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READERS CORNER: Laugther In The Shadows: A CIA Memoir

Saigon Kid Laurie Methven kindly shares this book her father wrote.

My Dad was CIA for over 27 years; of course I didn’t find out until I was a teenager. At any rate, he has written a book which is on the lighter side of the CIA called *Laughter in the Shadows* and Vietnam is one of the few countries he was allowed to publish the actual name which is bizarre – because the CIAs role was so controversial there.
The “agency” as we called it spent 10 years “editing” the book. I have the original manuscript which was about 350 pages, it was knocked down to about 165. By the time it was published (in 2008), my Dad was blind & couldn’t promote it.

While I’m obviously a tad biased, it still is neat book.

Laurie

If you’d like to read her father’s book it is available on Amazon. Click the book cover below to view it on Amazon.

| Laughter in the Shadows: A CIA Memoir

About the Author

Stuart Methven, a graduate of Amherst with a master’s degree from MIT, was a career officer in the CIA from 1952 to 1978. Later he owned and edited a weekly newspaper in West Virginia, consulted for the Hudson Institute, and served as assistant to the president of the Center for Naval Analyses. He currently lives in Brussels, Belgium.

Book Description

Publication Date: November 14, 2008

This memoir of a CIA operations officer captures the spirit of the early years of the Agency, a period sometimes described as its ‘finest hours.’ Using the alias ‘St. Martin,’ Stuart Methven served in the CIA from the 1950s through the 1970s. The book opens by describing the author’s training in the clandestine arts and subsequent assignment to Asia in a country he calls ‘Bushido.’ There he is involved in numerous operations, including one that takes him under the ocean, and earns his case officer’s ‘brevet.’ A nation-building program in ‘Cham’ follows, which begins well enough and includes his gaining a tribal leader’s confidence by parachuting badly needed supplies to his mountain village. It ends abruptly, however, with a coup d’etat and civil war that forces Methven’s evacuation, the first of several during his career.

His next assignment is in South Vietnam working to counter another budding insurgency. Methven spends four years in the mountain and delta provinces of Vietnam before being given a sabbatical for graduate work in international studies back in the states. After completing his studies, he returns to Southeast Asia as a deputy station chief with a focus on a large Soviet mission in Samudra and the recruitment of Soviet military officers. Promoted to station chief, his final assignment is in central Africa, where his station becomes center stage for a large covert operation that eventually involves the Soviets and Cubans. Glimpses of the CIA from the inside are rare, and Methven’s recollections of his experiences during a formative period in the Agency’s history will be of particular value to those with an interest in the CIA and international affairs and in spy stories.

Reader Review
By Rufus Phillips

A CIA Officer’s Vivid Account of his Covert Operations

Former CIA Case Officer Stuart Methven provides a fascinating and often hilarious account of his postings abroad, mainly in Southeast Asia but also in Africa. While obliged by the Agency’s censors to make up many of the personal names and locales, any one with a minimal knowledge of geography and Cold War history can easily figure out where the story is taking place and who most of the historical characters are. In this first hand story of covert operations readers will learn more about life abroad in the CIA than from any spy novel or more conventional accounts. This is the real stuff up close and personal, as Methven recounts his dealings with one unusual and sometimes bizarre situation after another. It is also a story from the era in which CIA case officers had more flexibility to use their imagination as well as common sense in pursuit of our country’s national interests before bureaucratic cement hardened in the Agency’s veins. Beyond laugh-out-loud vignettes there is a serious look underneath at both the victories and defeats of real life covert operations in the unglued atmosphere of the third world. One laments that the mold was probably broken on producing others like the author who brought to bear such an unusual degree of imagination, daring and sense of humor to the problems and opportunities he encountered. He has left us with an invaluable memoir whose vivid scenes remain in one’s mind long after reading his book.

Laurie, thank you for sharing your dad’s book with us.

Laughter in the Shadows: A CIA Memoir

As always, you are welcome to leave your comments below, Saigon Kids.

Rock Onnn …

Bob

2 comments to READERS CORNER: Laugther In The Shadows: A CIA Memoir

  • Laurie,

    The university where I teach is one of several dozen in my state’s system of universities, so I’m lucky to be able to search the consolidated library catalog for all their libraries … and one school has a copy of your father’s book … which I’ve now had sent to me, and I began reading it this afternoon. What fun! He’s a very good and entertaining writer.

    Here’s a burning question from my flipping ahead and reading about the Methven house in Saigon/Gia Dinh — I think your father’s too young to have served in the Army with the man for whom the pet boa constrictor was named (unless he served in post-war Japan), so was it possibly your grandfather Methven who served under that infamous and corpulent chief of staff?

    Wow! When I Google “Laughter in the Shadows” there sure are a lot of references to it. I think that’s another testimony to it being a good and interesting read.

  • Sandy Hanna

    Laurie -What years was he in Saigon? My father worked with a CIA man who had his office in the Brinks hotel in the basement. We were there 1960-1962. I will get the book, but thought I’d see if the years corresponded to our stay. Thanks. Sandy

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