The Company We Keep

CIA operatives Bob and Dayna Baer first met in Sarajevo while both were conducting surveillance on Iranian-backed, anti-American group Hizballah. The Baers offer readers the story of their romance, but more importantly supply an invaluable insider account of how spycraft works in the real world. The Baers bring us inside their covert operations, from Iraq to Kazakhstan, showing us exactly how they maintained their covers, recruited informants, tailed terrorists, protected secret documents, and more.


It’s dangerous work, of course. During the Sarajevo surveillance of Hezbollah, a CIA colleague gets shot in a drive-by. Yet risk fuels romance, and, while blending into hostile surroundings, Bob and Dayna fall in love. Because of Bob, Dayna develops a more spontaneous approach to both espionage and life, leaving her husband just as Bob decides to leave his wife. The love story, however, is secondary: it’s the fascinating insights into the clandestine service that make this accessible book so revelatory.


Bob, who was portrayed by George Clooney in the film "Syriana," is uniquely gifted at recruiting intelligent sources. By book’s end, however, the veteran Baer admits that "[n]othing I did . . .added or subtracted from the mess out there."  In the most Sisyphean case, Baer works tirelessly to "turn" a Russian intelligence agent by offering him settlement in the U.S. and college admission for his daughters. Just as the ex-KGB agent agrees to supply information to the CIA, a mole inside the CIA (Aldrich Ames) thwarts Baer's plans by revealing them to Russian intelligence. Such twists, worthy of the most carefully wrought fiction, make this account of spycraft's actual challenges, as engrossing as a novel by Littel or le Carré.


April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysely Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.

The Promise of Hope

Killed last year in the infamous terror attack at Nairobi's Westgate mall, Kofi Awoonor was a national treasure in his native Ghana.  His career began in 1964 with Rediscovery, and this magnum opus serves as a tribute to his entire long journey charting his beloved nation's course through his accomplished poetry.

Winter Mythologies and Abbots

A pair of linked stories finds that, as translator Ann Jefferson relates, "[Pierre] Michon's great theme is the precarious balance between belief and imposture, and the way the greatest aspirations can be complicated by physical desire or the equally urgent desire for what he calls glory."