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No. 115 / 2017

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Tim Boxer



The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert AmesBird Aims At The Good Ames

is a wonderful story teller. Author of four previous biographical tomes, including the highly praised American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer (with co-author Martin J. Sherwin), Bird’s new book is about one of the CIA’s most successful spies, Robert Ames. Don’t confuse him with that turncoat Aldrich Ames, a counterintelligence officer who was convicted in 1994 of spying for the Russians.

That’s probably why Bird’s new book is named The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames (Crown/Random House, 430 pages, $26.00 Amazon.com Price: $19.90)

Ames—the good spy—who learned to speak like a native, cultivated intimate friendships with key Arab intelligence officers, including Arafat’s intelligence chief and heir apparent, Ali Hassan Salameh. He became one of Ames’s key sources. (Salameh had a connection to the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The Mossad tried twice to assassinate him, but both times he was forewarned by his good friend Ames. On a third attempt in 1979 Mossad succeeded by blowing up Salameh’s car.)

First half of the book is a fascinating story about Ames recruitment and training in the CIA. This is a primer for anyone who wants to become a spook. The end chapters describe in gripping detail how a Shi’ite Lebanese man drove his bomb-laden car into the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in 1983.

It is gut wrenching to read. Bird has a keen eye for horrible detail. In the lobby, he writes, a Lebanese woman of the consular section was screaming. "The blast had peeled off part of her face and was bleeding profusely."

One of the ambassador’s bodyguards, Staff Sgt. Mark Salazar, was sitting in his car, engulfed in flames, his leg lying on the asphalt. A Lebanese security guard, using a long metal rod, tried to pry Salazar out of the car. Each time he "tried to touch Salazar with the rod, a piece of flesh would drop off." Salazar was probably dead but just to make sure the guard pulled out his pistol and shot him between the eyes.

Bird presents a gruesome account of the bombing of the embassy and the killing of 63 people. Among those who perished were 17 Americans, including seven CIA agents and America’s superspy, Robert Ames. He was 49 and left behind a wife and six children.


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The Beatles and Me On Tour by Ivor Davis


THE STORY OF THE JEWS: FINDING THE WORDS 1000 BC – 1492 AD Simon Schama, University Professor of Art History and History at Columbia, knows how to tell a story. Instead of burdening you with facts and boring you with dates, as if preparing for an exam, he tells story after story, painting a vivid picture of every historical event that keeps you enthralled and turning the pages for more. He makes you feel the personal impact of historical events, as if you were there. Schama is a remarkable storyteller of world affairs. He is quite adept at keeping your interest, having written or presented 40 documentaries for BBC, PBS and the History Channel. The Story of the Jews was presented in a five-part series in March on PBS. The second volume of the book, expected in the fall, will continue the journey of the Jews to the present day. Ecco/HarperCollins, 512 pages, $39.99 Amazon.com Price: $25.27)

IPAD AND IPHONE KUNG FU: TIPS, TRICKS, HINTS AND HACKS FOR IOS 7IPAD AND IPHONE KUNG FU: TIPS, TRICKS, HINTS AND HACKS FOR IOS 7 You know you can’t live without your iPhone, iPad or iPod. Now here’s a book of instructions you can’t live without. Once you get your hands on this excellent book—no matter how much you think you know about those three Apple devices—you’ll be amazed to see how much you have yet to learn. This is essential for anyone who wants to get more use out of those amazing Apple devices. The Pragmatic Bookshelf, paper, 294 pages, $19.00 Amazon.com Price: $16.56)

A BIT OF WIT, A WORLD OF WISDOMA BIT OF WIT, A WORLD OF WISDOM Wish I’d been endowed with wit; wish I’d had wisdom. Bereft of both, I revel in Yehoshua Kurland’s delightful compendium of humor and ethics. As a lecturer of Talmud, the rabbi (in Far Rockaway, NY) begins each essay with a joke, hoping to engage and inspire his students and readers. In an essay about the importance of communication in marriage, the author quotes a famous jokester: "It first occurred to me that our marriage might be in trouble when my wife won an all-expense-paid trip for two to Hawaii, and she went—twice!" Lesson to be learned, Kurland says, "In those moments of dissension, a wrong word, even unintended, can go straight to the nerve, or even worse, can stab through the heart." What’s called for is ongoing support to allow these painful moments to dissipate through the bond of your love and respect. Gefen, softcover, 175 pages, $18.95 Amazon.com Price: $17.06)

AND EVERY SINGLE ONE WAS SOMEONEAND EVERY SINGLE ONE WAS SOMEONE Six million perished in the most catastrophic event in the history of the world. Every single one—baby, teenager, man, woman—had a face, a name. One million children were cut down before their prime. There is a chamber at Yad Vashem that overwhelms with innumerable photos of these missing children. Everyone was slain for the singular crime of being born Jews. Six million! Can you comprehend it? Didn’t think so. New York-born Phil Chernofsky, educational director of the Orthodox Union (OU) Israel Center in Jerusalem, conceived this book to help you grasp that figure. As he doesn’t have six million photos to display, Chernofsky lists each victim’s crime: Jew. The crime of being born a Jew is reiterated in 40 columns across each page. A very big book, consisting one word "Jew," repeated six million times over 1,250 pages, is not a book that you read with your eyes. It is a concept that stirs your heart. Gefen, 1250 pages, $80.00 Amazon.com Price: $53.93)

THERE GOES GRAVITY: A LIFE IN ROCK AND ROLLTHERE GOES GRAVITY: A LIFE IN ROCK AND ROLL Vanity Fair writer Lisa Robinson edited Hit Parader and Rock Scene, wrote for Creem, and produced an insightful weekly music column for the New York Post. In the ‘70s and ‘80s she traversed the rock landscape with her tape recorder in pursuit of the major superstars to chronicle their tumultuous lives and careers. Her gripping book is heavy with celebrity stories, inside anecdotes, one-on-one interviews and hot gossip. It will keep you enthralled cover to cover. Riverhead/Penguin, 361 pages, photos, $27.95 Amazon.com Price: $21.13)

HOW PHOTOGRAPHS ARE SOLDHOW PHOTOGRAPHS ARE SOLD Alain Briot presents stories, advice and examples to help fine art photographers sell their work. The author is a master photographer who creates tutorials on DVDs and mentors individual students. Check him out at beautiful-landscape.com. His book is essential to anyone who seeks to make a living in photography. "People have not stopped buying fine art," he writes. "Instead, they have changed how they buy fine art." Rocky Nook, soft, 180 pages, $36.95 Amazon.com Price: $23.16)


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