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Argo: How the CIA & Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History

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The true account of the 1979 rescue of six American hostages from Iran On November 4, 1979, Iranian militants stormed the American embassy in Tehran and held dozens of Americans hostage, sparking a 444-day ordeal and a quake in global politics that still reverberates today. Beaneath this crisis another shocking story was known by only a select few: six Americans escape The true account of the 1979 rescue of six American hostages from Iran On November 4, 1979, Iranian militants stormed the American embassy in Tehran and held dozens of Americans hostage, sparking a 444-day ordeal and a quake in global politics that still reverberates today. Beaneath this crisis another shocking story was known by only a select few: six Americans escaped the embassy and hid within a city roiling with suspicion and fear. A top-level CIA officer named Antonio Mendez devised an ingenious yet incredibly risky plan to rescue them before they were detected. Disguising himself as a Hollywood producer, and supported by a cast of expert forgers, deep-cover CIA operatives, foreign agents, and Hollywood special-effects artists, Mendez traveled to Tehran under the guise of scouting locations for a fake science fiction film called "Argo." While pretending to find the ideal film backdrops, Mendez and a colleague succeeded in contacting the escapees and eventually smuggled them out of Iran. After more than three decades, Antonio Mendez finally details the extraordinarily complex and dangerous operation he led. A riveting story of secret identities, international intrigue, and good old-fashioned American ingenuity, Argo is the pulse-pounding account of the history-making collusion between Hollywood and high-stakes espionage.


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The true account of the 1979 rescue of six American hostages from Iran On November 4, 1979, Iranian militants stormed the American embassy in Tehran and held dozens of Americans hostage, sparking a 444-day ordeal and a quake in global politics that still reverberates today. Beaneath this crisis another shocking story was known by only a select few: six Americans escape The true account of the 1979 rescue of six American hostages from Iran On November 4, 1979, Iranian militants stormed the American embassy in Tehran and held dozens of Americans hostage, sparking a 444-day ordeal and a quake in global politics that still reverberates today. Beaneath this crisis another shocking story was known by only a select few: six Americans escaped the embassy and hid within a city roiling with suspicion and fear. A top-level CIA officer named Antonio Mendez devised an ingenious yet incredibly risky plan to rescue them before they were detected. Disguising himself as a Hollywood producer, and supported by a cast of expert forgers, deep-cover CIA operatives, foreign agents, and Hollywood special-effects artists, Mendez traveled to Tehran under the guise of scouting locations for a fake science fiction film called "Argo." While pretending to find the ideal film backdrops, Mendez and a colleague succeeded in contacting the escapees and eventually smuggled them out of Iran. After more than three decades, Antonio Mendez finally details the extraordinarily complex and dangerous operation he led. A riveting story of secret identities, international intrigue, and good old-fashioned American ingenuity, Argo is the pulse-pounding account of the history-making collusion between Hollywood and high-stakes espionage.

30 review for Argo: How the CIA & Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History

