Thursday, July 31, 2014

Recipe Road Test: "His 'n' Hers" Deviled Eggs



I'm a latecomer to deviled eggs.  Never liked 'em as a kid and shunned them for many years as an adult.  Until my mother gave me a recipe for Blue Devils--a blue cheese deviled egg.  I will eat pretty much anything with blue cheese, so I gave them a try, and of course they were fabulous.  I gave the ole deviled egg another chance, and have since eaten my share of twists on the picnic classic. 

I recently happened across country music star Trisha Yearwood's cookbook, Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoma Kitchen and the "His-n-Hers Deviled Eggs" recipe caught my eye.  These are unassuming eggs, no truffle oil or goat cheese here.  His--meaning Yearwood's husband Garth Brooks-- egg is the basic formula plus butter. Yes, butter.  And "Hers" has relish.  Sweet relish.  I was intrigued. DeviledEggs

I made a half batch with my daughter, who loves deviled eggs, and we tried them out. 

The version with butter was pretty familiar, but because of that butter had a little something extra in the creamy department.  I would reduce the amount of mustard next time, but that's a personal preference. 

The one with relish was surprising and wonderful.  To be totally honest I was a little unsure of this combo--even my daughter looked skeptical.  But it was good. 

At right is a photo of our road tested eggs and below is the recipe from Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoma Kitchen if you want to give them a try yourself.


GeorgiaCooking

His ’n’ Hers Deviled Eggs
Makes 24
 
You won’t go to a southern picnic or covered-dish supper and not see deviled eggs. Garth and I grew up  eating different versions of this dish, so both varieties are included here. Honestly, I never met  a deviled egg I didn’t like,  so these are both yummy to me!

12   large eggs

His Filling
1⁄4  cup  mayonnaise
2   teaspoons yellow mustard
1   tablespoon butter, softened
Salt and pepper to taste

Her Filling
1⁄4 cup mayonnaise
1 1⁄2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Paprika for garnish

Place the eggs in a medium saucepan with water to cover and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover the pan, and let stand for 20 minutes. Pour off the hot water and refill the saucepan with cold water. Crack the eggsshells all over and let them sit in the cold water for 5 minutes. Peel the eggs, cover, and chill for at least 1 hour.


Halve the eggs lengthwise. Carefully remove the yolks and transfer them to a small bowl. Mash the yolks with a fork, then  stir in the filling ingredients of your choice. Season with salt and pepper. Scoop a spoonful of the mixture into each egg white half. Sprinkle the tops with paprika.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

New in Paperback: "Pilgrim's Wilderness" by Tom Kizzia



PilgrimsWildernessThough this article was originally published July 16, 2013, we're taking the paperback publication of Tom Kizzia's Pilgrim's Wilderness as an opportunity to revisit one of our favorite books of last year.

 

When the "Pilgrim" family rolled into the old mining outpost of McCarthy, Alaska, they were a sight to behold: Robert "Papa Pilgrim" Hale, his wife Country Rose, and their 15 children--an old-fashioned, piously Christian family from another time, packed into two ramshackle campers. Looking for the space and freedom to live out their lives as they pleased, they were welcomed as kindred souls by the ghost town's few residents. A tad eccentric, they quickly ingratiated themselves into the tiny frontier community through Papa's charisma, their apparent dedication to self-reliance, and occasional family performances of their unique blend of gospel and bluegrass, music that seemed to soar on the conviction of their beliefs. And when they purchased an old mining claim in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park with plans to permanently settle there (dubbing it “Hillbilly Heaven”), it seemed the Pilgrim family had come home to the last existing place in America that suited them.

But Hale chafed against the regulations that came with being a National Park inholder, and he quickly adopted an adversarial stance with the NPS, refusing to communicate with or even acknowledge its rangers. Everything went sideways when he bulldozed a road to town across national park lands, stopping just short of McCarthy in an attempt to avoid scrutiny. It didn't work. When the road was discovered by backpackers, NPS agents were fast on the scene and all over the Pilgrims' activities, and suddenly the humble hermit became a lightning rod for property-rights activists in McCarthy, Alaska, and far beyond.

