Antiseptic and dull. The most authentic novel yet about newspaper journalismI ve been a reporter off and on my whole life, but my newspaper experience is minimal What I know is from having friends in the business who earnestly do their best, mainly in smaller papers.The collapse of print journalism has hastened since Ignatius wrote this book, so it has the sense of having been written by a visionary It is very real But I bought this in need of a fresh read in the high end spy genre And what I got was a wonderful two fer The intelligence community stuff is first rate, and the issues the protagonist must wrestle are, in a macrocosm, issues every weekly rag writer must handle, even If it s just the local cops I simply love this book and have actively recommended it to friends in the biz I also recommend it to you, the reader who wants a great spy tale. While In Paris, New York Mirror Reporter Eric Truell Lands The Scoop Of A Lifetime But When A Maverick CIA Agent Starts Leaking Explosive, Highly Sensitive Secrets To The Savvy Journalist, His Career SkyrocketsAs His Ties To The CIA Deepen, Truell Becomes Tangled In A Dark Web Of Espionage And Murder That Spans From Washington To BeijingUncovering Shattering Truths In A Realm Of Deceivers, And Even Shocking Lies In The World Of Journalism, Truell Will Make A Perfect Spy And An Even Better Victim In the US in the 1990s, a professional journalist working other jobs, especially those with government connections, was grounds for dismissal Interaction between journalists and the entities they are covering is the major thread of A FIRING OFFENSE In this book, it has gone so far that a respected journalist became a henchman for a foreign government, planting stories beneficial to that country into the newspaper.There are three primary threads in this story Corruption of governments and of journalists by foreign governments, competition between France and the US to secure a major telecommunications contract with China, and the diminishment of print newspapers David Ignatius s excellent book, A FIRING OFFENSE, was published in 1997 It opens in 1996 and Eric Truell is based in Paris as the correspondent for The New York Mirror, a highly rated national newspaper He is currently in Washington DC to attend and speak at the funeral of the paper s top foreign correspondent The scene quickly changes to 1994 Paris where Truell is trying to find a story He laments Boredom is ordinarily the fuel of journalism it is the dry powder that, under the right circumstances, ignites into the flame of curiosity that connects a reporter with his story We need that burst of energy, because despite what people think, journalism is often quite dull But too much boredom can spark too much heat creating a passion to connect with the story to that is consuming, unbounded, uncontrollable He doesn t have long to wait He is contacted by a scientist who has discovered a way to regenerate brain cells Soon thereafter, he hears about an on going hostage situation in one of Paris s finest restaurants and decides that he wants to be there to get a good story Needless to say, the French authorities are not cooperative but he is able to speak to some of the people inside Later he is contacted by Rupert Cohen, a very strange man who works in a US Intelligence agency but is disgusted with the work and claims the department is falling apart The next day he learns that the entire hostage incident was staged by a group of African politicians and middlemen who thought they were being shortchanged and wanted money It was a way for the government to pay money to have the people go away while picking up some of it for themselves and others involved in the plot The African network was operated by a clever old gentleman, one of France s most senior politicians What he gathered from Africa was the black fund from which people could draw when they need cash.French bribery of Chinese officials developing new weapons to get the contract was the great truth of the 1990s The world is run by organized criminals foreigners slipped governments into the hands of private organizations in New York, private currency traders have power over the dollar than the Federal Reserve, the Russian Mafia has power than the Army Mexican druglords have power than the president In Japan, the politicians are just a front the real powers held by corporations and the mob.Truell gets sucked into this world as he tries to research his stories and some of his sources try to recruit him.Like many print newspapers, The New York Mirror is facing major financial problems Partly because of the internet, fewer people were reading it and advertising revenue had decreased dramatically Staff members were being let go, advertisers influenced what was printed and special sections were devoted to them Many of the papers that survived turned to electronic versions either entirely or as supplements That opened the way for unscrupulous reporters to manipulate the stock market.Interesting observation We re all shaped and misshaped by the experiences of our childhoods Mine was happy enough and uncomplicated, which was itself a kind of burden the burden of lightness People with emotional scars know they have to be wary they learn to ration their passions they know what will hurt them Nothing in my childhood taught me those lessons This book was written during the Clinton administration In it, Ignatius presents a discussion about the role of the First Lady in lobbying for social legislation The politically connected men kept interrupting one another to talk about the political costs and benefits for the president The First Lady, trying to be part of the group, doesn t fit the traditional pattern You guys don t get it, this is the baseball game The First Lady doesn t think that way She doesn t worry about her husband s reelection, any that you cares whether her husband think she looks cute This is a woman with larger ambitions She wants to be great that s why she s causing everyone problems This attitude and situation were very prominent in the 2016 election While it describes Hillary Clinton, probably the most qualified candidate in decades, it still hindered her campaign On the other side, her lack of experience and questionable actions did not stop Ivanka Trump from being involved in high level talks A FIRING OFFENSE discusses whether or not to report about the mental health of a presidential candidate during the primary season He had experienced a nervous breakdown previously and was taking a strong anti depressant Around that time the book was written, a vice presidential candidate facing a similar situation was dropped from the ticket when the story hit the media The media ignored Ronald Reagan s Alzheimer s as well as the sexual exploits of several Presidents and Congressional representatives Today, many voters and elected officials don t really care about such things The question Bazy had put to me was not really a choice My ambitions laid a different direction from what he proposed If I see clearly what lay ahead, I made a different choice, but I don t think so Even the most grievous center, facing excommunication, doesn t wish for the certainty of damnation Former columnists for many years have been helpful to the CIA especially for recovery operations The wisest course would be for them to meet privately with the Director of CIA and the President and demand that the rules be changed so that a journalist would never again be subject to the intolerable risks and temptations that