Review: A Legacy of Spies by John LeCarre

4 Star, Fiction, Intelligence (Government/Secret)
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4 Stars A Capstone Work But Only For Prior Readers

John LeCarre

This book has been over-promoted. The ga ga reviews from the fake news mainstream media led by the New York Crimes are probably paid for, and do not accurately represent the value of this book. In a nutshell, it is a good read but only for those who have read all of Le Carre’s prior work and particularly the George Smiley series.

Former spies like myself, and incoming trainees, might appreciate the sprinkling of tradecraft throughout the book.

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Review (Fiction): BROKEN!

5 Star, Fiction, Intelligence (Government/Secret)
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Amazon Page

Michael Kearns and Ron Solomon

5.0 out of 5 stars TRUTH About Treason, Torture, and More, July 21, 2015

This book nails the reality of torture as both deeply pathological and unproductive. However it goes much further, and shows just how out of control our country is, where 70% of the secret budget is spent on contractors without a clue and without ethics. As Americans contemplate the future, Broken! is a helpful overview of just what “out of control” can mean, not only abroad, but right here at home where internment camps actually exist ‘in waiting.’

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Review: Valley of the Shadow

5 Star, Fiction, History
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Amazon Page

Ralph Peters

5.0 out of 5 stars Stellar!, May 10, 2015

I am a huge fan of Ralph Peters, who in addition to his civil war series under his own name and as Owen Parry, is a master strategist and intelligence professional who can find enemy special forces just by looking at a map and thinking. I am not sure he will ever match Cain at Gettysburg 1st (first) Edition by Peters, Ralph published by Forge Books (2012) Hardcover — that book set a new gold standard surpassing The Killer Angels: The Classic Novel of the Civil War (Civil War Trilogy) by six [and I hasten to add, I consider Michael Shaara gifted and only surpassed by Ralph] but I will say this: every book Ralph write surprises and delights, not just with how he delivers intimate details not found in other histories, but how he rights history — his books correct the less than accurate record and magnify what others have missed. His treatment of Early’s last stand and Custer’s best moment will stand for a very long time as yet another “first” for the author as historian.

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Review (Fiction): Hell or Richmond

5 Star, Fiction, War & Face of Battle

PRINTABLE DOC: (2 Pages) Review Peters Hell or Richmond

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Ralph Peters

5.0 out of 5 stars Equal to Cain at Gettysburg, Takes Fact-Based Fiction to New Level, May 13, 2013

I started this book, having given a rave review to Cain at Gettysburg convinced that the sequel would disappoint, as most sequels do.  Although I counted only five goosebump moments in this new book (Cain had six, The Killer Angels: The Classic Novel of the Civil War By Michael Shaara only had one), I have to rate it the equal of the earlier book, and also the linch pin book in what should be a series of at least four books, each – as the first two have been – a detailed study of men at war at all four levels (strategic, operational, tactical, technical). The concluding sentence in this book is brilliant, and it left me with precisely the sense of angst and anticipation for the next campaign as the author no doubt intended. If Cain was the thunderclap of divine providence, then Hell is the tough hard slog through mud during which the North adapts and learns lessons while Lee’s health worsens substantially, his weakness all the more grave because Longstreet is wounded and Stuart killed, leaving Lee with no bench, less Gordon as a late bloomer too easily ignored by his elders.

There is little doubt that with this book Ralph Peters has established a nearly impregnable position as the leading practitioner of historical fiction, taking it to a new level of accuracy and relevance to the military and political professionals who wage war, setting the gold standard for factual historical fiction that reveals the soul of those making history.

If I were to sum up the book in three words it would be leadership, logistics, and learning.

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Review (Fiction): Truce – The Day the World Was Perfect

Consciousness & Social IQ, Fiction
Amazon Page
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars WOW. An awakening kind of book — a powerful shock to the conscious, February 11, 2013

This book (also in Kindle) was recommended to me by one of the top minds in US cybernetics (complex whole systems, feedback loops, second and third order consequences and inter-relationships) and I put that up front because this is a WOW book.

