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The Wolf and the Watchman: A Father, a Son, and the CIAby Scott C. Johnson
Synopses & Reviews
Growing up, Scott C. Johnson always suspected that his father was different. Only as a teenager did he discover the truth: his father was a spy, one of the CIA’s most trusted officers. At first the secret was thrilling. But over time Scott began to have doubts. How could a man so rigorously trained to deceive and manipulate simply turn off those skills at home? His father had been living a double life for so long that his lies were hard to separate from the truth.
When Scott embarked on a career as a foreign correspondent, he found himself returning to many of the troubled countries of his youth. In the dusty streets of Pakistan and Afghanistan, amid the cold urbanity of Yugoslavia, and down the mysterious alleys of Mexico City, he came face to face with his father’s murky past — and his own complicity in it. Scott learned that his chosen profession was not so different from his father’s: they both worked to gain people’s trust and to uncover their secrets. The only difference was what they did with that information.
In the aftermath of 9/11, father and son found themselves on assignment in Afghanistan and the Middle East, one as a CIA contractor, the other as a reporter for Newsweek. Suddenly, an unsettled Scott was forced to keep his father’s secret all over again. As their professional lives collided, Scott and his father inched toward a personal reckoning, struggling to overcome a lifetime of suspicion and deception.
The Wolf and the Watchman is a provocative, meditative account of truth and duplicity, of manipulation and loyalty. It is also a moving, intensely personal portrait of a bond between father and son that endured in the shadow of one of the world’s most secretive and unforgiving institutions.
"A beautifully written memoir, and a cautionary tale about double lives....I couldn’t put this book down." Robert Baer, former CIA case officer and author of See No Evil
"Scott Johnson has written a fine book of unusual honesty; he grapples with the nature of his beloved father’s secret life and the profound consequences it has had in his own. This is an extraordinary story, astonishingly well-told." Jon Lee Anderson, author of Che Guevara
"A mesmerizing book...beautifully written, deeply moving, and compulsively readable." David Finkel, author of The Good Soldiers
"Brave and memorable...a rare glimpse into the private life of a spy that digs into the love, lies, and ambiguities between father and son." Megan Stack, author of Every Man in This Village Is a Liar
"An aching, lyrical father-son story of the spy world that is dark and intriguing." Evan Thomas, author of The War Lover
"This stunning memoir could be ripped from the pages of a John le Carré novel....A fascinating and important book by one of the great American foreign correspondents of his generation." Michael Hastings, author of The Operators
A moving father-son account — part family memoir, part spy story — that runs from the Cold War to the War on Terror.
When Scott C. Johnson was fourteen, his dad took him to work. In a parking lot in Detroit, Johnson was told the truth: his father was a spy for the CIA. At first, the thrill of the secret dazzled him. But as the years passed, the constant deception led to tension and distrust within the family. Johnson distanced himself from his father, embarking on a career as a war correspondent committed to uncovering the truth wherever and whenever he could. Yet that same choice pushed him inexorably back toward his father. In Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yugoslavia, and Mexico City, Johnson came face-to-face with his father’s murky past, while his own work in the present intersected with his father’s new duties as a CIA contractor. The result is a stirring narrative of a father and son’s confrontation, separation, and reconciliation, set in the shadow of one of the world’s most secretive institutions.
About the Author
Scott C. Johnson was a Newsweek foreign correspondent for twelve years, often providing exclusive war reporting from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other fronts in the Middle East. He is now a freelance journalist and writer living in Oakland, California.
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