That's where Tom Kizzia entered the story. As a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News, he wrote a series of lengthy articles on the family's struggle with the federal government, and he soon discovered that Papa's past belied the tales he told about himself and his clan. This simple man of faith carried a long, strange, and troubled history: the violent death of his first wife, whom he married when she was 16, and who also happened to be the daughter of Texas governor John Connally; his hippie phase (when he went by the name "Sunstar"), filled with drug-fueled epiphanies and raging outbursts; a contentious relationship with his neighbors in the New Mexico wilderness, who accused Hale of casual disregard for laws that didn't suit his interests (especially the ones related to "Thou shalt not steal"); and worst of all, a dominion over his children that hinted at the most vile forms of abuse. As the situation with the NPS degraded and grew more tense, Hale's behavior became more erratic, driving himself and the entire town toward a denouement worthy of the creepiest Robert Mitchum movies.

With Pilgrim's Wilderness, Kizzia has expanded on his original reporting and written a spellbinding tale of narcissism and religious mania's concussive effects on Hale's family and adopted town, a book that's likely to end up on many year-end Best Of lists. Kizzia answered our questions about Hale, McCarthy, and the town's relationship with the National Park Service.

 

Hale-TwinsHow did you first come to the story of Robert Hale and his family?

This started with a renegade bulldozer in a national park. As a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News, it seemed like a good news story. I’d heard from friends out in McCarthy that this guy, Papa Pilgrim, was stirring up the ghost town. I wanted to go out to his wilderness homestead to meet him and his family of 15 kids. When he heard I had a cabin nearby, he said yes, and suddenly I was tumbling down the rabbit hole.
 
“Papa Pilgrim” was a mess of contradictions: he idolized his FBI father and took advantage of benefits such as food stamps and Alaska Permanent Fund dividends, and yet he vigorously agitated and undermined the federal government, particularly the National Park Service. Were his anti-government convictions honest (if confused), or self-serving and opportunistic?

Mostly the latter. He needed enemies to hold his family together. But he was reflexively anti-establishment. Which makes the FBI dad a rich twist. As for being anti-government while accepting government handouts, Alaskans by and large don’t spend too much time worrying about that contradiction.

He used religion similarly. He manipulated verses from the Bible to justify abuse, theft, and other monstrous acts, calling them the will of God. That seems disingenuous, but he proclaimed his piety to the end, and he was nothing if not relentless in broadcasting his faith. What do you think was the source of this paradox?

Narcissistic personality disorder. But such a diagnosis could have been applied to a lot of people channeling God back in Old Testament days. Some of those prophets ended up in the Bible and some of them got lost in the wilderness.
 
When he purchased property inside Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and immediately began his antagonistic relationship with the NPS, he became a lightning rod for property rights activists in Alaska and beyond. Do you think they consciously overlooked his often bizarre behavior (again out of opportunism), or did he fool them all? Was Hale seeking confrontation with the government?

McCarthyI think people were fooled, though the tendency to romanticize what the Pilgrims were doing was stronger in those who also romanticized America’s pioneering past and hated to see those days ended by modern environmentalism. In the end, he turned on most of his allies, along with everyone else. They had distanced themselves even before the horrible truth came out.
 
Of all government agencies, how do people begin to ascribe totalitarian ambition to the National Parks Service?

I don’t think it’s surprising at all. I love the national parks in Alaska, and I'm glad Congress established them before the land was grabbed and developed. But the NPS controls a vast fiefdom, and every agency wielding such power must deal with its own authoritarian streak. Maybe it’s the revolution of rising expectations: Congress said the parks in Alaska would be different, that the frontier lifestyle would be preserved, that rural residents could continue to hunt and fish and cut firewood on federal land. The ongoing argument over how to manage this novel approach to conservation set the stage for Papa Pilgrim’s arrival in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.
 
How has local opinion about Hale changed since the events described in your book? How have his then-supporters reacted to his rise and fall, as well as their participation in it?

The whole town was fed up with the Pilgrims even before Papa’s downfall. The townsfolk marched behind a bulldozer to the Pilgrims’ camp in McCarthy and told them to move. It was like frontier justice in mining camp days, before municipal authority—and the Pilgrims responded by singing spirituals and playing the mandolin! Oh, to have been a participant at the small writer’s conference going on in McCarthy that week. After Pilgrim went to jail, everyone felt chastened, and the factions have gotten along better. Though there’s still a natural tension between townspeople and park, with the federal bureaucracy slowly gaining in power.
 
