Currently readingGentleman Spy: The Life Of Allen Dulles
, by Peter Grose
A fascinating read, this nonfiction biography is well-written enough and long enough to feel like J.R.R. Tolkien's spy novel. I'm halfway through and having a wonderful time.
The book starts, as one would expect of a biography, with Dulles's family history, birth, and early life. The foundations of his career in diplomacy were laid in Versailles at the postwar treaty negotiations in 1919. During the second world war he took the side door out of diplomacy and into intelligence, inventing the institution of non-military espionage along the way. Not to say that Allen Dulles was the first or only person to do so, but he is the main character. I've read up to when Dulles has "finally" reached his goal of leading the US intelligence service. He had dreamed of being Secretary of State but his brother John Foster Dulles ended up there instead. (That's who the airport is named after, by the way.) But by 1954, US covert interventions in Iran and Guatemala had already set the course of CIA ~~we know and love~~ as we know it today.To find out what happens next, turn to page 389
My own interest in this book and others like it (see also Veil
by Bob Woodward) is that the historical background of current events, unless you happened in History or perhaps Political Science, is mostly lacking in discussions and news coverage. Even those who really should be expected to know their history, never seem to talk about it. Alongside the implicit history lessons in this biography, I'm also engaged with the mental exercise of trying to spot biases in the way the factual timeline is recounted.
The author presents Allen Dulles as a sympathetic character even aside from his charismatic personality, flaws and personal failings included so it makes for a different experience than simply reading a good piece of fiction - he didn't do or say or feel any of those things to drive a story, this was a real person and nothing that happened was a plot device.
Oh and despite my real enjoyment of the book, I'm actually making slow progress for the simple reason that there is so much going on in history, I don't dare skim a single bit. And that's good because I get to keep reading for that much longer.My halfway-done take?
I'm fascinated reading about how nice people found good reasons to do bad things.