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The Master of Disguise: My Secret Life in the CIA [NOOK Book]

Overview

From the author of Argo comes an unforgettable behind-the-scenes story of espionage in action. In the first ever memoir by a top-level operative to be authorized by the CIA, Antonio J. Mendez reveals the cunning tricks and insights that helped save hundreds from deadly situations.

Adept at creating new identities for anyone, anywhere, Mendez was involved in operations all over the world, from "Wild West" adventures in East Asia to Cold War intrigue in Moscow. In 1980, he ...

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The Master of Disguise: My Secret Life in the CIA

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Overview

From the author of Argo comes an unforgettable behind-the-scenes story of espionage in action. In the first ever memoir by a top-level operative to be authorized by the CIA, Antonio J. Mendez reveals the cunning tricks and insights that helped save hundreds from deadly situations.

Adept at creating new identities for anyone, anywhere, Mendez was involved in operations all over the world, from "Wild West" adventures in East Asia to Cold War intrigue in Moscow. In 1980, he orchestrated the escape of six Americans from a hostage situation in revolutionary Tehran, Iran. This extraordinary operation inspired the movie Argo, directed by and starring Ben Affleck.

The Master of Disguise gives us a privileged look at what really happens at the highest levels of international espionage: in the field, undercover, and behind closed doors.

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Editorial Reviews

Nigel West
"A rare and unique glimpse into the CIA's Office of Technical Services, and, in particular, into the secret work undertaken to support clandestine operations. A thoroughly absorbing read for both the aficionado and the layman."
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Mendez, a 25-year CIA operative who rose to the position of "Chief of Disguise," works hard to demystify the workings of Cold War spy culture. Though he alludes romantically to the agency's work as "a domain of shadows" in his introduction, his approach to this memoir is mostly pragmatic (fans of Robert Ludlum-type spy stories should stick with fiction). Recruited in the 1960s for his skills as an artist, he worked first on forging documents of foreign governments. He then ventured into the field, creating disguises to help "exfiltrate" spies from enemy territory. Was he engaged in CIA "dirty tricks"? Mendez claims not, defending his work as part of a very real "war." Reader Hill, a longtime Brilliance veteran, manages to translate ably the sense of awe that Mendez experienced as he learned the tools of his trade. More important, he makes the events sound credible and real, aided by Mendez's clear-eyed descriptive writing style. Based on the 1999 Morrow hardcover. (Dec.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
On the 50th anniversary of the CIA, author Mendez was named one of the 50 all-time stars of the spy trade. He has an exceptional ability to conjure up an entirely new identity for anyone anywhere. Although he began making counterfeit identity papers, he eventually branched out, bringing techniques developed in Hollywood to espionage. His greatest feat may have been engineering the escape of the six Americans from Tehran who'd taken refuge in the Canadian Embassy during the 1980 crisis. Dick Hill reads the novel in sympathetic fashion. Clearly, The Master of Disguise will appeal to young adults.--James L. Dudley, Westhampton Beach, NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Kirkus Reviews
The retired, highly decorated chief of disguise for the CIA highlights his adventurous 25-year career. Mendez is not modest about his considerable accomplishments. He takes credit for "creating and deploying many of the most innovative techniques in the espionage trade." And the remainder of this book (vetted by the agency) is, in one sense, a justification of that claim. In 1965 the author began with the agency as a low-level technician—essentially a graphic artist who specialized in forging documents. Gradually—through a combination of skill, pluck, luck, diligence, and ambition—he rose through the agency hierarchy, eventually participating in dazzling cloak-and-dagger operations in some of the world most exotic and dangerous locations: southeast Asia, the Soviet Union, Iran. The most interesting sections describe his endeavors in the mid-1970s to generate techniques to cope with the umbrageous KGB surveillance of American operatives in Moscow and his gripping account (untold in full until now) of the CIA's role in "exfiltrating" (removing) six Americans from Tehran during the hostage crisis in 1980. Oddly, Mendez and McConnell elect to record about halfway through the book his "flawless" record of 150 successful exfiltrations; this effectively removes from his subsequent accounts of such actions all vestiges of suspense—a weird decision, to say the least. Another narrative annoyance is the decision to begin many of the subsections of the book with paragraphs that sound as if they were lifted from, well, bad spy novels. For example: "'This guy is going south on us, fast,' the Chief of Station, ‘Simon,' explained, leaning over his desk and speaking with acrisp but gentle precision that was barely audible above the chugging air conditioners." Nonetheless, the coauthors convey with clarity something of this shadow world which requires of its inhabitants hard work, strong stomachs, low blood pressure, and a full measure of creative improvisation. A swift, engrossing summary of a life and a way of life. (8 pages photos, not seen) (Book-of-the-Month Club selection; author tour)
From the Publisher
"A rare and unique glimpse into the CIA's Office of Technical Services, and, in particular, into the secret work undertaken to supportclandestine operations. A thoroughly absorbing read for both the aficionado and the layman." —- Nigel West
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061865305
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/13/2009
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 376
  • Sales rank: 52,431
  • File size: 871 KB

Meet the Author

Tony Mendez is a retired CIA officer who worked undercover for 25 years, participating in some of the most important operations of the Cold War. He earned the CIA's Intelligence Medal of Merit and was chosen as one of 50 officers to be awarded the Trailblazer Medallion.

