Categories
History

Daniel Cordier, French Resistance Hero (1920 – 2020)

Alan Cowell writing in The New York Times:

[Cordier] had been shocked to see German soldiers photographing one another at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. But as he headed toward a covert encounter with a fellow operative at a cafe on the Champs Élysées, he was even more stunned to see an old Jewish man and a child with yellow stars on their overcoats.

“The shock of this vision plunges me into an unbearable shame,” he wrote in the memoir, “Alias Caracalla.”

At first he wanted to rush up to the people he saw and embrace them to seek forgiveness, he wrote. At that moment, though, he recognized, walking toward him, the operative he was scheduled to meet. It was an epiphany: “His presence leads me back to reality: I am not in Paris to care for my conscience.”

Categories
History Audiobooks

‘An Officer and a Spy’

Before listening to An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris, I knew only the broad outline of the Dreyfus Affair, a political scandal that divided France from from 1894 until 1906. The twists and turns during this 12-year period are amazing and exciting. It is sometimes hard to believe this all really happened. Émile Zola’s 1898 open letter to the President of France accusing the French government of antisemitism was bold and courageous.

This is historical fiction but Robert Harris’s writing is based upon through research. The book has a lot of detail which added to my enjoyment. As a result of this detail, I felt as though I was actually in France.

I enjoyed learning about an important chapter of French history filled with intrigue. The ending is amazing and left me wanting more, despite the length of the audiobook — a little over 16 hours.

The audiobook is narrated by David Rintoul, an accomplished Scottish actor. His intonation and pronunciation are exceptional and added greatly to my enjoyment of the audiobook.

Categories
Podcasts

‘Intelligence Matters’

Since 2017, the Intelligence Matters podcast has provided an in-depth insider look into the intelligence community. The host of the podcast is Michael Morell, who served as the acting Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) first in 2011 and then from 2012 to 2013. Morell was by President Bush’s side on September 11, 2001 when terrorists struck America and in the White House Situation Room advising President Obama on May 1, 2011 when America struck back-killing Usama bin Ladin.

Central Intelligence Agency, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Morell interviews top leaders of the U.S. intelligence community as they reflect on their lives, careers and the roles they play in shaping national security policies.

Past guests have included former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, John Miller, Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism at the New York Police Department and former National Security Agency (NSA) and CIA Director General Mike Hayden. What results is a conversation between two people with deep knowledge of the intelligence community.

Before podcasting, interviews like this would not have been available to the general public. Morell is a skilled interviewer. While no secrets can be revealed, listeners learn how those in the intelligence community approach national security issues and how they advise the country’s top leadership, including the President. It’s an eye opening experience.

Morell is the author of “The Great War of Our Time: The CIA’s Fight Against Terrorism–From al Qa’ida to ISIS” and is now a CBS News national security contributor.

iTunes

Podcast Webpage

Categories
Podcasts TV Series

TV Series: ‘The Americans’

There aren’t many TV shows I miss long after they end. The Americans is one of them. Even though the series ended in 2018, I still miss the anticipation of the next episode.

The Americans is an American television period drama series created and produced by former CIA officer Joe Weisberg. It premiered in the United States in 2013 on the FX network and concluded after six seasons and 75 wonderful episodes.

The Americans is about the marriage of two KGB spies posing as Americans in suburban Washington D.C. shortly after Ronald Reagan is elected President. The series centers around the arranged marriage of Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell), who have two children – 14-year-old Paige (Holly Taylor) and 12-year-old Henry (Keidrich Sellati). The children don’t know about the true identity of their parents. The spies live next door to Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich), an FBI agent working in counterintelligence. From there it gets complicated.

This is one of the best TV shows I’ve ever seen. What makes it special is the interplay between the spying and what’s going in the family of the Russian spies and the family of the FBI agent next door. In the end, I was more interested in the personal relationships than I was the spying. I easily connected with the relationship issues.

The relationship between the more practical Philip and the rule-following Elizabeth makes for some fascinating issues. Keri Russell’s beauty enters the plot in many different ways. The spying was just plain fun to watch, partly because of the now dated technology of the the era (the 1980s) in which the series takes place.

The New York Times said “The Americans” is “one of those rare series that actually has gotten better every season.”

If you want insider information about the show, Slate has a podcast about the show featuring cast, crew and creators.

Categories
Movies

‘Möbius’

I loved the French TV series “The Bureau” (“Le Bureau des Légendes”) created by Éric Rochant. I’ve started exploring Rochant’s other work hoping for similar entertainment.

Rochant wrote and directed a 2013 spy film called “Möbius” starring Jean Dujardin and the stunningly beautiful Belgian actress Cécile de France.

Dujardin portrayed George Valentin in the 2011 award-winning silent movie “The Artist”. Dujardin won numerous awards for that work including the Academy Award for Best Actor. That was the first time a French actor won that award.

Rochant relies on familiar actors in both “The Bureau” and “Möbius.” Brad Leland portrays a senior CIA official both in both pieces. And the wonderful Ukrainian actor Aleksey Gorbunov, who plays Karlov in seasons 4 and 5 of “The Bureau,” plays a similar role in “Möbius.”

So if you can’t get enough of “The Bureau”, check out Möbius. “Möbius” isn’t in the same league as “The Bureau” but it’s an enjoyable spy story filled with intrigue and romance.

Categories
TV Series

‘The Honourable Woman’

The Honourable Woman’ is a 2014 British political spy thriller miniseries in eight parts. It was directed and written by Hugo Blick for the BBC and SundanceTV.

Maggie Gyllenhaal is the beautiful, immaculately dressed star of the series. She portrays Nessa Stein, a London heiress whose father was a big-time arms manufacturer and Zionist. Gyllenhaal, an American, does a convincing job of portraying an English woman.

Most of Nessa’s family perished in the Holocaust. She and her older brother, Ephra (Andrew Buchan), are dual citizens of Israel and Britain. On top of this, their mother died in childbirth and their father was murdered in front of their eyes in Jerusalem when they were young children.

The story includes the Holocaust, the Arab-Israeli conflict, kidnapping, rape, chronic trauma and high stakes philanthropy and investment.

The New York Times called the series a “smart, moodily complex thriller” and a “lavish homage to John le Carré.”

I had to watch the series more than once to follow all the twists and turns and loved every minute.