Reviews for ARGO

BURG - Weekley Entertainment Guide
'Argo': Read the Book First

"Argo," by Antonio Mendez with Matt Baglio, is an engaging, thrilling, dangerous, high risk spy story. Adding to the excitement is the fact that it's also entirely true.

For those lacking this particular history lesson, as I was, in November 1979, the American embassy in Tehran was overtaken by Iranian militants protesting America's involvement in allowing a controversial former government leader to stay in the United States.

The takeover was the beginning of a 444-day hostage crisis, with more than 50 diplomats held captive in the embassy. However, unbeknownst to their captors, six Americans managed to escape and eventually found refuge with Canadian diplomats, bravely willing to conceal their allies from a dangerous enemy.

Due to their relative safety with the Canadians, rescuing the six was initially thought to be less of a priority than the main issue of the hostages at the embassy. But Canadian fears that their involvement would be discovered and met with negative repercussions pushed the exfiltration of the six up the list.

Enter CIA agent Tony Mendez, who was tasked with finding a cover story to get them out. Read more... >

A real-life tale of intrigue and deception from a former CIA agent. When the U.S. embassy in Tehran was overrun in 1979, a small group of American employees escaped from an outlying building and took to the streets in an attempt to evade capture. Mendez (Spy Dust: Two Masters of Disguise Reveal the Tools and Operations that Helped Win the Cold War, 2002, etc.) was the CIA man who got them out of the country without being discovered. With the assistance of Baglio (The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist, 2009), he tells the story of the exfiltration from beginning to end. Though no one knew about the escapees in the immediate aftermath of the hostage crisis, Mendez was actively involved in drafting a plan to free the hostages. He gives an overview of the situation from the moment students entered the embassy grounds. With plenty of background information on how the CIA practices its deception, Mendez leaves no guesswork for readers. The difficulty of operations in hostile territory is clear, as is the work that goes into disguises. Occasionally, the story slows—real spies spend much more time in the office than fictional ones—but the writing remains fresh and engaging. The Hollywood portions of the book are peppered with recognizable names and unexpected spycraft, but they are a smaller part of the narrative than the subtitle indicates. While the eventual ending is no surprise, the journey is always enjoyable.

A solid choice for fans of thrillers and international intrigue.

Tied to the October release of the political thriller film Argo (starring Ben Affleck as Mendez), this is a fast-paced account of a 1979 rescue operation during the Iran hostage crisis of 1979-1981. Iranian militants entered the American Embassy in Tehran and held dozens of Americans hostage for 444 days. Six diplomats managed to escape and fled to the Canadian ambassador's home, avoiding discovery and possible execution by militants for two months. After a recap of the hostage situation at the American embassy, the narrative follows the six step-by-step as they moved through several hideout locations. CIA operative Mendez (Spy Dust), in charge of creating and maintaining myriad false identities and disguises for the CIA, relates, with the aid of journalist Baglio (The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist), how he concocted a clever but risky plan to get the six Americans safely out of the country. Posing as a film producer, he set out to disguise the six as a Hollywood production crew scouting locations for a fake science fiction movie titled Argo: "It's like Buck Rogers in the desert." Details of this dangerous operation inject strong suspense and excitement into the closing chapters.

Advanced Praise:

"One of the most daring and courageous clandestine operations during my career involved efforts to rescue Americans taken hostage in Tehran after our embassy was seized on November 4, 1979. Six Americans managed to escape the U.S. compound and flee to the Canadian embassy, where they were hidden A very brave CIA officer, Tony Mendez, using commercial cover, entered Iran with false identities for the six and, using techniques that ought to remain secret so they can be used again, managed to get them out of Iran."
—Robert M. Gates, "From the Shadows," former Director of Central Intelligence Agency, former U.S. Secretary of Defense

"This is a fascinating story about how Tony Mendez and the CIA used a bit of technical expertise and a lot of daring and courage to rescue American hostages in Iran. Tony is emblematic of the extraordinary men and women of CIA. Most of their stories cannot be told—but fortunately, in Argo, Tony has been able to lift the veil of secrecy —just a bit."
—George J. Tenet, former Director of Central Intelligence