Hale joins a long line of rebels and believers who met ignominious ends—people such as David Koresh and Randy Weaver, who married aspects of extreme ideology and personal liberty. Is there something particularly American about this kind of character?

I think we see all sorts of American types in the life of Robert Hale. Americans have a history of religious charlatans, going well back before Elmer Gantry, and our susceptibility to smooth-talking con men was understood by Tocqueville and Mark Twain. There was something about the unpopulated landscape of the Wrangell Mountains in Alaska—a national park the size of Switzerland, with only a single half-resettled ghost town at its center—that allowed Papa Pilgrim to recreate himself as he chose. The American Adam may be the character he represents most of all.

Pilgrim-Family-MinstrelsHow have his wife and children managed since—especially Elishaba/Elizabeth, who was the victim of his most destructive abuse? Have they escaped his shadow, or do you think that’s even possible?

They continue to do pretty well—amazingly well, when you consider where they came from. But it’s hard, especially for a few of them. Some are not that keen about a book that revives their past, and they’ve drawn back from me a bit, which is probably good for their own protection. Elishaba, especially, continues to amaze me. She hopes her story will help other victims of abuse, because if you’re feeling trapped on a street in suburbia it might help to imagine her captivity in the wilderness, with the trail to town blocked by the wrath of God. She turns out to be quite a good writer and storyteller, though she’ll tell you her spelling needs work. I hope she’ll find a way to write her own story someday.

As part two begins, you become personally involved in the story when you begin a series of newspaper stories about the Pilgrim family, and Hale disparages you for what he perceives as a dishonest, unflattering portrait. As a reporter, how did you manage personal affront against the objectivity necessary to your job?

Getting disparaged by a creep is part of the fun of working for a newspaper. But I wanted to retain some access to Papa Pilgrim so I could continue digging into his story. I didn’t give up trying to ingratiate myself. When the story gets to the first-person part, I talk a little about the Joe McGinniss/Janet Malcolm dance between journalist and subject. He felt like he needed me, too.
 
What made you decide to expand the story from a series of articles to a book-length work? Is there a “moral to the story” or a message that you wanted to convey?

The first big newspaper stories about this eccentric and slightly weird family’s fight against the national park didn’t go very deep, it turned out. The true story started to emerge in court a few years later. The way the whole thing unfolded, with so many twists and turns, starting with its “stranger comes to town” opening, merited a front-to-back telling. And I had always wanted to write about the lost-world qualities of McCarthy/Kennicott, the back-to-nature lifestyles that have so much appeal, and have something to teach modern society, though they seem doomed by our need to preserve the continent’s last wilderness.



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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

"The Alliance" - Rethinking Employment in a "Free Agent Nation"



TheallianceBusiness is changing. As authors Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha, and Chris Yeh have noted (and as they note in this interview), we are moving away from business embracing employees as a longterm "family" and entering the realm of "Free Agent Nation." The Alliance is their answer to this change. I found the book to be a fascinating read, and I was happy to be able to ask them some questions about The Alliance.

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1. How has the employer-employee relationship changed over time, and why do you consider it to be broken now?

Over the past few decades, we’ve seen a steady shift away from thinking of companies as families and towards what Dan Pink prophetically dubbed “Free Agent Nation.” The metaphor of company-as-family worked as long as companies offered lifetime employment.  Once technological change and globalization made this kind of inflexible arrangement untenable, trying to pretend that companies which treated employees like free agents were still like family forced both managers and employees into being dishonest with each other.

The result of free agency and the lack of honest conversations has been an erosion of trust.  And without trust, neither employer or employee will be willing to make the kind of mutual investment that drives breakthrough results.

2. What can Silicon Valley teach us about the new world of business?

Intentionally or not, Silicon Valley has pioneered a new way for companies and employees to work together.  Rather than making false commitments to lifelong employment, employers and employees come together to form a mutually beneficial alliance between self-interested parties.  Silicon Valley’s famous stock options reflect this approach; the typical vesting schedule of an option grant is four years—long enough to work together to build something of value, short enough to reflect an honest and mutual understanding.

