This is part of my 2017 reading challenge, Cloak and Dagger, for which I’ve pledged to read all the spy books I have stacked up in my room. Read along!
As I mentioned in my introductory post to this year’s reading challenge, my parents watched Argo before I did, and then insisted I would enjoy it, too, and should sit down to watch it. Being a moody twenty-something who was stuck at home post-college graduation, I was slow to take their advice. But once I watched the movie, I was in love–with the story, with spies, and, yeah, fine, okay, maybe a little bit with Ben Affleck. And then I bought Tony Mendez’s book on the mission over the Christmas holidays and read it in two days.
For those unaware, Argo is the story of, in my personal opinion, one of the coolest CIA operations in the history of the Agency. At the start of the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979, after the American embassy in Tehran was taken over by what many believed to be disorganized students who wouldn’t know how to hold onto 50+ hostages, six American diplomats managed to escape–five from the main embassy compound and one from his office in a nearby building. After escaping, the original five first hid out in the apartment of one of the group members, then were bounced between embassies and friendly organizations, before finally landing with the Canadians, namely Ken Taylor, the Canadian ambassador to Iran, and John Sheardown, chief of the immigration section at the Canadian embassy.
For the next two and a half months, the six Americans hid out with the Canadians, hiding out from the locals to avoid certain death at the hands of the Iranians. Little did they know, the CIA was working to extract them, to avoid causing a situation that might risk the lives of the diplomats still being held in deplorable circumstances in the embassy. And the best plan that CIA operative Tony Mendez could come up with was something just crazy enough to work: “Argo,” also known as the Hollywood option, in which the six diplomats would pretend, along with Tony and his partner, “Julio,” to be Hollywood scouting party, looking for a place to film their Star Wars knock-off.
This is the story that really got me interested in espionage in the first place (Argo, and my Peggy Carter obsession). I adore the movie, and the book is honestly far more detailed and entertaining than I ever could have hoped. This book fills in the blanks that the movie couldn’t explore, making it clearer just how many people risked their lives to protect and eventually rescue six diplomats who managed to escape the horrific year of torture their colleagues had to endure in Tehran. I will always recommend this story to fledgling spy enthusiasts.
And if anyone wants to introduce me to Tony Mendez or allow me to speak to Jimmy Carter about the hostage crisis, I will be eternally grateful.
Cloak & Dagger 2017 Book Count: 2
Next up: Queen of Spies: Daphne Park, Britain’s Cold War Spy Master by Paddy Hayes
Thanks, Canada! Feel free to discuss how awesome Canada is in the comments.
And if you’ve got a spy book recommendation for me, let me know!