  1. 4 out of 5

    Meredith Holley

    Resumes are possibly my least favorite thing to write or read . . . or maybe my second least favorite, after cover letters. It’s so difficult to land in the right place on the scale between unqualified/disinterested and fake/braggy, so I always aim for straight accuracy. Did I do that thing? If yes, then I will include it. If it’s a stretch, I’ll probably leave it off. I have definitely swung from one side to the other as I’ve tried to navigate the spectrum of resume writing, but I feel most com Resumes are possibly my least favorite thing to write or read . . . or maybe my second least favorite, after cover letters. It’s so difficult to land in the right place on the scale between unqualified/disinterested and fake/braggy, so I always aim for straight accuracy. Did I do that thing? If yes, then I will include it. If it’s a stretch, I’ll probably leave it off. I have definitely swung from one side to the other as I’ve tried to navigate the spectrum of resume writing, but I feel most comfortable if I just aim for accuracy. As resumes go, Argo landed a little closer to the fake/braggy line than I like. Ben Affleck, as you probably know, made the main story in this book into a movie recently. I haven’t seen it yet, but I imagine it was somewhat more successful than this book is. I got trapped in a room with an older lawyer the other day, and he backed me into a corner telling stories about his legal practice. Listening to this book kind of felt like that, too, except it’s an old CIA guy telling stories about doing CIA stuff. Ultimately, in the last 10% of the story, he goes to Iran and saves some Americans who were hiding out during the hostage crisis that lasted from 1979-1981. It seems like that would be more interesting than it was, just like it seems to me like an older lawyer telling stories would be more interesting than it typically is. And the thing that always kills them for me is the fishing for an ego stroke that goes along with a lot of those stories. The stories go like this: I was sitting in my office smoking and looking like Don Draper, but above all being very humble and never telling anyone about the amazing work I was always doing. Suddenly, my manly secretary (not manly because of her attitude, but manly because she was a spinster) came rushing into my office with a telegram. It said, ‘The world will end unless you solve the rubik’s cube.’ I recalled that Stephen Hawking worked down the hall from me, in the office next to Jesus and kitty-corner from Shakespeare. When we weren’t saving the world, we liked to taste scotch together and goof around. Jesus was always asking me for fashion advice, and couldn’t tie a tie to save his life – that rascal! Also, at that time, they were doing construction on a new wing of our office building. It’s the wing that Batman works in now. You’ve heard of Batman, right? So, I walk down to Stephen Hawking’s office, and I bring my rubik’s cube. I walk on the linoleum that used to be in all of the office buildings. It was a brownish color. People now are too young to remember the brownish linoleum in office buildings, but it was installed by linoleum installers. They were salt-of-the-earth men with muscles like the rolling hills of Africa. Because Stephen Hawking and I both speak twelve languages, the only trouble in solving the rubik’s cube was what language we should speak in while we solved it. As I pointed out to him the final move we needed to make in order to solve the grand puzzle, I noticed a glint of respect in his eye at my superior intellect. Shakespeare came to the door and said, "Let me tell you a joke: knock knock." "Who's there?" I responded, understanding the common exchange in a "knock-knock joke." "Fuck you!" Shakespeare yelled. And we laughed and laughed, forgetting our worries about the end of the world and enjoying the camaraderie of the moment. Then, many women ran to me and kissed my feet, and the President of the United States asked if he could take a picture with me. I don’t like to tell this earth-shattering story because I am so humble, so you’re welcome. Wow! You know Batman, Mr. CIA? I bet you have one million Aston Martins and just as many fleshlights bimbos, er, 'girlfriends'! This book is actually even more humble-braggy than that, but it sort of gives you an idea. I know a girl who can’t stop name-dropping and reciting her resume, as well as the resumes of her mother and this federal judge she knows. Like, she is in some kind of perpetual tailspin of resume reciting. And sometimes I wonder if that is a mental disease many men contract as they get older. The saddest part to me is that there are probably a lot of good stories underneath all that humble-bragging, but I can’t hear them because I am too annoyed. I mean, if you just think of reading a book about a CIA agent saving Americans during a hostage crisis, it seems like it would be a fun story. But, this wasn’t. Mendez deserves any praise he gets, I’m sure, but I just can’t abide fishing for compliments. Ego is the easiest way to interfere with any good story, whether the ego takes the form of showy humility or bragging. Argo seemed to be some kind of extended, convoluted resume, and I think it would have been a better policy to just aim for accuracy rather than getting so caught up in the accolades Mendez deserved or didn’t deserve. Humility and arrogance both make a story about ego, rather than about the story, and ego ruined this one for me. Also, the reader’s voice was strikingly nasal. I would say this is the second worst audio book I’ve listened to, after Three Cups of Tea.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Janete

    Ben Affleck's movie is much more interesting and exciting than the original story told by this book! lol! But it was an OK book: fast and uncomplicated reading.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    Very good! Who knew history could be so interesting!? If you want suspense increased by the fact that it REALLY HAPPENED - this is the book for you. The story is very well told and believable because the author was directly involved. Only a few times have I been so stressed by a book that I caught myself holding my breath, this was one of them. If you like non-fiction suspense and political intrigue, do yourself a favor and check this one out.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alex Givant

    Unbelievable story of special CIA operation to save 6 people who manage to escape from USA Embassy in Tehran. What amazed me most is level of details they going through to make an escape as easy and problem-free as possible. I think that's what make CIA and MI-6 one of the best spies in the world.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    I didn't love Ben Affleck's Argo like everybody else seemed to. Actually, it mystifies me that it won such critical acclaim, being that it feels very much like a run-of-the-mill historical thriller. It has all the genre cliches - the down on his luck, familial turmoil-ridden protagonist (Ben Affleck), the fast talking hot shot (Alan Arkin), the suspense of an official checking the credentials of one of the good guys and holy-crap-they're-going-to-get-them, etc. The point is, it felt like a very stan I didn't love Ben Affleck's Argo like everybody else seemed to. Actually, it mystifies me that it won such critical acclaim, being that it feels very much like a run-of-the-mill historical thriller. It has all the genre cliches - the down on his luck, familial turmoil-ridden protagonist (Ben Affleck), the fast talking hot shot (Alan Arkin), the suspense of an official checking the credentials of one of the good guys and holy-crap-they're-going-to-get-them, etc. The point is, it felt like a very standard movie to me. But the fact that it's a real story is what makes it good. It's what made me want to read this book. And now I wish I hadn't. I learned a lot of stuff, but mostly that stuff I learned is summed up thusly: Ben Affleck is a liar! The bones of the movie and of the true story are the same. There really were six Americans stuck in Iran during its revolution who were hidden Anne Frank style in a Canadian ambassador's house. They really were exfiltrated by a man pretending to be the director of a cheesy sci-fi movie, scouting locations in Iran. I'm sure someone even said at some point: "it's so crazy it might even work!" But everything that made the movie good and suspenseful was made up. All of the suspense was the result of inserting the genre cliches that both made the movie watchable and predictable. Anyway, because this book isn't particularly well-written or fascinating, I'd recommend just watching the movie and then reading this article from Slate to learn what's real and what's made up.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lucy Weber