3. Describe the basic idea behind the Alliance?

The alliance is a two-way relationship between independent players that lets company and employee work together toward common goals, even when some of their interests differ.  Manager and employee work together to define a “tour of duty” whose mission, when accomplished, helps transform the employee’s career and the company’s business. The paradox is that recognizing an employee’s independence is what allows the manager to have the honest conversations necessary to rebuild the loyalty and trust that’s been missing from today’s employment relationship.

4. What is the ultimate goal of the Alliance?

The ultimate goal of the alliance is to help company and employee build a deep, mutually beneficial, and lifelong relationship.  When both parties feel comfortable enough to invest and reinvest in each other, they can achieve breakthrough business results.  And even if radical changes in the business environment lead company and employee to end the employment relationship, they can continue to help each other via a corporate alumni network. 

5. You make a point of encouraging networking to solve problems, not just inside the company but out. Aren't there inherent risks in this strategy (like revelation of sensitive information to external parties, or employees being lured away by outside contacts)?

There is always the risk that an employee might reveal sensitive information or be lured away, but this risk is overblown, and pales in comparison to the potential benefits.  Most employees know what information needs to remain secret, and if they don’t, a manager can always specify what can and cannot be shared.  Similarly, most employees are quite aware of their market value.  Here in Silicon Valley, a good software developer might receive dozens of job offers every year.

Meanwhile, the benefits of tapping the collective network intelligence of the company are enormous.  This network intelligence can provide useful information on everything from the competitive landscape to key industry trends—before they hit the trade press.

6. Do you consider the book to be aimed at managers, employees, or both?

Our primary focus is on helping managers find a better way to work with their people.  That’s why we’ve included specific and detailed tips on how to have these honest conversations about values, career goals, and explicit tours of duty.  But we also think the book will be helpful to employees who want to explore a different way of working with their boss.

7. What are some companies that already practice the tenets of the Alliance?

A large number of the principles outlined in The Alliance come from Reid’s own experiences at LinkedIn, many of which we describe in the book.  We also tried to incorporate lessons from other CEOs like John Donahoe at eBay, Brad Smith at Intuit, and Linda Rottenberg at Endeavor.



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100 Children's Books to Read in a Lifetime



Today we launched our list of 100 Children's Books to Read in a Lifetime and it's been fun to hear from readers and co-workers about their favorites.  When we came up with our list we were thinking only about books for readers age 12 and under.  Of course, we wanted to include classics like Goodnight Moon and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory but we also wanted to have the recent releases that we think are going to be favorites for future generations, like Wonder and The Day the Crayons Quit

What books on this list do you love?  What would you have added if it was your list?  We have a poll on Goodreads where you can vote, and in two weeks we'll announce the Readers Choice version of 100 Children's Books to Read in a Lifetime.

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Monday, July 28, 2014

"Is It Like You Thought It Would Be?" by Diana Gabaldon



OutlanderThe long-awaited adaptation of Diana Gabaldon's beloved Outlander series kicks off August 9th at 9pm ET/PT on Starz. The author shared with us her thoughts on seeing her books come to life...

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Ever since clips and trailers and stills of the new STARZ “Outlander” TV show have been released, people have been eagerly asking me, “So—is it just like you imagined?” “What’s it like to see these people who’ve lived in your head for so long come to life?” “Did you ever imagine it would be like this?”

Frankly, it’s a bit like the scene in Outlander where Claire asks Jamie—immediately after they’ve made love together for the first time (and his first time ever)—“So was it like you thought it would be?” And—after making her promise not to laugh at him, he confesses, “Almost. I didna realize ye did it face to face. I thought ye must do it the back way—like horses, ye ken?”

As in, yes, it’s a lot like I imagined it (“it” being the show itself), and at the same time, quite different. How so?

1. I have friends who are screenwriters, friends who have worked in the film world, and friends who have had films made of their work. Based on everything I’d heard and read, I was expecting to have nothing whatever to do with the production myself. I was familiar with Ron D. Moore’s work, so had high hopes that it would be good, but figured all I could do was cross my fingers.

Instead, I was startled—though very gratified—at the degree of involvement offered me. Ron and his production partner, Maril Davis, came to my house and spent two days with me, talking through ideas, characters, storylines, etc. We were much on the same wavelength, and as the production got underway, they were more than courteous about including me, asking my opinion on things (though they are, of course, under no legal compulsion to take account of it), showing me scripts and footage, inviting me to the set in Scotland and generally making me feel welcome.

