverbank.

His passages, which included people  were even more vivid such as the description of a guy being murdered with a wire on his neck as he had sex with an female agent who had no idea this was going to happen. While the book had its share of blood there was much more an exploration of the motivation that allows people to make decisions to become a traitor and allow themselves to be turned. The acronym MICE is one example; money, ideology, conscience and ego. There are several characters that we come to understand (or think that we do), twists and turns, page turning or Kindle clicking tension and some inside insight into the world of spies. We also have a new successful writer on the scene. I understand he is working on his next story. This one his first, could lend itself to a sequel.  (2013)

Comment » | FT- Fiction Thriller

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