    I was thrilled when I came across this book. I thought it would be soo exciting, as I thought the previews to the new Ben Affleck movie looked witty and entertaining and amusingly funny. I had a hard time staying interested in the detailed logistics and logistics and logistics. I thought there would be more character development that I could enjoying getting interested in as the story unfolded. Halfway through the book, with no indication that the book was picking up steam, I gave up. And usuall I was thrilled when I came across this book. I thought it would be soo exciting, as I thought the previews to the new Ben Affleck movie looked witty and entertaining and amusingly funny. I had a hard time staying interested in the detailed logistics and logistics and logistics. I thought there would be more character development that I could enjoying getting interested in as the story unfolded. Halfway through the book, with no indication that the book was picking up steam, I gave up. And usually by the time I am halfway through a book I have to know how it ends, regardless of whether I like it. Not so for me in this case. There seemed to be less of a story and more of tactical talk and logistics of CIA stuff. Maybe more man speak then my mind was really interested in. I think I will enjoy the movie better. I listened to this book on audio for free. I downloaded it from the washington-centerville library using the overdrive media console app. Definately check it out, it works for dayton metro libraries as well!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mahlon

    On November 4, 1979, Iranian activists stormed the United States embassy in Tehran. More than 50 of the embassy staff were taken as hostages,and held for 444 days, but six avoided capture and hid in the homes of Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor and others. The CIA and the Canadian government collaborated on a rescue plan, and it falls to CIA exfiltration expert Tony Mendez and his team to get them out. If you've seen the movie you know the ending, so I'll just say it's a brilliant book, and a grea On November 4, 1979, Iranian activists stormed the United States embassy in Tehran. More than 50 of the embassy staff were taken as hostages,and held for 444 days, but six avoided capture and hid in the homes of Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor and others. The CIA and the Canadian government collaborated on a rescue plan, and it falls to CIA exfiltration expert Tony Mendez and his team to get them out. If you've seen the movie you know the ending, so I'll just say it's a brilliant book, and a great reminder what can happen when governments cooperate, and think outside the box. Proof that contrary to popular opinion, our clandestine services can be a force for good in the world.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    Excellent revelation of secrets and mysterious how-to disguise techniques. A real page turner with historical context. Really fabulous. And if you decide to make a career in the spy arena remember the three keys to success : details, details, details. Next stop for me will be the movie theater

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Ozawa

    This wasn’t as fun as the movie, oddly. Mendez is a cool guy; he is an artist who found a way to use his talents to serve the country. I had no idea the CIA used disguises of the type Mendez talks about in the book. Yet, I felt like this book was just a great story told in a lecture or TED talk. There wasn’t a whole lot of tension, and not a whole lot of story. The people in the story aren’t terribly fleshed out as characters. All in all, I guess I was hoping for something with the feel of a mov This wasn’t as fun as the movie, oddly. Mendez is a cool guy; he is an artist who found a way to use his talents to serve the country. I had no idea the CIA used disguises of the type Mendez talks about in the book. Yet, I felt like this book was just a great story told in a lecture or TED talk. There wasn’t a whole lot of tension, and not a whole lot of story. The people in the story aren’t terribly fleshed out as characters. All in all, I guess I was hoping for something with the feel of a movie.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    I can't believe that this guy was nearly as important as he makes himself out to be. Just can't do it. I understand that cliches are part of the job of the ghostwriter. And I appreciate that. But the amount of BS the ghostwriter had to sort through must have been truly massive for so much still to have made it into the final draft. The story is good. But there is little to no historical corroboration for what he says. The hostages in the embassy are barely mentioned. The political machinations a I can't believe that this guy was nearly as important as he makes himself out to be. Just can't do it. I understand that cliches are part of the job of the ghostwriter. And I appreciate that. But the amount of BS the ghostwriter had to sort through must have been truly massive for so much still to have made it into the final draft. The story is good. But there is little to no historical corroboration for what he says. The hostages in the embassy are barely mentioned. The political machinations and maneuvering aren't mentioned. President Carter is barely mentioned. The Americans he's charged to move are mentioned inasmuch as he paints them with the one-dimensional brush of a mystery writer. Here's the gist: the guy was an artist for the CIA back when they had to forge by hand. He couldn't have been that good, because he never brags about the quality of his work on documents. He got a couple promotions and became a bureaucrat, a manager of people and processes. He nearly claims that he was a spy in the clandestine service, but seems to have the sense not to cross the line separating him from actual professional full-time trained and massive risk-taking intelligence gatherers. He comes to have operational responsibility for helping people leave dangerous countries. The only reason he's there is that he can coordinate the artistic talent necessary for disguise. He talks about planning and executing and resolving these exfiltrations. But again, I just can't imagine that anyone would give this guy nearly the responsibility that he claims. Mostly because he claims all of it. Worst of all, he doesn't speak positively about his colleagues at the CIA. He seems instead to want to portray them with faults as well as strengths. Instead it's always him in the driver's seat, always him thinking of the big picture and getting people moving in one direction or the other. I wish someone else had written the story of this guy. And I don't mean ghostwriter. I mean long-form journalist, taking accounts from multiple parties. I bet the story is a lot better than he tells it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Richard Toscan