MyOwnHeartsBlood2. I always want to roll my eyes when people say, “Isn’t it exciting seeing your characters come to life?”—because as far as I’m concerned, they’ve always been alive. Still, I know what these people mean, and yeah—it is exciting. Is it like I expected?  No, it’s much better…

Everyone has a mental image of what Jamie Fraser and Claire Beauchamp Randall look like. I actually know what they look like. Now, plainly, no actor alive will look exactly like anyone’s mental image of a character, and I certainly didn’t expect the actors chosen for these parts to look “like” my knowledge of Jamie and Claire. And they don’t.

But. Ron and Maril sent me Sam Heughan’s audition tapes, when they cast him as Jamie. Frankly, I had doubts, having seen some IMDB photos of the man…but five seconds in, and it wasn’t Sam, it was Jamie, right there. Amazing!

See, actors do magic, no less than writers do. And beyond certain minimal physical requirements, it doesn’t really matter what they look like—only that they can be the character they play. And every single actor in this show can do that.

3. Now, I do understand what “adaptation” means, and a bit about how one translates text to a visual medium (I used to write comic book scripts for Walt Disney, and have in fact done a graphic novel (The Exile) version of Outlander). But what I didn’t realize was just how engaging a good adaptation could be.

Ron’s adaptation is very faithful to the original story; anyone who’s read Outlander will recognize it instantly. But there are the small changes, the insertions, the moving of scenes for dramatic cohesion—and all together, these “different” touches give the show a constant sense of novelty and discovery. I watch footage, knowing what’s going on—but wanting to know what happens next.

And you can’t ask more of a good story than that.



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Friday, July 25, 2014

The Enduring Hunt for Nazi War Criminals



Nick1Next year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, yet the search for Nazi perpetrators continues--as does the publication of books about Nazi hunting, even as the last of them die out.

On Wednesday, an 89-year-old Philadelphia man died just hours before a judge ordered his extradition to Germany for his role in the gassing of 216,000 Jews at Auschwitz. Johann Breyer, who served as an armed guard at the notorious concentration camp, was accused of being an accessory to murder, in what will likely be one of the last Nazi cases on American soil.

Nicholas Kulish's recent book, The Eternal Nazi: From Mauthausen to Cairo, the Relentless Pursuit of SS Dr. Aribert Heim, co-written with fellow New York Times reporter, Souad Mekhennet, tells the story of how one of the most hunted Nazi war criminals had been living a secret life in Egypt.

Below, Kulish discusses the enduring mystique of the Nazis, and the ongoing hunt for war criminals, with Neal Bascomb, author of the international bestseller Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World's Most Notorious Nazi.

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Nick_kulish-3Nicholas Kulish: I once read a quote that all villains are Nazis now. When you watch Star Wars the bad guys are called storm troopers and Darth Vader wears the astronaut edition of an SS uniform. When Hannibal Lecter listens to classical music while perpetrating atrocities it’s Mengele whistling Wagner on the selection ramp at Auschwitz. What do you think accounts for the enduring interest in Nazis?

Neal Bascomb: There have been a lot of murky wars since WWII. Vietnam comes straight to mind, but Iraq, and others, as well. With the Nazis, it is very black and white, and at least in popular culture, they like black and white.

NK: In a way the Nazis mythologized themselves, through the films of Leni Riefenstahl, the emphasis on their polished black boots and lightning insignias. But I'm always struck going through the archives how the crimes of the Holocaust are more deeply evil than I remember them.

NB: Yes, when I first began digging deep into the oral and written history of the Holocaust, the crimes perpetrated by the Nazis against the Jews, I could not sleep for weeks. It is in the details that the horror really comes out.

NK: I was struck reading your book by the way the Israelis hunting Eichmann had a personal stake in his capture, family and friends who were killed, using skills honed as they tried to survive the Holocaust. Was that part of what drew you to the subject?

