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Good Hunting: An American Spymaster's Story

3.50  ·  Rating details ·  657 ratings  ·  71 reviews
"A sophisticated, deeply informed account of real life in the real CIA that adds immeasurably to the public understanding of the espionage culture—the good and the bad." —Bob Woodward

Jack Devine ran Charlie Wilson's War in Afghanistan. It was the largest covert action of the Cold War, and it was Devine who put the brand-new Stinger missile into the hands of the mujahideen
ebook, 336 pages
Published June 3rd 2014 by Sarah Crichton Books (first published June 4th 2013)
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Tom LA
Apr 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"A spy who funneled Stingers to the mujahedeen, helped hunt drug lord Pablo Escobar, and managed the turncoat Aldrich Ames", The WSJ.

Fascinating book, with great historic value, and written in a straight-shooter no bs tone that perfectly resonates with me, especially after having read "The brothers" by Kinzer, about the Dulles brothers, a book that provides a very different perspective on the CIA's history and modus operandi.

Jack Devine covered many crucial CIA leadership roles over 32 years,
May 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Jack Devine has written a memoir of service in Washington that is refreshingly free of score settling and politics. The CIA tends to be a Rorschach test in American politics today; however Good Hunting is a reminder that the best government employees are apolitical. Good Hunting is also a very honest book, both of successes of the CIA as well as it's failures. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in American history of the 70's through today. ...more
Dec 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
Jack Devine was a long time CIA employee. He began his career in Chile shortly before the coup that overthrew the democratically elected Marxist government of Salvador Allende. It was not the CIA's proudest moment. Reading this book reminded me of many dishonorable past activities of America's premier clandestine organization, namely the Iran-Contra affair, enhanced interrogation techniques otherwise known as torture, supporting murderous right wing dictatorships in Central America. Apparently t ...more
Spencer Rich
Oct 02, 2014 rated it it was ok
Mildly interesting, but despite constantly insisting on his neutrality, the guy comes off as a right-wing douche. I mean, there's absolutely no excuse for what happened in Chile, for one thing. This is definitely not a Hopscotch-esque tell-all. ...more
Roberta Havel
Sep 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have read a lot of books about US intelligence agencies but I have never read one that discussed the inner workings and spy craft of the CIA as vividly as Good Hunting. The beginning 2/3rds of the book was almost like reading an educational spy thriller. The last third was a lot drier and more policy oriented.

I highly recommend that memoir lovers and national security wonks read Good Hunting to learn about the true inner workings of US intelligence operations
Dec 09, 2014 rated it it was ok
Devine has some interesting anecdotes and insights into how the CIA does and does not function. His writing style is overly stilted, but the more fatal flaw here is the lack of real depth of analysis or criticism of the CIA. In Devine's world, the CIA is inherently good, and the bad things it has done are the result of a few bad apples or interference from other government agencies. His discussion of some issues sometimes seems disingenuous and shows a tribal loyalty to the CIA - in discussing t ...more
Oct 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, nonfiction
This is the memoir of the Deputy Director of Operations at the CIA during the 1990’s after a long career that started in the 1960’s. Heck, it would be cool to be a CIA officer. Devine writes in a folksy style and makes the job seem like any old job: meet interesting people, try to figure out if they hate America, fill out a bunch of paperwork, yada, yada, yada.

This book contains a trunkload of interesting vignettes and things you never consider about the CIA and what they call “spycraft”. In th
Oct 28, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: audiobooks
I am not sure I can imagine why with book was published. I am not sure what it was even about. I got the sense it was a veiled attempted to support the validity of the CIA generally and its funding and then specifically focused on supporting CIA operations in Afghanistan as the United States begins to withdraw. Either Devine's CIA career was painfully unremarkable, or he kept all the juicy details for his death bed confessional and gave us 336 pages of vague, mildly interesting history of CIA sc ...more
Mar 06, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
Reminds me of the Robert Gates book Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War... Yet another middle man functionary that never did anything noteworthy, but did make enough friends to build a successful consultancy for his life after public service.

If you want a truly fascinating tale, I highly recommend Pete Early's Confessions of a Spy about double agent Aldrich Ames. Very well written and much more interesting.
Rudolph T. Gordon
Mar 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not just war stories

This book avoids the"gee whiz" aspects of spying and emphasizes the rationale for spying. This is both a strength and a weakness. I, for one, enjoy learning about the personalities of those who become traitors to their country. This book doesn't cover the psychology of the traitor in much detail. On the other hand,the author goes into great detail about the structure of the CIA and the administration of the agency. It was well written with an extensive bibliography. I just wi
Mark Martella
Nov 27, 2014 rated it it was ok
Jack Devine is a knucklehead; don't waist your time..... ...more
It really is a memoir, which is to say, it kind of rambles on through the CIA career and post-CIA work of a case officer who rose to become a moderately senior leader within the Agency. It doesn't have the swashbuckling Western-style breathless narration of some of the works more tightly focused on one event or country. It also doesn't have the high-level sweep of some other works more focused on leadership or policy. Instead, it takes the reader on a journey with Jack Devine and his career. He ...more
Ross Nelson
Nov 02, 2020 rated it liked it
Jack Devine is a true believer. You won't find anything negative about the CIA here. Late in the book he says, "A spymaster's life...demands a highly compartmentalized mind ... [who] must undertake foreign-policy-directed covert the uncomfortable gray area of morality."