    It's probably a mistake to read a book - and this book in particular - after seeing the marvelous film version of the CIA rescue of American diplomatic personnel from Iran in the aftermath of the 1979 Iranian revolution. But this nonfiction account by the CIA agent who led the caper is an intriguing read, even though you can sense where he's had to skim over some of the techniques they used to make the operation work. If you haven't seen the movie yet, read the book first: you'll discover that t It's probably a mistake to read a book - and this book in particular - after seeing the marvelous film version of the CIA rescue of American diplomatic personnel from Iran in the aftermath of the 1979 Iranian revolution. But this nonfiction account by the CIA agent who led the caper is an intriguing read, even though you can sense where he's had to skim over some of the techniques they used to make the operation work. If you haven't seen the movie yet, read the book first: you'll discover that the film is driven not only by Hollywood story conventions, but also by incorporating the worst-case scenarios that the CIA probably developed. But those didn't happen. While it's amazing that at the end of the operation, the CIA guys and the embassy employees simply drove to the Tehran Airport, went through customs and security, boarded their commercial flight, and flew home. That's all a testament to the skill and trade craft of Antonio Mendez, but it would have made for a lousy movie by the standards of Lotusland. Mendez's book is essentially a lesson in how real CIA operations - when they work - happen: there may be tension, but the goal is for everything to seem as ordinary (and even boring) as possible.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Edoardo Albert

    I was a little concerned, picking up this book, to see that it is co-written by Matt Baglio. I've read one of Baglio's books, The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist, in which he achieved what I'd thought impossible: he made exorcism boring. So I was worried he'd manage the impossible yet again, and make the exfiltration of diplomats in hiding from revolutionary Iran in the guise of Hollywood filmmakers into something tedious as well. Luckily, he doesn't. Thankfully, much of the book is actually writte I was a little concerned, picking up this book, to see that it is co-written by Matt Baglio. I've read one of Baglio's books, The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist, in which he achieved what I'd thought impossible: he made exorcism boring. So I was worried he'd manage the impossible yet again, and make the exfiltration of diplomats in hiding from revolutionary Iran in the guise of Hollywood filmmakers into something tedious as well. Luckily, he doesn't. Thankfully, much of the book is actually written by Tony Mendez, the CIA operative who planned and carried out the operation to fly six Americans in hiding out of Iran in 1980, when the revolutionary regime was holding the staff of the American embassy hostage. In fact, Mendez has recycled much of the paper he wrote about the exfiltration for the CIA house journal, Studies in Intelligence, into the book, often simply pasting it into the relevant chapter. However, he does add some very interesting autobiographical and background material to the early chapters. I for one find it fascinating that a talented artist, as Mendez is, ended up working for the CIA, first in creating and forging documents but then as a high-level agent himself. In fact, the main problem with the book is how good an agent he was. The simple fact is that the exfilration of the six Americans who got away from the embassy and then had remained in hiding in houses belonging to Canadian diplomats went almost exactly according to plan, with the Iranian regime not getting even a hint of what was going on (in contrast to the disastrous attempt to rescue the rest of the hostages). The film changed things to up the tension levels, from having the six go out into Teheran to pretend to search for film locations (Mendez had concocted a cover story that they'd flown in to search for locations for an upcoming Hollywood sci-fi film called Argo) to Iranian officials racing to intercept them as they got on the plane. In reality, it was as smooth an operation as anyone could have wished. What makes it so interesting are the details. One in particular made me laugh. When they landed in Zurich, Mendez gave his coat to one of the six, who were then all promptly hustled away to be returned to America. Mendez himself was scolded on his return by the finance department for losing his government issued coat! Although the film does take liberties, it's well worth watching for its recreation of revolutionary Iran. Mendez himself appreciated the film, as indeed would I, if I'd been in his place. Compare Ben Affleck to Tony Mendez. Good deal!

