Thursday, May 17, 2007

Perfect Spy

I admit it: I'm a sucker for spy stories. The real spy stories, not the James Bond stuff.

This week, I finished what is unquestionably the best spy book I've ever read. It's called Perfect Spy: The Incredible Double Life of Pham Xuan An. I read it in three days because it was absolutely impossible to put down.

Pham Xuan An was a reporter for Time Magazine during the Vietnam War. He was highly intelligent and had an almost encyclopedic knowledge of Vietnamese history, but he also was able to put that complex history into context with rare skill. He also spoke excellent English, because he studied journalism in the U.S. for two years.

Most importantly, An was highly respected by everyone he worked with--colleagues, the American and South Vietnamese military, and anyone else who came in contact with him. He saved the lives of several of his American friends at various points during the war. It would not be an exaggeration to say that he was beloved.

He was also a North Vietnamese spy.

It's an incredible story, and what's even more incredible is that he was so beloved that very few people turned against him when the truth was discovered after the war. And An wasn't just a spy--he was one of only two intelligence officers during the war to be promoted to General.

It's a riveting book, based on hundreds of hours of interviews with An and his colleagues (both Vietnamese and American). It's about espionage and honor and war and just about everything in-between.

Here's an Amazon link, and I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in espionage or just enjoys excellent writing (author Larry Berman did a phenomenal job). It's an unforgettable and gripping read.

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