cover image Very Best Men

Very Best Men

Evan Thomas / Author Simon & Schuster $27.5 (432p) ISBN 978-0-

Following his 1951 appointment as chief of the CIA's operations arm, Frank Wisner recruited two Harvard-trained Wall Street lawyers, Desmond FitzGerald and Tracy Barnes, and a Yale economics professor, Richard Bissell, to build the agency's clandestine service, later known as the ``department of dirty tricks.'' Coming from similar backgrounds, they shared the same values and were passionately committed to standing up to the Soviet challenge with covert action. In this excellent group biography, Thomas (The Man to See), assistant managing editor and bureau chief at Newsweek, describes how they waged their secret war boldly, sometimes recklessly, and reveals how each was caught between his own sense of decency and the harsh dictates of his trade. In their roles in the Bay of Pigs fiasco, the agency's involvement with the Mafia and the bizarre attempts to get rid of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, they were unable to reconcile themselves to the moral ambiguities of the job. Thomas is the first outsider to be given access to the CIA's own secret histories, and there is much new material here on agency operations, especially in relation to Cuba. First serial to Civilization. (Oct.)