  13. 4 out of 5

    David

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Excellent book. Recently saw the movie in the theater and loved. The book was written by the lead CIA operative (Mendez)who was responsible in exfiltrating the six American hostages from Iran. There were some differences in the book from the movie which is expected from Hollywood. Specifically, Mendez had a colleague from the CIA with him during the exfil operation although he clearly had a bigger role. Mendez did not take the Americans out into town in Tehran prior to their departure as was sho Excellent book. Recently saw the movie in the theater and loved. The book was written by the lead CIA operative (Mendez)who was responsible in exfiltrating the six American hostages from Iran. There were some differences in the book from the movie which is expected from Hollywood. Specifically, Mendez had a colleague from the CIA with him during the exfil operation although he clearly had a bigger role. Mendez did not take the Americans out into town in Tehran prior to their departure as was shown in the movie. Also, the dramatic scene at the airport from the movie did not quite happen. In actuality, Mendez and the six Americans made it through the airport with relative ease. They were not questioned about Argo at all and the Iranians had no clue what happened until some time later. The movie made it seem like the Iranians were starting to figure it out and learned shortly after the Mendez and the six were wheels up. Also, immediately following the hostage taker over of the US Embassy, the six Americans from the Consulate actually hid out in several places, including the British Embassy, before landing with the Canadians. The movie also underscored a lot of the work that Mendez and his CIA colleague did on the ground in Tehran to work on the forged documents. I thought that work was fascinating, including forging the inbound documents that the six Americans would not have had. The cover story of Argo was just brilliant. Really impressive how they worked to get it all backstopped. Unlike the movie, there wasn't any last-minute changes from Washington regarding its support of Argo.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Chris King

    So-so. Could have been much better, but the author drug it out with lots and lots of interesting but totally unimportant details, name dropping, side stories, personal anecdotes, and background information (on the CIA, etc.). All of this would have been okay, but because of the title, I was expecting it to be completely/solely about the rescue mission to Iran. All the extra filler felt a little like a "bait-and-switch". It would have been more accurate to broaden the title -- "Argo and Other Mem So-so. Could have been much better, but the author drug it out with lots and lots of interesting but totally unimportant details, name dropping, side stories, personal anecdotes, and background information (on the CIA, etc.). All of this would have been okay, but because of the title, I was expecting it to be completely/solely about the rescue mission to Iran. All the extra filler felt a little like a "bait-and-switch". It would have been more accurate to broaden the title -- "Argo and Other Memoirs of a Former CIA Agent". I'm aware there is a movie based on this book, and have heard that it is good, but I haven't seen it yet. The buzz about the movie inspired me to pick up the book. I figured that if the movie is good, the book must be even better. At this point, I seriously doubt that. Still want to see the movie though... I would have only rated it two stars, but the last four chapters picked up the pace and redeemed it somewhat. Conclusion: If you are interested in the CIA and the spy business in general, and also the Argo mission, you might like this. However, If you just want to read a story about the Argo mission, be prepared for a long, slow ride with a lot of side trips.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Brent

    If you liked the movie, you should really enjoy the book. It's a fast-moving story dealing with the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979-1981 but focusing on how the CIA worked to remove the six Americans who were hiding in the residences of two Canadian diplomats. In a 300-page narrative you get a story that includes the following: a short background to the Iranian revolution, the embassy take-over, how six American "Houseguests" got out of the embassy and evaded capture in Tehran, backgro If you liked the movie, you should really enjoy the book. It's a fast-moving story dealing with the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979-1981 but focusing on how the CIA worked to remove the six Americans who were hiding in the residences of two Canadian diplomats. In a 300-page narrative you get a story that includes the following: a short background to the Iranian revolution, the embassy take-over, how six American "Houseguests" got out of the embassy and evaded capture in Tehran, background on CIA exfiltrations in Iran and other Cold War hotspots, lots of CIA spycraft info, the planning of the Argo scheme, how the plan was executed, and some background bio on Tony Mendez (the CIA agent portrayed by Ben Affleck). One odd bit of information. The Hollywood make-up artist, John Chambers (played by John Goodman) was given a false name in the book, and the author states near the end of the book that he still could not be identified. This seems pretty odd since the hardback was just released in September 2012 and the movie came out two months later. Chambers is definitely named in the movie and information relating to his work for the CIA is on his wiki page.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bibliovoracious

    Fun! A real, feelgood, spy story. How about that. Maybe the only feelgood spy story CIA has in its history to publicize, but here it is, declassified for our entertainment. The movie with Ben Affleck is also excellent (although it drops out the integral Canadian involvement in the real mission).

