The Master Of Disguise: My Secret Life In The Cia

The Master Of Disguise: My Secret Life In The Cia

  • Publish Date: 1999-01-01
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Author: Antonio J. Mendez
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Tony Mendez led two lives. To his friends, he was a soft-spoken, nondescript bureaucrat working for the Department of Defense. To the leaders of the CIA, he was their master of disguise--an undisputed genius who could create an entirely new identity for anybody, anywhere, anytime. Combining the cunning tricks of a magician with the analytical insight of a psychologist, Mendez shows us how he helped hundreds of people escape potentially fatal situations.

From "Wild West" adventures in East Asia to Cold War intrigue in Moscow, Mendez was there. He earned the CIA's Intelligence Star of Valor for his role in engineering the escape of six Americans from Tehran in 1980. On the fiftieth anniversary of the CIA, he was named one of the fifty all-time stars of the spy trade, honored with the Trailblazer Award, and granted exclusive permission to tell his fascinating story--all of it. Here he gives us a privileged look at what really happens in the field and behind closed doors at the highest level of international espionage: some of it shocking, frightening, and wildly inventive--all of it unforgettable.Tony Mendez led two lives. To his friends, he was a soft-spoken, nondescript bureaucrat working for the Department of Defense. To the leaders of the CIA, he was their master of disguise--an undisputed genius who could create an entirely new identity for anybody, anywhere, anytime. Combining the cunning tricks of a magician with the analytical insight of a psychologist, Mendez shows us how he helped hundreds of people escape potentially fatal situations.

The problem with memoirs by ex-secret agents is that they usually make their careers sound about as exciting as that of $6-an-hour bowling alley security guard, unless you're of the opinion that filing papers and making phone calls is the epitome of thrills. Antonio Mendez, however, has produced a tome that makes the life of a CIA agent sound every bit the slam-bang world of intrigue and skulking in the shadows that movies like Mission: Impossible make it out to be.

Honored by the CIA on its 50th anniversary as being one of the agency's 50 "Trailblazers," the now-retired Mendez spins a fast-paced tale of intriguing characters partaking in skullduggery in exotic locales, made all the more appealing because Mendez himself is the featured star of the proceedings. In an almost offhand manner, he writes about seeing and doing things that would wilt the flower of courage in almost any reader. "Was I proud to be enlisting," he rhetorically ponders at one point, "on our side in the Cold War? You bet." Originally drafted by the CIA as a "technical artist" to provide cover for agents behind enemy lines, Mendez worked his way up the ladder and progressed to a full-fledged agent in the field, sneaking diplomats past enemy guards and spiriting informants into the night, eluding capture and torture at every turn--and using his artist's eye for detail to paint vivid word pictures of his predicaments. Mendez possesses a remarkably keen sense of the mechanics of a good cloak-and-dagger story, and fortunately pours it on in abundance here in his quite hefty--and surprisingly lively--autobiography. --Tjames Madison

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