You will find no analysis of morality in his writings. Everything the CIA does is done at the request of the president, therefore it is appropriate. If the president suggests "regime change," then regime change it is.
Aug 20, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am sure that I should not be surprised that this look into the CIA was told in a somewhat self-serving manner, ie, "the Church Committee got it wrong," but there were some nuggets of insight that might serve at some point in the future to inform our history. Perhaps authors who can't freely tell their story (in this case for security reasons), then they should not tell that story. But I suspect that Devine is moved to tell his altruistic reasons, then finds that he can't because of these secur ...more
Jun 04, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I like reading about real spies. The people who work in the shadows, who if you saw them on the street wouldn't seem out of place. Kind of boring. Which makes the best spy, one who doesn't stick out in their assigned environment. No James Bond here. Real stories about gathering information and working ops during more than 25 years at the CIA.

Some of the stories here are really good. Chile, Afganistan against the Soviets, Rome, with touches on Iran/Contra & the mole inside, Richard Ames. The auth
Feb 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
When it comes to understanding how the CIA operatives do things, it's better to learn from the people who did it. That's what the book is all about where we get to know all the things that Jack Devine did while he was still in CIA. Not only we get to know all the missions that he got involved while he was with CIA, but we also get to know how CIA works from inside-out from his point of view.

The first few chapters are filled with him talking about his experience while he was on the oversea assign
Kursad Albayraktaroglu
Nov 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: espionage
Jack Devine was a CIA intelligence officer who was a witness to (and sometimes participant in) some of the significant events of the Cold War - he crossed paths with a young Aldrich Ames (perhaps the worst CIA traitor in the history of the agency) in the beginning of his career, he was in Chile during the tumultuous events that shook that country, and he was instrumental in arming the Afghan mujaheeden with Stinger missiles which eventually drove the Soviets away. While the book mostly stands c ...more
This was more 3.5 stars. Jack Devine started his covert CIA career training reading Soviet cables with the infamous Aldrich “Rick” Ames before his first mission in Chile in 1972 before retiring in 1998. What’s very clear here is that he is a government official—many parts are repetitive, have entirely too many extraneous details, and at the same time, have too many details left out (some for obvious reasons, others it’s hard to say). He talks about his work in Chile, Haiti, Afghanistan with the ...more
Justen Manni
Jack Devine is a distinguished CIA Officer with a track of accomplishments. The earlier party of the book was very interesting and it wasn’t too technical, especially on the Chile and Iran-Contra issues. While I enjoyed the book throughly it seems that most of his work could have been censored, I didn’t get any of the deep analysis of CIA such as their methodology of trainings and reconnaissance methods etc which I would had enjoyed.
David Barol
Jan 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Good Hunting not only tells the life story of one of America’s greatest public servants, but it gives the inside look at a lot of US History over a thirty year period. Sometimes what you think is true turns out not be, when you can learn from those who helped make the history happen. This book is a must read for anyone concerned with America’s place in the world and what we must do to maintain it.

Dec 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Great book focusing on a Case Officers rise through the ranks of CIA, from regime change operations in South America to the arming of Afghan Mujahideen to the Global War on Terror. Focuses on “good” v “bad” covert action, the importance of Intelligence Oversight, and the glut of the IC through GWOT. Attack transnational issues on the demand-side rather than the supply-side (drugs, terrorism).
Vinayak Malik
Apr 04, 2018 rated it liked it
A bit slanted but a rundown of all the greatest hits of the CIA. By a person who was actually there. Little light on op details though
Fiona McLaughlin
Jan 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
A very American book from an American point of view.

I didn't learn anything new about the CIA or its operations.
Tim Duff
Apr 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Very detailed book of Jack Devine's career in the CIA. Excellent insight on how the intelligence community works and recommendations for the future. ...more
Apr 18, 2020 rated it liked it
Some good history on the CIA, but Mr. Devine brags a bit too much.
Joseph R
Apr 12, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Great read covering a unique perspective from a career insider with the CIA. A binge worthy book to pass a weekend!
John Braddock
Jan 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
A spy’s career is tied to history. From the 1970s through mid-1990s, Jack Devine worked in the trenches of major historical moments. He was a young case officer in Chile during the Pinochet coup. He touched on the Iran-Contra Affair. He worked to supply Charlie Wilson’s War in Afghanistan. He rose through the ranks and became Acting DDO, head of the Directorate of Operations.

Good Hunting is about those moments, their contexts, and the players in Devine’s career. Some of the book is about the str
Jan 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Devine would have readers believe that hardly any of the Stinger missiles went astray, but according to Steve Coll's Ghost Wars, thousands ended up on the market in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran, and the US spent as much money buying them back from throughout the region as they did on foreign aid to Afghanistan.

I know this is hardly a review, but it's just something that sticks in my mind as a wide discrepancy.
Sep 30, 2016 rated it it was ok
There were so many times where I didn't know where he was going with the book. He repeated over and over again that the CIA should be "less militarized operations and more espionage", which I am not against. But it wasn't clear how that should be done and I didn't feel he explained himself very well as to why (though I have opinions as to why, I wanted to hear his). How do you make that transition in the worlds current state? I would have been more apt to say, "Hey, this guy has an idea!" Instea ...more
Oct 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
I began downloading podcasts a few months ago, so as to be able to listen to something different while driving across vast swathes of the Snake River basin. One of the podcast sources was the America Spy Museum in Washington DC, who put out regular author debriefs with former spies and spymasters who have written of their experiences. It was one such that led me to Devine's book.

If you want the highlights, get the podcast. I think Devine did a great job of making his material sound very interest
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