I am NOT a New Age type of person, far from it, but over the past ten years, under the guidance of people like Harrison Owen, Tom Atlee, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Susan Cannon, and Steve McIntosh, I have come to deeply respect collective intelligence and integrated or integral consciousness, and what this book means to me is that the story can finally be told at the dummy level (me) and therefore this book is priceless to anyone that wants to have an “aha” experience on what it means to NOT be subject to the criminal insanity of corrupt banks, corrupt corporations, corrupt governments, corrupt religions, etcetera etcetera etcetera.

I want to insert here two quotes from my favorite systems pioneer, Dr. Russell Ackoff:

ONE: Reformations and transformations are not the same thing. Reformations are concerned with changing the means systems employ to pursue their objectives. Transformations involve changes in the objectives they pursue.

TWO: The righter we do the wrong thing, the wronger we become. When we make a mistake doing the wrong thing and correct it, we become wronger. When we make a mistake doing the right thing and correct it, we become righter. Therefore, it is better to do the right thing wrong than the wrong thing right. This is very significant because almost every problem confronting our society is a result of the fact that our public policy makers are doing the wrong things and are trying to do them righter.

This book inspires in me — and I hope in all others who venture to buy and read this in either paperback or Kindle — an awe for how EASY it would be for all of us to create a prosperous world at peace, a world that works for all (as Buckminster Fuller suggested we could and should with existing resources and existing technologies).

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Review: Altar Stone – An Alan Llewellyn Novel

5 Star, Fiction
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Walt Breede

5.0 out of 5 stars Revenge of the Nuns December 10, 2012

I absolutely recommend this book be read after the first one, Snow on the Golden Horn, see my disclosure and commentary there as well, and then move on, as I will when it comes out, to Sanity Check, not yet available for purchase. The author, a retired naval officer as am I, tells me three more are in various stages of production. I can certainly testify to two things: 01) everything in this book is based on the real world and 02) he writes a tremendous story line.

Catholics may resonate more with the good and evil nuns in this story, but if you have ever laughed as a nun joke, I am pretty sure you will be engaged.

Review: Snow on the Golden Horn

5 Star, Fiction
Amazon Page

Walt Breede

5.0 out of 5 stars As good as Nero Wolfe, Travis McGee, or Matt Helm,December 2, 2012

DISCLOSURE: the author was my boss in the Marine Corps, and one of three truly brilliant bosses I have had in my 60-year lifetime. I read this book in galley, but now that he has two other books out and I have the set, this is a good time to do something I rarely do, review a book of fiction (I read in 98 non-fiction categories, you can access all my reviews by category at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog).

The author is a mathematics and operations research wizard (operations research is what the Navy used in WWII to anticipate submarine attacks and devise tactics that successfully drove the U-Boats from the sea). He is a US Naval Academy graduate who chose the Marine Corps, was the first Director of the Marine Corps Intelligence Center, and in retirement chose to teach high school mathematics and coach sports rather than cash in his clearances with beltway bandit work. I hold him in the very highest regard.

I should also mention that he was a defense attache in Turkey, back in the days when anesthesia for major medical for both men and women was a bottle of scotch, and I know from talking to him that quite a bit of each of his books is drawn from real-life experience with just a tad of embellishment (well maybe more than a tad). My point is that these three books are both engrossing, and connected to the real world.

I won’t spoil the story line, and will just say that the protagonist represents the ideal man, the man every woman wants and every man envies, and as a former spy myself (the author was not, defense attaches are totally legal), I consider the protagonist to be the perfect citizen intelligence officer — action oriented, observant, brilliant, and prudent, and of course outrageously successful in the face of ably-described evil on every corner.

STRONGLY RECOMMENDED as holiday gifts and holiday reading!

The other two books are Altar Stone: An Alan Llewellyn Novel and Sanity Check, which will be listed on Amazon soon and will be the last of my reviews–and I will not repeat the above introductory material but will point back to this, the first book in what should be a six to ten book series.