Nick_bascombNB: What drew me to the story of Eichmann is the legacy of his trial. By the late 50's, the world wanted to sweep the Holocaust under the rug. Historians weren't studying to any great degree. Students weren't learning about it at school. And survivors, many survivors, did not feel like they could openly talk about what happened to them. It was not until Eichmann's trial, the recounting of the horrors that we've both referenced here, that this changed. So here was this great manhunt, spy operation, and it had tremendous positive effects on understanding of the Holocaust ever since.

NK: I found the evolution of German public opinion at the same time to be fascinating. The first great Nazi trials of the post-Nuremberg era were in the city of Ulm. This vacuum cleaner salesman named Bernd Fischer could not accept that his murderous service in the Einsatzgruppen made him unsuited to run a refugee camp. He was given every chance to go away quietly and finally prosecutors said, "We just have to put this guy on trial." The result was a surge of new information about the slaughter in the east and the creation of a dedicated Nazi-hunting team in Ludwigsburg, Germany.

NB: What drew you to the story of SS Dr. Aribert Heim?

NK: Heim was the opposite of Eichmann in many ways. He was a concentration camp doctor and committed terrible crimes but he was not a big fish and no one was really looking for him at first. So through his story, the peaceful life in postwar Baden-Baden, the sudden flight shortly after Eichmann was hanged, the evolution of attitudes toward Nazis can be tracked right up to his naming as the most-wanted Nazi war criminal six decades after the war. The fact that he hid in Egypt and converted to Islam made it irresistible.

Nick2NB: You did such a marvelous job of tracking his years in Egypt. Just fascinating how he transformed into this whole other life. And you see this again and again, even in such an ordinary life of Breyer, the Auschwitz guard recently arrested in Philadelphia.

NK: It's something you find in other genocides, in Rwanda or in the Balkans, both places I've worked as a journalist. People who would otherwise never have received so much as a speeding ticket commit monumental criminal acts. Can people really understand, looking at an 89 year old at an arraignment hearing, why these trials still matter?

NB: It is an understandable instinct to say about these individuals who are now and again arrested... "Look he's an old, old man. There's no more harm he can do. What's the point? Just let him live out his days in a shabby house." But then you have to take a step back, realize that the point is less about punishment against this one man, and more about the fact that seeking justice should be timeless.  There should be no expiration date. When Ben Gurion gave the order to go after Eichmann, it had very little do with Eichmann and much more to do with two things: One, remind the youth of Israel why their state needed to exist; two, remind the world what the Nazis did to the Jews during the war. That's why these trials must continue.

 



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The Men (and Women) Who Knew Too Much: History's Most Notorious Spies



Nobody knows spies like Ben Macintyre. With Double Cross, Agent Zigzag, and Operation Mincemeat, the London-based author established himself as the master chronicler of spooks and subterfuge, a biographer of the most eccentric personalities ever to dwell in the shadows of diplomacy. (Macintyre is also a regular dweller of our Best of the Month lists.) His latest, A Spy Among Friends, tackles the story of the man who may have been the most damaging double-agent in history: Kim Philby, Britain's top spy-hunter charged with catching Soviet moles, who all the while spilled deadly secrets to the Soviets themselves.

We couldn't think of anyone more qualified than Ben Macintyre to ask for history's most notorious double-crossers, and unsurprisingly (spoiler alert) Philby made the list.

 

A Spy Among Friends

 

History's Five Most Notorious Double-Agents

by Ben Macintyre

The FBI has coined an acronym to describe the motivations of the spy: MICE, which stands for Money, Ideology, Coercion and Ego. Some spies are inspired by simple greed; others by pure conviction. But the greatest spies of all are a driven by something that defies categorization: a love of espionage, an addiction to the thrill and danger of subterfuge, and a dedication to this most fickle of professions for its own sake. The most successful and notorious spies in history have all possessed this peculiar quality: they each fell in love with spying itself, and remained besotted, prepared to take the most appalling risks to remain one step ahead in the lethal espionage game. These are the most dangerous spies of all, because they cannot be controlled by money or blackmail, by appeals to their vanity or ideology. They do it for love of the game.   

