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As his father nears death in his retirement home in Mexico, John H. Richardson begins to unravel a life filled with drama and secrecy. John Sr. was a CIA "chief of station" on some of the hottest assignments of the Cold War, from the back alleys of occupied Vienna to the jungles of the Philippines—and especially Saigon, where he became a pivotal player in the turning point of the Vietnam War: the overthrow of South Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem. As John Jr. and his sister came of age in exotic postings across the world, they struggled to accommodate themselves to their driven, distant father, and their conflict opens a window on the tumult of the sixties and Vietnam.

Through the daily happenings at home and his father's actions, reconstructed from declassified documents as well as extensive interviews with former spies and government officials, Richardson reveals the innermost workings of a family enmeshed in the Cold War—and the deeper war that turns the world of the fathers into the world of the sons.

Published: HarperCollins on Oct 13, 2009
ISBN: 9780061750038
List price: $9.99
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In this biography, Richardson retraces his father's footsteps through a mix of facts, stories, research and anecdotal evidence.Richardson Sr's youth, his studies, admission into the army, all are par for the course. The years that the author describes after the World War are particularly revealing: the confusion, torn loyalties, mixed politics - Richardson does a great job of describing the mess that ensued in war-torn Europe.The Cold War years are much more harsh, especially come the Vietnam War where Richardson's career ends up taking a turn for the worse - and where the biography stops taking an "objective" look: from there on, the author is more concerned about redeeming his father's reputation and describing his own experience of these years than recounting the facts. Emotion definitely overtakes rationality... but does not make the story weaker. On the contrary, the reader enters a whole new world, much more personal and intimate, until the end where he shares in the family's pain as Richardson Sr fights against cancer.A unique and intriguing look at a Station Chief's career in the CIA, his struggles, the diplomatic tensions and political challenges he faced and his contribution to history - well worth the time.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I read this a few years ago while on vacation in Hawaii. My wife and I rented a house on the North West coast of the big island and the owner had a nice collection of books in one of the bedrooms. Although I had brought my own books, once I started reading this, I couldn't put it down.It is an engrossing inside look at a CIA family. It also inadvertantly gives an inside look at someone who is now called a 'third culture kid.' These are children of parents who are diplomats, missionaries, military brats, global business executives, and in this case a CIA spy. The children in these families have their own unique set of struggles in life since they do not grow up in their home country. So for me, the book worked on many levels. You get an inside look at CIA operations, a look at an important CIA operative as well as a look at what its like to grow up as a kid who doesn't fit in anywhere.I have no way of evaluating the historical accuracy of all the details. I don't think that was the intention of the book. It is just one kid's reminiscences of growing up in a family where you're dad is an important CIA operative.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.

Reviews

In this biography, Richardson retraces his father's footsteps through a mix of facts, stories, research and anecdotal evidence.Richardson Sr's youth, his studies, admission into the army, all are par for the course. The years that the author describes after the World War are particularly revealing: the confusion, torn loyalties, mixed politics - Richardson does a great job of describing the mess that ensued in war-torn Europe.The Cold War years are much more harsh, especially come the Vietnam War where Richardson's career ends up taking a turn for the worse - and where the biography stops taking an "objective" look: from there on, the author is more concerned about redeeming his father's reputation and describing his own experience of these years than recounting the facts. Emotion definitely overtakes rationality... but does not make the story weaker. On the contrary, the reader enters a whole new world, much more personal and intimate, until the end where he shares in the family's pain as Richardson Sr fights against cancer.A unique and intriguing look at a Station Chief's career in the CIA, his struggles, the diplomatic tensions and political challenges he faced and his contribution to history - well worth the time.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I read this a few years ago while on vacation in Hawaii. My wife and I rented a house on the North West coast of the big island and the owner had a nice collection of books in one of the bedrooms. Although I had brought my own books, once I started reading this, I couldn't put it down.It is an engrossing inside look at a CIA family. It also inadvertantly gives an inside look at someone who is now called a 'third culture kid.' These are children of parents who are diplomats, missionaries, military brats, global business executives, and in this case a CIA spy. The children in these families have their own unique set of struggles in life since they do not grow up in their home country. So for me, the book worked on many levels. You get an inside look at CIA operations, a look at an important CIA operative as well as a look at what its like to grow up as a kid who doesn't fit in anywhere.I have no way of evaluating the historical accuracy of all the details. I don't think that was the intention of the book. It is just one kid's reminiscences of growing up in a family where you're dad is an important CIA operative.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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