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Review (FIction): Admit the Horse – Novel Based on 2008 Race

4 Star, America (Founders, Current Situation), Biography & Memoirs, Fiction
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R. G. Abeles

4.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent FIrst Effort, Misses a Lot of the Crime and Complexity,March 21, 2012

I agreed to review this book, which was a gift. Normally I do not do non-fiction, but the topic of this book — the abject total corruption of our entire political system (from the two-party tyranny to the bloated corrupt government) is important to me, so I agreed.

As a first effort, it is a fine book, and certainly valuable as a “lite” telling of the American story of legalized crime and conspiracy. Unfortunately, it does not go nearly far enough, once again proving that non-fiction is much scarier than fiction. It’s hard to get too excited about a fictional version when you have all lived through the real thing.

To the author’s great credit, I learned things from this book–always my objective–and it is therefore more than fiction, it is a window into reality. The book ends with six questions for book clubs and overall is very well presented. I would have been more impressed if the author had listed some of the books below as sources–I get the feeling going through the book that the author drew more on Internet and media sources than on actual books. There are important observations throughout the book, not least of which is the fact that Obama gets away with things that a Republican white president would never get away with. He is the perfect house servant for the criminals that consider the USA to be their personal looting preserve.

Here is one fictional book I recommend to every American:
TYRANNICIDE (The Story of the Second American Revolution)

Here are non-fiction books (you can just read my summary reviews, and also explore at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog, among the 98 categories in which I read, many of them focused on the deep corruption that characterizes all organizations we rely on:

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Review: Cain at Gettysburg – Ralph Peters at his best

5 Star, Biography & Memoirs, Culture, Research, Fiction, History, Leadership, War & Face of Battle

PRINTABLE DOC (3 Pages): Review Peters Cain at Gettysburg

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Ralph Peters

5.0 out of 5 stars Spectacular Blend of Rigorous & Populist History,February 24, 2012

I have read The Killer Angels: A Novel of the Civil War (Modern Library), which the author himself acknowledges as one of the best books about Gettysburg – but also one that bought into the prevalent myths. This book is the equal of Killer Angels in its atmospheric electricity, certainly the equal if not more moving with respect to “aha” professional insights and “feeling in the fingertips” gut-wrenchers (I counted six goose-bump moments reading Cain, I recall only one in reading Killer Angels), and vastly more important than Killer Angels in the grand scheme of things because this author and this book have restored the reputation of General George Meade at his finest hour – given the Army THREE DAYS before Gettysburg, and leading that Army to the single most important victory of the Civil War, however one may view that war while also instantly assessing and correcting the mistakes of his predecessor, the most important being a scattered leaderless army.

This is a book written by a professional military officer who is also a historian, a brilliant and often poetic author of both non-fiction and historical fiction better than dry academic texts, and an adventurer who knows the world from gutter to grand salons.

The book concludes with a very clear explanation of how General Meade’s reputation was ruined by a scheming General Sickles, and how some of the main characters fared after the war of secession. More to the point, this is the definitive book that rescues the reputation of General Meade. While there are many other books, one in particular being Meade: Victor of Gettysburg (Military Profiles), no other book can match the eloquence, authenticity, and level of detail of this ultra-historical and poetic work of redemption.

Here are some of the professional highlights that I noted down – I do not report the goose bump moments–for those, buy the book.

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Review (Fiction): The Officer’s Club

4 Star, Culture, Research, Fiction, Military & Pentagon Power


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Ralph Peters

4.0 out of 5 stars Gifted writing, much less detail than expected
April 1, 2011

Ralph Peters is an acquired taste for some, an addiction for others. I am in the latter camp and read everything he publishes, with a strong preference for his non-fiction books about reality, war, and the general lack of integrity across both governments and corporations.

The book is full of gifted phrases and insights, a few of which stick with me now:

— Staff officer’s smile
— Idiocy of military classifying a BBC documentary
— How far the mighty can fall
— Army swooning for computers, losing its collective mind
— Broken promises (or lost integrity) = men die

This book, while good, is not as good (at least for me) as his first military-industrial complex book, Traitor, where the detail was chilling and compelling. I also liked The Devil’s Garden This particular new book is certainly a good read, and I endorse the other positive reviews, but for Ralph Peters at his very best, I recommend his non-fiction and his Civil War novels, the latter written under a pseudonym.