He is an award-winning painter and the author of The Master of Disguise and Spy Dust, which he co-wrote with his wife Jonna Mendez, also a retired intelligence officer. His most recent book is Argo, which tells the story of the operation he ran to rescue six Americans hiding in the Canadian Embassy in Tehran during the hostage crisis. The operation inspired the Warner Brothers feature film of the same name. Mendez currently lives and works in his studios and gallery on his farm in Maryland with his wife.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

A Letter Slipped in the Door

Delicate indeed, truly delicate. There is no place where espionage is not used.--Sun Tzu

The Blue Ridge Mountains, Maryland, August 21,1997. The anxious memories returned to haunt me that summer night, keeping me from sleep once more...

It is past midnight near the time of the monsoon. I wait tensely on the concrete observation deck of the sweltering airport terminal, peering down at the tarmac through a thickening haze. The TWA flight from Bangkok is already two hours late. I have watches Swissair arrive from Riyadh, Lufthansa from Bangkok. An Aeroflot IL-62 arrives from Tashkent and lumbers up to the gate directly below.

My pulse suddenly surges. The appearance of the Aeroflot is an ominous sign. The operations plan called for the subject and his CIA escort to have left on the continuation of the delayed TWA flight at least an hour ago, for a very good reason. We wanted them out of here before the Aeroflot landed, with its inevitable ground retinue of KGB gumshoes.

The subject is a KGB defector who simply walked into our Station ten days earlier. Now, waiting down in the steamy, crowded departure hall, will he panic and run when he hears the Soviet flight announced?

I glance over the mildewed cement barrier. All the gates are full, but there is no American plane. Then, out of the gloom, the TWA Boeing 707 materializes. It lands, taxis down the runway, and finally stops at the far end of the poorly lit parking apron.

The haze thickens--"smit," the old Asian hands call it, ground-hugging "smoke from shit" from the millions of cow dung cooking fires burning in villagesacross the subcontinent. I squint, but the TWA plane is hard to distinguish. I wait.

The disembarking TWA passengers grope their way through the murk and stumble into the terminal, where the humidity and stench of clogged W.C.s will certainly overpower the smit.

I cannot leave the platform. My task is to confirm that our subject and his escort officer "Jacob," my partner in this operation, safely board the continuation of the TWA flight. But in this miasma, how can I see whether they reach the plane? If I don't catch sight of them coming out of the terminal with the other passengers booked for the same flight, it could mean they have run into trouble at passport control. That is where the alias documents and disguise I've helped create will be tested.

Passengers emerge from the terminal, headed for the TWA plane, but I still don't see the subject and his escort. Is it possible that they have already bolted to the two getaway cars sitting at the dark end of the parking lot with their engines running?

Whatever the outcome of the exfiltration operation, I have to pass a signal from the phone booth at the bottom of the stairway. Tonight, we will use an open code with an ostensible wrong number. Is Suzy there? (They made it.) May I speak to George? (Something went wrong.) The rest of the plan will unfold based on which of these two things happens...

Finally, I sleep, but I have no rest. Even in my dream, my mind cannot let go of the scene at the airport. I find myself descending the stairs with their chipped paint and wedging myself into the oven of the phone booth. I lift the receiver of the clumsy red Bakelite phone, put a brown coin in the slot, strike the cradle bar and release it. No dial tone. No coin drop. Damned colonial phone, a legacy of British rule that probably hasn't been maintained since the Raj folded the Union Jack.

Again I jiggle the cradle. The fat copper disk drops into the coin return slot. I jam the coin back in. A hiss, a click, a weak dial tone. Receiver held between ear and shoulder, I dial quickly, scanning the number scrawled on the hotel matchbook in my other hand. Clicks and pops, finally a coherent double whir. The phone is ringing at the other end. I press the receiver tightly against my ear. Four rings. . . five... Pick it up, Raymond. I slam the phone down after ten rings.

Why doesn't he answer? I look at my watch: 3:07, an hour past my scheduled call time. I know he's still at the safe house. They're expecting me to pass the signal. I suck in a deep breath of humid air and release it slowly to ease the tight band across my shoulders and the drumming in my ears. I have to call. I insert another fat copper coin and dial. A pause. A click.., the coin drops through again. The phone is dead.