  17. 5 out of 5

    Marla

    I saw the movie last year and the book fills in more background information. Very interesting story. I listened to the audiobook and the reader did a good job.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Excellent, it just took me forever tog et through (probably more my fault than the writing, though)

  19. 5 out of 5

    Amber Spencer

    4.5. I really enjoyed this book and had a hard time not thinking about it when I had to put it down. I could read more books like this.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jerome

    I saw a movie trailer for this, and it looked good; I was not aware that this was a book as well, and I'm glad I read it. Also fortunately for me, I had read Bowden's excellent Guests of the Ayatollah: The Iran Hostage Crisis, The First Battle in America's War With Militant Islam a few days before this arrived at the library. Careful younger readers may be surprised at how SLOWLY things happened before cell phones and modern IT, and how the CIA agents could pull off sneaky stunts so easily I saw a movie trailer for this, and it looked good; I was not aware that this was a book as well, and I'm glad I read it. Also fortunately for me, I had read Bowden's excellent Guests of the Ayatollah: The Iran Hostage Crisis, The First Battle in America's War With Militant Islam a few days before this arrived at the library. Careful younger readers may be surprised at how SLOWLY things happened before cell phones and modern IT, and how the CIA agents could pull off sneaky stunts so easily without getting caught. Multi-part, "no-carbon-required" forms? (Younger readers like me are asking, "What's 'carbon' mean here? Does this have to do with Climate Change?") Having to confirm a flight by GOING to the airport? Yes, it really worked that way--they got most of the same things done as we do today, we just did it then with more people, more slowly and less reliably. "Argo" got somewhat slow and boring in parts, but this is in no way Mendez's fault; most intelligence operations, though they have their adrenaline rushes, are nothing more than plain hard work, even boring at times. See also Mark Lijek's The Houseguests - a Memoir of Canadian Courage and CIA Sorcery and Robert Wright's Our Man in Tehran The Truth Behind the Secret Mission to Save Six Americans during the Iran Hostage Crisis and the Ambassador Who Worked with the CIA to Bring Them Home. I'll have to see the movie now.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Adam Watson

    Possible spoilers ahead! I picked this up by impulse; the Hollywood cover story was a great hook, and while waiting to have a chance to see the movie, I thought it would be good to read the "real" story first. I was both entertained and a bit disappointed. First, the disappointment. The Hollywood angle doesn't come up until halfway through the book, and as it turns out, becomes unnecessary window dressing. (In real life, there was never a need for the extraction team to use it; no Ira Possible spoilers ahead! I picked this up by impulse; the Hollywood cover story was a great hook, and while waiting to have a chance to see the movie, I thought it would be good to read the "real" story first. I was both entertained and a bit disappointed. First, the disappointment. The Hollywood angle doesn't come up until halfway through the book, and as it turns out, becomes unnecessary window dressing. (In real life, there was never a need for the extraction team to use it; no Iranian official ever really questioned them about it. I take it from the movie trailer that this aspect is dramatically hyped and fictionalized in the film.) Without this incredible and surreal element, the story is "just" an unbelievably brave and amazing rescue in dangerous territory. Which leads to the good part: I learned a lot about what real CIA agents do in covert operations, as well as more background about the Iranian revolution. Mendez's heroism is worthy of praise. The book is a bit short (it would have made a fascinating chapter in a more extensive autobiography), but still worth a read if you like real life spycraft.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kristīne Līcis

    Fascinating story told by a not very well-written book. I realise it is a challenging and delicate task to describe how you planned and executed a successful operation of such a magnitude without sounding either like a pompous prick or overly self-deprecating, but the book annoyingly oscillates between the two extremes, from "Not only had we just pulled off one of the most important exfiltrations in the history of the Agency, but in my mind, we had also established a sort of framework by which a Fascinating story told by a not very well-written book. I realise it is a challenging and delicate task to describe how you planned and executed a successful operation of such a magnitude without sounding either like a pompous prick or overly self-deprecating, but the book annoyingly oscillates between the two extremes, from "Not only had we just pulled off one of the most important exfiltrations in the history of the Agency, but in my mind, we had also established a sort of framework by which all other exfiltrations would be run" to "I happy left the limelight for others". I also didn't like the structure of the book, where stories about the author's background, the events leading to the capture of the US embassy, as well as about author's previous work are scattered throughout the book, and fascinating as they are, all they do is interrupt the build-up of the suspense in the main story. But I as a nerd I got a kick out of the detailed descriptions of the disguise techniques and insane details in creating a single travel document. I would have been happy to read pages and pages about that, but I guess it would not have made a good movie. Intelligence is only as good as the consumer’s ability to believe and utilize it. "Exfiltrations are like abortions /../ You don’t need one unless something’s gone wrong."