Eddie Chapman
Chapman was a burglar, con man, and gangster in pre-war London, who happened to be in prison in Jersey when the Nazis invaded the Channel Islands. He struck a deal with the Germans to spy against Britain in exchange for his freedom. Trained at a spy school in occupied France, he was parachuted into Britain in 1942, and immediately defected to British intelligence. For the rest of the war, he spied for Britain, while pretending to spy for Germany. The British code-named him “Agent Zigzag,” because they could never be sure whose side he was on. The Germans never realized the game he was playing, and even awarded him the Iron Cross for services to the Third Reich. After the war, Chapman immediately returned to a professional life of crime.

Richard Sorge
Ian Fleming, the creator James Bond, considered the half-German and half-Russian Richard Sorge to have been “the most formidable spy in history.” A committed communist, Sorge spied for the Soviets in Japan at the start of the war, supplying vital military intelligence gleaned while ostensibly working as a journalist. He even informed Moscow that Japan was not planning to attack the USSR, which enabled the transfer of Soviet troops from the east to defend Moscow and changed the course of the war. Sorge was eventually betrayed, captured by the Japanese secret police, tortured into confessing, and hanged in November 1944. In 1964 he was recognized as a Hero of the Soviet Union.  

Juan Pujol
Pujol was a Spanish chicken farmer, who managed to get himself recruited as a German spy at the start of the war while always intending to spy for the Allies. He is one of the very few spies in history who set out to become a double agent.  Ensconced in a safe house in London, Pujol (codenamed Garbo, on account of his acting abilities) not only supplied reams of false information to the Germans, but invented no fewer than twenty-nine additional sub-agents, all of whom were entirely fictitious, and wholly deceptive. He was one-man band, with a huge, invented orchestra. Pujol was, in a way, a spy-novelist, creating an imaginary world and then luring his German spy-masters into the illusion that it was real. He played a pivotal role in the run-up to D-Day, successfully convincing the Germans that the invasion would come at Calais, and not Normandy, thus tying up thousands of German troops. After the war, he took on a false name, and vanished into obscurity.

Rose O’Neal Greenhow
Greenhow was not technically a double agent, since she only ever spied for one side (the Confederates during the Civil War), but she was undoubtedly America’s most successful woman spy. Socialite, diplomat and secret agent, she ran an extensive spy network in Washington, DC, during 1861, helped to bring about Union defeat in the First Battle of Bull Run. Betrayed and captured, she was imprisoned for five months and then deported to Richmond. Undaunted, she then represented the Confederacy on a diplomatic mission to France and Britain, and was drowned after her ship ran aground on the return journey. Greenhow was a ferocious ideologue, but a most effective spy: “Instead of loving the old flag of the stars and stripes, I see in it only the symbol of murder, plunder, oppression, and shame,” she said.
 
Kim Philby
The notorious British spy and KGB agent was recruited to the communist cause in 1934, and went on to achieve something no other spy has managed: he got himself recruited by the enemy spy-organization, namely Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, better known as MI6. By 1944 he had become head of the Soviet counter-intelligence section of MI6, responsible for attacking Soviet espionage around the world, exposing Russian spies and breaking up the USSR’s spy rings. In other words, he was in charge of hunting people like himself. Tipped as the future head of MI6, he used his position to extract a multitude of secrets from his friends in British and American intelligence, and did spectacular damage by betraying everything to Moscow. Hundreds, if not thousands, died as result of Philby’s betrayals, for which he never expressed a single word of remorse.

Philby was the most remarkable example of a spy acting, in the end, out of pure love for the game of espionage. Philby was a master spy, addicted to the thrill of betrayal, whose willingness to manipulate and double-cross his friends allowed him to survive uncaught for three decades, and then escape to Moscow to spend the rest of his days. Philby is the greatest double agent in history.



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Thursday, July 24, 2014

American Spymaster



Meet Jack Devine. Something of a real-life George Smiley, he is a 30-year veteran of the CIA who, among a lot of things, ran Charlie Wilson's war against the Soviets in Afghanistan, knew a thing or two about the Iran-Contra affair long before the rest of us did (including the president?), and tangled with some of the agency's most notorious double-agents. In Good Hunting: An American Spymaster’s Story, Devine has written a fascinating memoir of his time overseeing the agency’s spying operations, while also critiquing its policies and direction--arguing that covert ops (i.e. actual undercover operatives on the ground) is the best, most effective use of the CIA’s talents, rather than its increasingly paramilitaristic role during a decade of war. Devine has managed an unlikely accomplishment: enhancing the aura of the agency while stripping away some of its myths, in the process producing a clear-eyed and forthright account from an intelligence insider.