Here are a few of each:
Endless War: Middle-Eastern Islam vs. Western Civilization
Wars of Blood and Faith: The Conflicts That Will Shape the Twenty-First Century
Looking for Trouble: Adventures in a Broken World
Faded Coat of Blue: A Novel (Abel Jones Mysteries (Paperback))
Shadows of Glory
Call Each River Jordan: A Novel of Historical Suspense

Two fiction (but all too real) books by others that I recommend to those who like anything by Ralph Peters are:
The Shell Game

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Ralph Peters at Phi Beta Iota

Review: Sign of the Cross

4 Star, Crime (Organized, Transnational), Fiction, Religion & Politics of Religion
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Really great with disappointing ending, March 16, 2008

Chris Kuzneski

I agree with the thrust of the other reviewers, to wit, there is a lot of cleverness in this book, but ultimately it disappoints at the very end (GREAT book, the last page is a flop).

However, as I was desperate for a read at Fort Bragg this past week, and I read the book all the way through, it merits both a review and a passing comment.

First, the author has done his homework and also provides an epilog that points at several books I link to below. That raised him from three to four stars in my estimation. This was a great book right up to the end when it wimped out with a one-paragraph flop of a conclusion.

Second, I am persuaded that religions as now organized are a form of organized crime, and that we would all do better going with unitarian communitarian approaches in which we deal direct with God on a personal basis, and direct with one another on a community basis. With a handful of exceptions (Rabbi Lerner, Archbishop Tutu) most church “officials are in my view santimonious frauds, and any fictional book that helps portray that is inherently useful.

The author himself recommends the following books:
Holy Blood, Holy Grail Illustrated Edition: The Secret History of Jesus, the Shocking Legacy of the Grail
The Templar Revelation: Secret Guardians of the True Identity of Christ
Rosslyn: Guardian of the Secrets of the Holy Grail
Jesus and the Lost Goddess: The Secret Teachings of the Original Christians

Curiously, he does not mention The Da Vinci Code or the Gospel of St. Thomas (not a book, search for it).

I also recommend:
Founding Faith: Providence, Politics, and the Birth of Religious Freedom in America
The Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country from the Religious Right
American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America
DVD Gandhi (Widescreen Two-Disc Special Edition)

Review: The Confessor

3 Star, Fiction, Intelligence (Government/Secret)
Amazon Page
Amazon Page

3.0 out of 5 stars

Adequate Airplane Book, Not Top-Notch Fictional History,

February 29, 2004
Daniel Silva
There is a great deal of potential in fictional history books, such as the Da Vinci Code, and there is no more exciting topic for such books than the cross-over between espionage, religious conspiracy, and genocide.Unfortunately, while this book is adequate to an airplane ride, it is not as good as the author’s stunningly good earlier work, “The Unlikely Spy”, and it is disappointing in terms of its coverage of the Israeli Mossad, the Catholic Church (for a better non-fiction read, see “The Keys of This Blood”), and its over-all lack of critical detail.One small example: intelligence professionals do not throw radios (usually with embedded encryption) into the ocean because their subordinates have annoyed them. This was just one of several details that were off-putting, and that made it clear the author was rushing a book out and not doing the homework–nor being held accountable by the publisher for being serious.

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Review: Black Tulip

5 Star, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Fiction, Intelligence (Government/Secret)
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Amazon Page

Milt Bearden

5.0 out of 5.0 Stars. Outstanding! Buy Used if Publisher Does Not Reissue

As one of those who served on the Central American Task Force at CIA and in the field, I was fascinated to learn of this book by one of America’s greatest espionage warriors–not only did he run the Afghan war from the field, he was also Chief of the Soviet Division and Chief of Station in Germany, the equivalent of an Olympic “clean sweep.” I read this book critically.