The Master Of Disguise. Copyright © by Antonio Mendez. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 64 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(29)

4 Star

(14)

3 Star

(12)

2 Star

(5)

1 Star

(4)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 64 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2000

    Interesting 'Cloak&Dagger' exploits

    I received this book for my 30th birthday about a month ago, and it was extremely hard to stop reading. Through reading this book, I not only gained an appreciation for espionage related activities, but also philosophical views related to espionage. Mr. Mendez describes his activities in extreme detail. From his initial hiring at the Agency, through to his retirement, he provides details I imagine have never been told. I found myself actually experiencing a portion of the fear that Mr. Mendez describes almost overcoming him as he attempted to pass phony documentation to foreign immigration officials. In a fictional movie, such activities do not appear as scary. During the reading of this book, I was physically nervous as I pictured Mr. Mendez having unfriendly government officials inspecting bogus documents! The extreme courage of Mr. Mendez becomes quickly apparent in this book. From the far east, to the middle east and to Russia, this book provides fascinating details! Of particular interest to me was how Mr. Mendez related his childhood experiences to his adulthood profession. Most people, I feel, can often see how their childhood activities helped to shape their chosen professions. I think that anyone in any profession would be able to learn valuable life lessons from this book. I only wish the book was longer!

    10 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2012

    ...Loved it

    ...I read this book years back. I thought it to be an awesome read. Obviously he can't go into great detail but just to gain insight into what his life was like is intriguing. For anyone that said it was a boring read...Let your imagination run when you read. Stop seeing words when you read and let it play out as a movie in your mind

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2013

    Great read!

    If you enjoy true life CIA and spy drama this is the book cor you!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 11, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    good follow up to ARGO

    picked this one up after reading ARGO. Gives good insight into the Cold War Era of little know events. Leaves a lot of questions unanswered due to much of the events still being classified. However, some places can be figured out with the clues given, so how classified is it if a casual reader can determine some places.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2013

    Wow

    Well done tony

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2012

    Fascinating book!

    Very well written!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2012

    TOO EASY TO PUT DOWN

    This book could be more interesting to read - the subject matter has a lot of potential?. Hard to believe the very excitng movie came from the same source. I gave up half way through.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 2, 2012

    good

    easy to read,

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2012

    Disappointing

    I was disappointed in this book. Based on the topic, I expected an exciting read, but it was actually a chore at times. There were maybe two or three stories that kept me on edge, but the rest were so short and uninteresting that the book actually was boring at times.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2007

    A reviewer

    The thought of reading autobiographies has never appealed to me. They are books written by people who aren't authors, and they are usually a monotonous and tedious read. Also, Ive always been into James Bond-ish, fantasy spy stories, and I was worried that reading about a real life spy could ruin that for me. Naturally i was hesitant to pick up a copy of 'Master of Disguise' after a friend recommended it to me, but after i got it in my hands, i couldn't put it down. Antonio Mendez was a skilled artist who found his way into a job with the CIA, and ended up becoming one of the most honored members of his trade. The book is written in a way that almost forces you to keep reading. Mendez after goes into a anecdote about parts of the story that you haven't read yet, and it makes it more than easy to get hooked. The books main message seems to be to have a 'never give up' attitude. Mendez proves, in his own special way, that through had work and determination that anything is possible. Mendez seems to be not only a skilled artist, as we learn from the book, but also a great story teller. I enjoy that this book, by the nature of its subject, maintains a natural mystery, and almost seems like a fiction book. You can imagine yourself in the story, from the start to the finish. In no way did this book ruin that fantasy world of James Bond for me. You don't need fantasy when the real thing as just as impressive. Now i just find myself wishing that I was in the CIA, rather than whatever agency Mr. Bond works with. I give 'Master of disguise four stars almost purely for the fact that it is a unique autobiography that is enthralling enough to hold my attention.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 16, 2014

    Recommended

    This is a pretty good thumbnail sketch of spy life. He includes the Iran hostage incident (Argo) which was made into a movie starring Ben Affleck. It's mostly just CIA PR if you ask me. He sounds like a pretty interesting fellow, though, and the book is very well written. I enjoyed it but I like spy stories so that's not surprising.

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  • Posted July 2, 2014

    Lovely...! beautiful.....!.... Just enjoy it.....!

    Lovely...! beautiful.....!.... Just enjoy it.....!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2014

    Totally Awesome!

    Totally Awesome!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2013

    Interesting but somewhat bland accounts from a real-life spy

    I liked this book and found much of the real-life accounts interesting to learn about, however, at times it felt as though the tales ran a little flat. Perhaps I'm too spoiled to fictionalized spy stories, which are one of my favorite genres to read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2013

    Wg

    It was amzing

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2013

    Reads a little dry

    Argo account is a small section of the book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2013

    JAMES BOND INTRIGUE

    Master of Disguise is a realistic look at CIA work during 1960-80. It is technical but reads like a spy movie about the Cold War, the fall of communism and the Iran hostage crisis.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2013

    Fascinating story

    If you loved the movie Argo, you will totally enjoy Mendez' description of the highlight of tis career in the CIA.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2013

    Highly Recommended.

    Brilliant.A must read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2013

    Check it out

    Very informative and still written in an interesting story manner. Worth reading

    Recommend to readers interested in the country's CIA etc. affairs

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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