destroyed Eric Truell Arthur took money from French intelligence Probably add up to millions of dollars over the years He worked for gangsters who leaned on him to cook stories which you ran A FIRING OFFENSE is very well written and organized It raises many issues that are still pertinent I found an incongruity At one point Truell said that on the seat next to me was a stack of scientific papers my new aide had gathered, summarizing, the latest developments in neurobiology 48 hours before, I had known absolutely nothing about these subjects Two paragraphs later we learn my father is a professor of medicine at the University of California at Davis It s hard to believe Truell didn t know quite a bit about medicine while he was growing up. A day before my finishing of this book, the wife of a prominent political figure in India was found dead in a hotel room in Delhi There were a few days of controversy before this death wherein allegations and counter allegations between the husband and the wife made headlines in the news Be that as it may, the death of this lady sent the media into a frenzy I do not think even the police would have completed their primary evaluations of the case and yet the news channels seem to have arrived at conclusions all by themselves The way we behave, react and think have been altered beyond recognition by the hold that popular news media has over us A good twenty years ago, India had only one television channel and a few newspapers but the story now is an entirely different one It was entirely coincidental that I was reading this novel when the flood of flash news began screaming out loud across the channels Without giving the man himself a breathing space to mourn his departed wife, the fourth estate began thundering its verdicts to the mere mortals of India.The summary of this novel bears similarities to this situation for it tells of the extent to which a journalist will go for a good story, the boundaries he will jump over, the relationships he is willing to break and also the dangers that he is willing to invite.The timeline is the mid 90 s, wherein news papers were beginning that steady decline into mediocrity being replaced slowly by electronic news The story centres around Eric Truell who is a blue eyed wonder boy of a reporter for the respectable New York Mirror Chance encounters and that unbridled hunger for a story brings him close to the CIA and a loose cannon of an operative who leaks the most juiciest of stories to him Riding on the wings of these, Eric becomes a super star overnight which destroys lives and careers of others in the process and also wins him powerful enemies The initial celebrity clamour dies down to be replaced with self doubt, a desire to be morally right and later with abject terror at the power of his enemies What he also realises with time is that you don t go to bed with the CIA with the agency also not wanting a few favours from you The action moves from Paris, Washington, Beijing and to Montreal and the feeling of fear at the reach of the antagonists mounts with the chapters When you read a book by someone who knows what he she is writing about, it can make a world of a difference to your enjoyment level In case of this book, David Ignatius knows what he is writing about for he himself was a journalist and a foreign correspondent at varied times in his career The plot is fast paced and there aren t any gun trotting intelligence operatives in here there are no fast paced car chases, gun battles or steamy sex scenes In its place is the monster of corporate corruption and human fallibility in the face of the temptation of money and power The protagonist Eric was a smooth operator and one who was unapologetic about his mistakes which cost many a person dearly Being told from Eric s POV, the reasons and excuses he offers himself for these mistakes showed me how he as a human being grew up through these pages. I selected this book beceause the author has an impressive resume and I like thrillers At first I was a little disappointed It started somewhat slow and it took a little while for me to get very involved in it That said, about two thirds of the way through I realized I was hooked The author immerses the reader in a world of espionage and journalism that seems quite real with lots of interesting details Some of the contextual and technological references are a bit dated since the story was first published in 1998 but I did not find it overly stale The characters are well developed making the plot seem plausible how a non spy gets caught up in some complicated esponiage I also appreciate that the ending seemed real and was not an obvious platform setting up a series for the protagonist I will read Ignatius. This book is all about Eric Truell, a reporter from The Mirror uncovering big secrets all around the world that could lead to a very big slaughter worldwide It all starts in Paris where Eric gets caught up in a hostage situation It then leads back to the United States where he works in D.C It then progresses to him contacting a CIA operative to get to the bottom of another mystery but then turns into another mystery which takes Eric and one of his colleagues going to China and the colleague get shot and dying there If you likes Bloodmoney you will certainly not want to drop thi8s book. Great book, great writing and gives you a good feel for the journalist scene especially international journalism Solid main character and wonderful story telling from his POV My first read of Ignatius and I immediately put two of his works on hold at the library. Had me spellbound I m pretty sure I was late to several events just so I could read one chapter before I left I have no idea why this is my first book by Ignatius, but I know it won t be my last. Since I ve now read all of Lee Child s Reacher novels, I ve had to find some other interesting light fiction to read A recent interest in spies and espionage led me to this novel, my introduction to David Ignatius writing, and I was not disappointed Ignatius is a long time political reporter and commentator for the Washington Post, so he comes by his espionage fiction writing through honest experience I bring this up because I think it s essential for a genre writer to have some first hand experience It really shows when they don t In the case of A Firing Offense, the narrator is Eric Truell love that play on the word true , a reporter for the fictional New York Mirror, who gets caught in political intrigue up to his neck in fact way over his head It s fun to see the main character not be smarter and faster on the draw than other characters, which gives this novel a real sense of verisimilitude The story was filled with all kinds of realistic twists, turns, political backstabbing, and spy stuff like espionage agents from France, hotel rooms bugged by the Chinese, and CIA counter espionage agents who rival the Marx Brothers for ineptitude This is Ignatius s third novel of eight Body of Lies was made into a movie a few years ago He seems to be overlooked, but if you like the espionage and spy genre, I recommend you seek him out.
David Ignatius, a prize winning columnist for the Washington Post, has been covering the Middle East and the CIA for than twenty five years His novels include Agents of Innocence, Body of Lies, and The Increment, now in development for a major motion picture by Jerry Bruckheimer He lives in Washington, DC.
- Mass Market Paperback
- 366 pages
- A Firing Offense
- David Ignatius
- 20 February 2019 David Ignatius