By Lindsay Moran.
I've never heard of this "national bestseller" before, but it's exactly what Fair Game was trying to be. I don't know how Lindsay Moran apparently managed to stay on the good side of the CIA to not have her entire damn book redacted, but it looks like her material was left alone. And hoo boy, is this a potent, addicting book. I sped through this, fascinated and horrified. Seriously, you will never, ever daydream of being a CIA "agent"* again, because it sounds HIDEOUS and depressing most of the time.
* note: agents are the foreign nationals recruited to spy for our government, what you think of as agents are really "case officers" who are just there to recruit you. Makes me wonder what the hell Michael Westen has been up to all these years.
In the late 90's, Lindsay Moran thought getting a job with the CIA would be awesome. After hopping around through some jobs after graduation and spending a lot of time in her beloved Bulgaria, she finally applies for good at age 26. She takes hideous polygraph tests, gets a lot of shit for having a Bulgarian boyfriend (there are whopping double standards with the CIA and women having relationships versus men, she points out), and pretty much goes through a lot of hell. Eventually she goes to "The Farm," the infamous CIA training zone, and the scenes set there are quite scary. Sometimes I was completely amazed at the people that the CIA was actually trying to hire--specifically a fellow called Warren, who has one of the biggest cases of "loose lips sink ships" I've ever seen. I assume he failed out of The Farm at some point (the author declines to mention whatever happens to him), but that he was there so long in the first place is flabbergasting.
The author makes it clear that most of CIA work sucks. You can't ever tell what it is that you do (even though let's face it, sometimes it's easy to guess), you are pretty much entirely cut off from your friends and family and are forbidden to see them most of the time, and even when you're not forbidden, they make it incredibly difficult. Lindsay does like to date Bulgarian men, which is not a career booster. She has to ask permission for that sort of thing...which tends to be granted after the fellow visiting has been AND gone. She's incredibly alone, can't tell anyone who she is or what she does, and that's kicking in long before she even leaves the country for work. When you disappear without a trace and no way to be contacted for months on end, how can you have anyone in your life? You can't, which is why there's a lot of inter-Agency marriages...and divorces. Since Lindsay's not interested in dating her coworkers, she's pretty much starving for people 24/7 and can't have them. When she does finally meet a good American dude, she can't even start dating him before she heads out of the country for years.
You will also be amazed at the training. On the one hand, it is incredibly hardcore training, and Lindsay--a girl who goes rock climbing in her previous life/spare time--is all "Yippee, I get to jump out of a plane and get paid for it!" But there's plenty of scenarios they set up that are pants-wetting, and they dock you for every little thing. And at times, I was totally shocked at how...shoddy....things could be sometimes. The trainers can be dubious or sexist (mostly the latter), the policies are crazy, and the demands on Lindsay are harsh. While she's apparently regarded as a good case officer once she finally graduates from The Farm--and being "good" at that job means nothing but getting a lot of foreign recruits to tell you bullshit for money, I guess--she's pretty well disgusted as to what she has to do and how little of a payoff it seems to have.
By the time 9/11 happens and the CIA is left flatfooted, Lindsay wants to throw herself into her work more than ever....but the CIA is oddly uninterested in busting terrorists at that time. Between that and her general level of burnout and wanting to be able to see her family and friends and have a boyfriend, it's no shocker when Lindsay finally hits her limit and quits. And good for her, I say. This is a compelling story and I'm amazed that she was allowed to tell the general public this much information. (I feel like a lot of what Valerie Plame said has been filled in--plus I now know they do southern cooking at The Farm.) You won't want to join the CIA by the time you finish it, but you'll be glad you know what they actually do, for good and for ill.
I give it four stars. However, I did find a review from a former case officer who couldn't stand it, so...well, you may want to read an expert opinion on it as well. Up to you.