 

 

Mr. Devine stopped by our offices for a candid--and lengthy!--chat about the book, his career, as well as some other notable current events. Good Hunting is a selection for Amazon.com's Best Books of the Month for June 2014.

 



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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

YA Wednesday: Rainbow Rowell on "Landline," the 90s, and Disney theme parks



LandlineIt's no secret that I'm a huge fan of Rainbow Rowell and when I met her in person a month ago, it only confirmed my suspicion that she's as fabulous in person as the books she writes. 

Her latest, Landline, is classified as an adult book, but like her YA titles, there is no set age required for entry.   Landline tells the story of a marriage floundering in the wake of career, kids, and the daily grind.  Rowell uses a trick of time to allow her main character, Georgie, to revisit how she and husband Neal found each other and the final hurdle that resulted in a proposal.  Simultaneously, Georgie experiences present day self-doubt, questioning if they should have ended up together in the first place but seeing all the things she loves about Neal in new light. 

Whether you can relate to the marriage or not, at the end of the day it's a story about how two quirky, flawed people can fall in love and take that leap of faith more than once in the same relationship.

I sent Rowell some questions about the book and other things I wanted to know via email:

Seira Wilson: Have you been thinking about/working on this book for a while?  Was Landline always the title?

Rainbow Rowell: I have, yeah. I started plotting it at the same time as Fangirl. I'm not sure why I wrote Fangirl first — maybe because it felt lighter. Maybe because I thought someone else was bound to write a great novel about a fanfiction writer.

I always knew this book would be called Landline. I thought that was such a great title for a novel — I couldn't believe it was up for grabs.

SW: There's a pivotal point in Neal and Georgie’s relationship that Georgie revisits—what moment does that remind you of in your own life (in a relationship or otherwise)?

RR:  Hmmm ... My husband and I never had a breakup the way Georgie and Neal do. But there was a time when we had to decide what to do if we got jobs in different places — and we decided to move together.

SW: Do you have an old-school phone like the yellow one in Landline?  A Metallica t-shirt?  What meaningful object do you have, or wish you had, from the late 90s?

RR:  I have an old red rotary phone.   [um, soo jealous of this!  SW]

I don't have a Metallica T-shirt, but that was a nod to my husband who loves Metallica.

I actually have tons of stuff from the '90s. I still have my favorite shirt, and my favorite vintage sports jacket. I have watches. Stationery. A pair of purple-with-red-ladybugs Doc Martens mary janes. 

I have a hard time letting go of things.

SW: What aspect of your characters—Eleanor, Cath, Beth, Georgie—are most like you?

RR:  Oh, good question!

Eleanor has my stubbornness. The way she does things that she knows will make her stand out — even though she doesn't really want to stand out.

Cath has my anxiety. And my tendency to lose myself in fiction. Also my taste in emergency dance music.

Beth has my sense of humor. When I was writing Attachments, I gave her every joke I'd make myself. (She also has my arms.)

Georgie is good in a room. I'm also good in a room -- even if I'm more terrified than Georgie ever is. And she has my work/family tension. I've never been in her situation, but I know what it's like to feel like there isn't enough of me to go around. 

SW: You’ve written two adult books and two YA books that adults also love—do you approach the writing differently?

RR: No, I don't. I just try to get inside the characters' heads and see the world the way they would see it.

SW: I’m going to Disney World this fall with my 7-year-old and I see from your bio that you like to plan trips there—what three things should be on our “must-do” list?  Are you a roller coaster person, and if so, loops or no loops? What about Disney World do you most enjoy?

RR:  Ha! I love Disney theme parks. I love the theming, the attention to detail, the way every design element — and every sound and every smell — help tell the story.

I'm not much of a roller coaster person, but Disney isn't about thrill rides anyway. 

I have a 7-year-old, too, and a few of our musts are: It's a Small World (because it's gorgeous); the night-time castle show (magical!); and the Norwegian bakery in EPCOT (try the school bread).

SW: What are you working on now/next?

RR: I just finished the first draft of a YA fantasy, so I need to revise that. I think it will be out next fall (unless my editor hates it). And I'm working on the screenplay for Eleanor & Park.



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