"James Bond's Q comes to life. This gripping, true story of a white-knuckle operation by a little known part of the CIA reads like a thriller. Full of authentic detail and characters, of bravery and drama, it's a must-read for all spy enthusiasts and CIA watchers."
—Stella Rimington, former general director, MI5, British Intelligence

"The CIA and Hollywood in cahoots, a painter turned spy, an impossible rescue mission with no guns and only one chance at success—ARGO has everything. This remarkable white-knuckle spy story is torn from the pages of real life, and will have you up past your bedtime to discover its thrilling endgame."
—Eric Blehm, author of FEARLESS

"Forget your spy novels, here's how this stuff really works: Two secret agents quietly enter the enemy camp, unarmed but for their wit and experience. Hiding in plain sight, they rescue six virtual hostages under the eyes of their captors, a covert operation seemingly devised in Central Casting. Now their story can be told—and it makes for one hell of read."
—Peter Earnest, retired CIA officer and Executive Director, International Spy Museum

"This true spy story has it all: guile, audacity, and bravery in a struggle with a fanatic and lethal enemy, a crucial role played by a loyal ally, and a marvelous conspiracy with Hollywood."
—R. James Woolsey, Former Director of Central Intelligence

"Artist-spy Tony Mendez paints a dramatic portrait of unlikely collaborators—Hollywood, the CIA and Canada—allied in the common cause of freedom. Mendez fills Argo with the drama, pressure and tension of one of CIA's most spectacular rescue operations. Argo is proof that espionage reality is more riveting than spy fiction."
—Robert Wallace, former director, CIA Office of Technical Service

"Tony Mendez is a spy's spy. His work saved my neck on numerous occasions. I laugh quietly to myself when I watch Hollywood's version of disguise technology in today's spy movies—because Tony did it better. What he did in the Argo operation was spine-tingling espionage at its very best."
—James M. Olson, former CIA Director of Counterintelligence and author of Fair Play: The Moral Dilemmas of Spying

Argo describes tradecraft at its best, the previously unpublished story of the courageous exfiltration of six American diplomats who had evaded capture when the American embassy in Iran was seized November 4, 1979. The development of "cover" including use of physical disguises and forged passports and documents under the direction of Tony Mendez, one of CIA's most respected officers, made their escape possible along with critical help from Canadian diplomats. This story is true and is a must read to understand how dangerous risks have been successfully managed by men and women like Tony Mendez operating in secrecy for our protection."
—William H. Webster, former director, FBI and CIA


Reviews for THE RITE

"Baglio has strong storytelling skills, and... constructs a narrative that travels a long distance quickly."
—Los Angeles Times

"When Doubleday told me they were sending me a book on exorcism, my initial reaction was 'great, how bad is this book going to be?' However, to my complete surprise, The Rite was an excellent read."
—Alive and Young

"Truth is stranger than fiction... and far more terrifying. Forget what Hollywood tells you about demonic possession and exorcism; The Rite will open your eyes to the awesome truth about such things. I've been investigating paranormal events for some time, but this book taught me much that I didn't know about the timeless battle for the human soul waged between the forces of good and evil. Fascinating, inspiring, and scary, a great read."
—John Kachub author of Ghosthunters: On the Trail of Mediums, Dowsers, Spirit Seekers, and Other Investigators of America's Paranormal World

"Matt Baglio's book is a wake-up call. It smashes the many myths created by Hollywood movies and other amateurs on the subject about exorcism and the role of the exorcist in the Catholic Church."
—Father Basil Cole, O.P., professor of moral and spiritual theology of the Pontifical Faculty at the Dominican House of Studies, Washington, D.C.

"The Rite is in my opinion one of the best books ever written on the topic of exorcism. I have read very few books that give a description as appropriate, as precise, or as detailed, and the author's deep knowledge of the subject makes it a true instrument of knowledge useful for many people."
—Fr. Jose Antonio Fortea, author of Interview With an Exorcist: An Insider's look at the Devil, Demonic Possession, and the Path to Deliverance

"This story is an important one."
—Rod Dreher, Beliefnet

"The Rite illuminates one of the world's most long-standing and mysterious phenomena."
—The Catholic Review

"The Rite gets it Right. [Baglio] is an objective journalist who did his homework. The book was fascinating... highly recommended."
—Happy Catholic