The author of the critically acclaimed best seller Wild Bill Donovan tells the story of four OSS warriors of World War II. All four later led the CIA.
They are the most famous and controversial directors the CIA has ever had - Allen Dulles, Richard Helms, William Colby, and William Casey. Disciples is the story of these dynamic agents and their daring espionage and sabotage in wartime Europe under OSS Director Bill Donovan.
Allen Dulles ran the OSS' most successful spy operation against the Axis. Bill Casey organized dangerous missions to penetrate Nazi Germany. Bill Colby led OSS commando raids behind the lines in occupied France and Norway. Richard Helms mounted risky intelligence programs against the Russians in the ruin of Berlin after the German surrender.
Four very different men, they later led (or misled) the successor CIA. Dulles launched the calamitous operation to land CIA-trained, anti-Castro guerrillas at Cuba's Bay of Pigs. Helms was convicted of lying to Congress over the CIA's role in the coup that ousted Chile's president. Colby would become a pariah for releasing to Congress what became known as the "Family Jewels" report on CIA misdeeds during the 1950s, '60s and early '70s. Casey would nearly bring down the CIA - and Ronald Reagan's presidency - from a scheme that secretly supplied Nicaragua's contras with money raked off from the sale of arms to Iran for American hostages in Beirut.
Mining thousands of once-secret World War II documents and interviewing scores of family members and CIA colleagues, Waller has written a brilliant successor to Wild Bill Donovan.
Would you listen to Disciples again? Why?
I actually have listened to several sections a few times, just to make sure I have all the characters right. And there are so many intriguing personalities going on here. To think this was real! This would make a great espionage film! Jason Bourne for reals, kids!
Who was your favorite character and why?
The author has so skillfully profiles every one of the young men who volunteered for Wild Bill Donovan's fledgling espionage ring, known as the OSS. I think my favorite might be Richard Helms, who was a gawky guy, too tall, too thin, too unhealthy. No branch of the military wanted him. But he persevered and ended up finding his stride in the OSS. So many of the members of this legendary group were rich or handsome-or both! Dick Helms is kind of the geeky guy you want to root for.
What about George Newbern’s performance did you like?
Great books can be ruined by poor narrative skills. Happy to say that George Newbern did a great job. He was so pleasant to my ear, in fact, that I found myself pausing to look him up, to see what else he's read. If I see his name under "Narrated by" for any future book purchases...well, that's a strong recommendation!
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
I like this book so much, I'm reviewing it before even getting half-way through. But so far, what I find really touching is how all the players were eager to give up their own lives in order to fight the Nazis. We were losing the war and a lot of it had to do with the lack of solid espionage skills. These guys helped to change the direction of the war.
Any additional comments?
In the vein of truly great historic tomes such as SEABISCUIT, UNBROKEN, and BOYS IN THE BOAT, this is a deeply researched, well-crafted book that keeps you turning the page as you get to know--and cheer--for the men who became the OSS, the precursor to the CIA. Whether you like spycraft, or just love a good history book, this is a winner.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
One of the best books on the beginning of the modern United States intelligence service and the men who by different paths came to lead the CIA.
It is a must read for those who are interested in intelligence and history.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Would you consider the audio edition of Disciples to be better than the print version?
I have mixed feelings about whether the audio edition is better than the print edition since there are a lot of names and places throughout this book. This is a history text that I felt would have been useful to have some written notes so the printed version would have helped, but the audio edition made the book easier to get through. I probably would have given up on the printed version.
What was one of the most memorable moments of Disciples?
I couldn't really pick a moment of this book that was really memorable for me. There was just a lot of information in this book that taught me about the OSS and CIA that I didn't know before so I couldn't really pick just one moment. I found it really interesting how all the agents were found and chosen; even though they weren't the brawny, athletic type of men one sees in the spy movies they were chose for their intelligence and abilities.
What does George Newbern bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
George Newbern brings a certain calmness to the book that made me want to continue reading. In truth, I probably would have given up on the print version if it wasn't for his voice. I was able to listen to him for long periods of time.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
Even though I could listen to George Newbern for long periods of time, this wasn't one of those books that I could finish in one setting because of how long it is. It would be super easy to tone this book out if a person listened for too long.
What didn’t you like about George Newbern’s performance?
If he said M-16 instead of MI-6 one more time I was going to lose it. There was a slew of mispronounced words and the variance of his reading varied greatly from chapter to chapter.
Do you think Disciples needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?
No, it was a follow up already.
A good history of the CIA, from the OSS era through the Bay of Pigs.
A well written glimpse behind the veil of history, espionage and sabotage. Shadowy characters brought into the light and revealed to be loyal patriots whether you agree with their decisions and actions or not.