It is simply super, and full of nuances that get better with a second reading. The most important of these is the thoughtful manner in which the fall of the Soviet military in Afghanistan is related to the subsequent weakening of the Soviet hold over Eastern Europe, a hold that eventually broke and led to the unification of Germany and chaos in those portions of Eastern Europe where neither Europe nor the US was ready to help convert communists to capitalists. This is an inspiring book that shows in great detail how covert action–behind the lines action–can serve a great nation. This book will cleanse the palate of all those who soured on covert action as done so badly (and occasionally in violation of the law) in Central America.

Evidently I bought the last used copy, released for public sale by the Indianapolis Public Library–too bad, since we need more young spies from that area and they would have been highly motivated by this book. I hope the publisher reissues it, this is a tale that is much more truth than fiction, and of lasting value to those who would understand the deeper value of covert action in the national service. We still need spies, there is still great evil around the world, and I can only hope that books like this will help the clandestine service recruit those with “the right stuff.”

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Review: The Da Vinci Code

5 Star, Fiction, Religion & Politics of Religion
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Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars

Uses Fiction to Illuminate Non-Fictional Scenario,

December 7, 2003
Dan Brown
Although I rarely read or review fiction, this book leaped into my consciousness, in part because I just reviewed a book on the Vatican and its use of spies as well as its vulnerability to spies from Italy and Germany, among others, and because I am very interested in the concepts of both institutional corruption vis a vis historical myths, and the alleged infallibility of the pope. More recently, I have taken an interest in religious subversion of national governments and policies, and strongly recommend Stephen Mumford’s “The Life & Death of NSSM 200: How the Destruction of Political Will Doomed a U. S. Population Policy”, which is still available from Amazon via the used book channels.The Da Vinci Code is most interesting, not because of its bashing of Opus Dei, but because it addresses what may be the core injustice in Catholicism (I was raised a Jesuit Catholic in Colombia, with roots in Spain): the concealment of the normal sexuality of Jesus, his marriage, and the fact that until the mid-1800’s, the Church did not dare to claim that the Pope was infallible, and that all that preceded that claim was based merely on a man’s prophecies. Jesus, in other words, can not lay any greater claim to our faith than Mohammed.Most relevant to me, as I consider the need for elevating women to positions of power because they are more intuitive, more integrative, and less confrontational than men, was the book’s discussion of the origins of paganism (not satanic at all, but rather worshiping Mother Earth and specifically the human female mothers from whom life obviously emerged) and the manner in which the Catholic Church deliberately set out to slander Mary Magdalene, making her out to be a whore rather than the spouse of Jesus (from whom issue came), and murdering five million women in a witch-hunt and global psychological operations against women that has been mirrored by Islam in many ways, and that must, if we are to survive, be reversed by thoughtful people willing to think for themselves.

This book, riveting in every way, suggested to me that we the people need to doubt the integrity and intentions of all our institutions, but especially the Catholic Church; and that we need to reverse the centuries of discrimination against women, restore the matriarchal roots of society, and again begin to respect the natural relationship between ourselves and the Earth that we have defiled precisely because we have allowed men to abuse women, and corporations to assume legal manly personalities abusive of governments and the tax-payer.

This is a revolutionary book. If it causes you to question authority and re-think your relationships, you cannot have made a better purchase.

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Review: The Unlikely Spy

5 Star, Fiction, Intelligence (Government/Secret)
Amazon Page
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars

Captures the Essence of Wheels within Wheels,

October 22, 2001
Daniel Silva
Together with “Enigma” and “The Black Tulip” by Milt Bearden, and of course the George Smiley series by John Le Carre, this is one of my few really recommended fictional accounts related to espionage.The art of lying to one’s own people, at multiple levels of duplicity, some venal, much of it unnecessary, has helped to mystify, confuse, and sometimes glorify the intelligence profession.

As an intelligence professional myself, I will simply say that this is one of my top six and that it would not be called fiction if it did not depart for the pure realities as much as it does. This book captures the “essence” of duplicity within government in a time of war, and I find the whole book absolutely captivating and worthwhile.
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