The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames by Kai Bird

Robert Ames was a spy. He came from a solid middle class background - steelworker father, homemaker mother - to join the ranks of the CIA.  He was, according to one of his associates, a "spies spy."

Ames was born in 1934. After college he joined the Army where he studied languages on his own time. He was fascinated by the middle east. He became fluent in several languages and thinking he would love to work in the Arabian area he took the foreign service exam.  He failed it and joined the CIA instead. It was a perfect fit. Ames was stationed in the Middle East from the 1960's until his death in 1983. He was married, the father of 6 children and they usually followed him to his station.

Ames was a naturally reserved man. He practiced his craft by getting to know the local people and becoming invested in their lives. His personal affinity for his contacts was a trademark of his craft.  Ames was revered by the foreign nationals he dealt with. They trusted him. He saw first hand what was going on in the area, from misguided and failed policy to the rise of the terrorist organizations. Ames was killed in the Beirut embassy bombing of 1983, removing one of the CIA's most effective intelligence officers in the area.

Kai Bird is a Pulitzer prize winning author who had access to declassified documents and people who were actually with Ames during his tenure. This book is a great background study of the middle east and why it is the way it is today. Compelling and a fascinating study not only of Ames, but of CIA policy.

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