  23. 5 out of 5

    Roger

    Argo recounts a fascinating bit of history-the rescue of six Americans from Iran during the hostage crisis of 1980. I was fourteen at the time-but of course the events depicted in Argo were classified and the real story was not revealed until many years later. This is a thrilling tale, full of secrets and spies. I delighted in the fact that the cover story invented to smuggle these six Americans out of Iran was that of a film company scouting for locations to film Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light-a Argo recounts a fascinating bit of history-the rescue of six Americans from Iran during the hostage crisis of 1980. I was fourteen at the time-but of course the events depicted in Argo were classified and the real story was not revealed until many years later. This is a thrilling tale, full of secrets and spies. I delighted in the fact that the cover story invented to smuggle these six Americans out of Iran was that of a film company scouting for locations to film Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light-a favorite book by a favorite author. The production sketches for that fictional film ("Argo") were drawn by Jack Kirby, who famously co-created The X-Men, the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, and others for Marvel Comics. It's the little things. Speaking of little things there are insights galore about spycraft scattered throughout Argo-definitely worth a read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Aliaq8

    WOW! what an ego this man has. the whole story was like.. i did this.. i did that.. i was right.. i .. i .. i.. no one else's story had a chance in his book. I wish i listened to my friend and watched the movie instead.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Joanne Preisser

    Really interesting. Focus was different than the movie. The movie mostly centered around the dramatic tension of the embassy staffers' escape from Iran. (Not surprisingly, apparently a lot of those events, like the almost-missed call to the Studio Six productions office and the Iranian guards chase of the plane down the runway, were made up for the movie). The book gave a lot more background about the operations of the CIA's technical/disguise divisions and then how they prepared for the exfiltr Really interesting. Focus was different than the movie. The movie mostly centered around the dramatic tension of the embassy staffers' escape from Iran. (Not surprisingly, apparently a lot of those events, like the almost-missed call to the Studio Six productions office and the Iranian guards chase of the plane down the runway, were made up for the movie). The book gave a lot more background about the operations of the CIA's technical/disguise divisions and then how they prepared for the exfiltration of the staffers.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lil

    I have to stop reading books by men who think they are Very Very Important. While the account of The Guests' escape from the embassy and life in hiding was interesting, the humble bragging by Mendez was unbearable. And of course there's this gem: “Exfiltrations are like abortions," I said. "You don't need one unless something's gone wrong. If you need one, don't try to do it yourself. We can give you a nice, clean job.” He even admitted that the audience for this lovely bon mot was shocked, but se/>“Exfiltrations I have to stop reading books by men who think they are Very Very Important. While the account of The Guests' escape from the embassy and life in hiding was interesting, the humble bragging by Mendez was unbearable. And of course there's this gem: “Exfiltrations are like abortions," I said. "You don't need one unless something's gone wrong. If you need one, don't try to do it yourself. We can give you a nice, clean job.” He even admitted that the audience for this lovely bon mot was shocked, but seemed to think it was because he was oh! so! bold! and not because he was a disgusting sexist. Yup, really need to avoid books written by men from here on out.

  27. 4 out of 5

    thewanderingjew

    Antonio Mendez originally planned to be an artist. He put his skill to work at the CIA where he became Chief of Disguise, worldwide, at the age of 33, and shortly after, he was promoted to Chief of Authentication. He used his skills to exfiltrate compromised agents, informers and operatives. He created scenarios, new identities and documents, for people in desperate need of rescue. He was good at what he did. He was good at most everything he tried. He built a home, created paintings, and was a Antonio Mendez originally planned to be an artist. He put his skill to work at the CIA where he became Chief of Disguise, worldwide, at the age of 33, and shortly after, he was promoted to Chief of Authentication. He used his skills to exfiltrate compromised agents, informers and operatives. He created scenarios, new identities and documents, for people in desperate need of rescue. He was good at what he did. He was good at most everything he tried. He built a home, created paintings, and was a family man, while at the same time he was an excellent undercover agent within the system. When the American Embassy in Teheran was overrun by militant students and hostages were taken, six employees were able to sneak out and get away before they could be captured. They wandered around seeking refuge and finally were given safe harbor by the Canadians. After being hidden for three months in the Ambassador’s home, time was running out. News of their escape was out and it was only a matter of time until it would be made public, possibly making their capture imminent, the treatment of the other hostages worse and creating an international incident for Canada. Mendez was in charge of the mission to rescue the Americans. They needed a cover story in order to be able to fly out of Iran without being recognized and detained. He originated the idea of making the movie, Argo, in Iran, in order to smuggle them out. Credible personas and plausible disguises had to be invented for all of them. He had to change mild mannered diplomats into flashy Hollywood personalities and himself into a Hollywood producer. When Mendez arrived in Iran to meet them, he had no idea if he could pull it off. He had no idea if they would be able to accomplish all they had to in order to escape, but he laid out the plan and helped to train them in their new incarnations as brash, outgoing Hollywood personalities. They had to look and carry themselves differently, and they had to really become that person in only a matter of hours, playing the part realistically in order to pass the checkpoints and be able to board the plane that would take them to freedom and safety. After the rescue, Mendez was promoted to full colonel and over the years, he received many additional honors, even though they were not made public because operations of the CIA are clandestine and kept secret. There are many unsung heroes working there. Until the 50th anniversary of the CIA, when it became public, no one really knew the truth about what took place or who was really responsible for the success of the operation to free the Americans in hiding. It was not easy to come up with a plan that would work, but ultimately, Mendez did and he pulled it off.. The book is really exciting. Mendez has smuggled out other operatives and defectors, and he describes several of these missions. They were dangerous and harrowing. When he left his family for a mission, it was a wrenching moment. He never knew if he would return safely. Mendez, a mild mannered and rather ordinary looking man, was a courageous and dedicated secret agent, not in the manner of James Bond, but in the manner of an operative who had to fade into the crowd so as not to be noticed, an operative dedicated and loyal to his country. Mendez was a highly successful secret agent.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    I heard about this book before the movie but ended up seeing the movie before reading the book. Because of this, I already knew a lot about what to expect in here: the author traveling to Iran in a disguise, planning to smuggle six Americans out of the country by having them pose as part of a film crew, while the extremely tense hostage situation at the American embassy continued. While the book and movie were very similar (and both excellent), there were definitely notable difference I heard about this book before the movie but ended up seeing the movie before reading the book. Because of this, I already knew a lot about what to expect in here: the author traveling to Iran in a disguise, planning to smuggle six Americans out of the country by having them pose as part of a film crew, while the extremely tense hostage situation at the American embassy continued. While the book and movie were very similar (and both excellent), there were definitely notable differences, and I enjoyed them each for their own merits. The first few chapters really set the stage and, as such, had some stilted dialogue that made me wonder how gripping the book as a whole would be. Once the situation in Iran started deteriorating, I became engrossed. The author clearly had quite a fascinating career during his time in the CIA, and throughout the book, he provides examples of work he'd previously done and the lessons learned that would help in this situation. I really enjoyed reading these asides because it provided context and also gave me a better appreciation and understanding for this sort of work. Although some details about this operation could not be shared (the author notes that certain techniques are still classified), the lengths gone to in order to make this operation a success were amazing to read about. At times, some of the information (such as the details about which embassy employees were where) was almost too much, as there were a lot of names and not everyone continued to be particularly relevant to the story. However, anyone looking for an exciting read about a real operation should enjoy this book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    I've had this book in my possession for a year and a half now. I originally bought it right around the time I first saw the movie and in anticipation of reading it while cruise-bound in the Caribbean. It never happened. So it languished on my shelf until I finally picked it back up last month. I don't know why I waited, it's a really good book. Antonio Mendez is a real CIA operative. He has worked in covert ops for a while creating false documents and IDs for agents in the field as w I've had this book in my possession for a year and a half now. I originally bought it right around the time I first saw the movie and in anticipation of reading it while cruise-bound in the Caribbean. It never happened. So it languished on my shelf until I finally picked it back up last month. I don't know why I waited, it's a really good book. Antonio Mendez is a real CIA operative. He has worked in covert ops for a while creating false documents and IDs for agents in the field as well as for himself and then moved into costumes and makeups to back up those documents. In 1979, he received the orders to create an entire plan to exfiltrate six "houseguests" in hiding under the watch of the Canadian embassy in Tehran, Iran. With the help of Hollywood, Mendez and his team went to work. Most people know the story because of the film of the same name that came out in 2012 directed by and starring Ben Affleck. But there are extreme differences primarily involving the participation of the Canadian government, which is really only glossed over (at best) in the movie. If you want the real story, insofar as declassified documents will allow, check the book out. It's a quick, but engrossing, read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lisa B.

    My Thoughts The debate I always have when dealing with a book-to-movie situation is this - do I read the book first and then see the movie? See the movie first and then read the book? Maybe read the book while trying to watch the movie?!?!?!?! Since I really want to see the movie, I decided that I would read the book first and I am so glad I did. While I remember the Iran hostage crisis, I have to honestly say I had no idea that six people had escaped being taken hostage an My Thoughts The debate I always have when dealing with a book-to-movie situation is this - do I read the book first and then see the movie? See the movie first and then read the book? Maybe read the book while trying to watch the movie?!?!?!?! Since I really want to see the movie, I decided that I would read the book first and I am so glad I did. While I remember the Iran hostage crisis, I have to honestly say I had no idea that six people had escaped being taken hostage and where hiding out with the help of some folks with the Canadian embassy (THANK YOU CANADA!!!!). This book reviewed the time period leading up to the hostage crisis, which was very helpful in understanding the circumstances under which the six Americans in hiding where trying to survive. Americans where not being held in kind regards and neither was anyone who was perceived as trying to help them. The author gave quite a bit of background regarding espionage and exfiltrations. It was quite an undertaking to make this a successful operation and I found the story to be very entertaining. Many thanks to Penguin Group USA, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review. Publish date: September 17, 2012.

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