Conversations with a Masked Man

My Father, the CIA, and Me

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About The Book

For forty years John Hadden and his father of the same name fought at the dinner table over politics, art, and various issues concerning America. One was haunted by what he had witnessed during his long CIA career, from Berlin to Tel Aviv; the other retreated to the Vermont woods to direct Shakespeare until finally he confronted his father at the table one last time with a tape recorder. Conversations with a Masked Man is a series of conversations Hadden had with his father about the older man’s thirty-year career as a CIA officer and how American policy affected the family and the world.

Father and son talk about John senior’s early life as a kid in Manhattan, his training at West Point, the stench of bodies in Dresden after the war, Berlin and Vienna in the late forties and fifties at the height of the Cold War, the follies of the Cuban missile crisis, how he disobeyed orders to bomb Cairo while he was station chief in Israel during the Six-Day War, and treacherous office politics in Washington. The story unfolds in dialogue alternating with the writer’s own memories and reflections. What emerges is hilarious, unexpectedly candid, and deeply personal.

Combining the candid descriptions of the world of the CIA with intimate conversations between a father and son, this book is written for the political junkie, the psychologist, the art lover, or anybody who wonders who the hell their father really is.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Arcade (February 9, 2016)
  • Length: 284 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781628725919

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Raves and Reviews

“We grow up under the spell and influence of our parents, but we know so little of who they are, beyond their role as our parents. We all wonder, but most of us never ask. Conversations with a Masked Man is a beautifully written look into the frightening world of covert espionage, and a tenacious, heartfelt attempt by a son to infiltrate his father's secrecy and silence, and find whatever common ground exists between them.”—Cindy Kleine, filmmaker, and producer

“A poignant encounter between father and son—across the gap of generations and the moral abyss of the Cold War. John Hadden shows how the wounds of the past refuse to heal, and how acknowledging that truth can open into hard-won wisdom.” —James Carroll, author of An American Requiem

“Written with love, care, and the curiosity of a son who tries to figure out who his father was. A fascinating tale.” —Avner Cohen, author of Israel and the Bomb

“How spies work. How spies think. And how an American spy struggled to be a decent father. All of that, and more, in this eloquent book by a CIA officer’s son.” —Dan Raviv, author of Spies Against Armageddon and Every Spy a Prince

John Hadden’s Conversations with a Masked Man is by turns a paternal biography, personal memoir, family saga, CIA history, and Cold War spy thriller – all folded into a psychologically penetrating work of literature. This book will also be of interest to anyone exploring the commonalities and divergences between one’s self and one’s parents with a view to better understanding the dynamic that has made us, respectively, who we are.
—Eric Darton, author of Divided We Stand: A Biography of the World Trade Center

“We grow up under the spell and influence of our parents, but we know so little of who they are, beyond their role as our parents. We all wonder, but most of us never ask. Conversations with a Masked Man is a beautifully written look into the frightening world of covert espionage, and a tenacious, heartfelt attempt by a son to infiltrate his father's secrecy and silence, and find whatever common ground exists between them.”—Cindy Kleine, filmmaker, and producer

“A poignant encounter between father and son—across the gap of generations and the moral abyss of the Cold War. John Hadden shows how the wounds of the past refuse to heal, and how acknowledging that truth can open into hard-won wisdom.” —James Carroll, author of An American Requiem

“Written with love, care, and the curiosity of a son who tries to figure out who his father was. A fascinating tale.” —Avner Cohen, author of Israel and the Bomb

“How spies work. How spies think. And how an American spy struggled to be a decent father. All of that, and more, in this eloquent book by a CIA officer’s son.” —Dan Raviv, author of Spies Against Armageddon and Every Spy a Prince

John Hadden’s Conversations with a Masked Man is by turns a paternal biography, personal memoir, family saga, CIA history, and Cold War spy thriller – all folded into a psychologically penetrating work of literature. This book will also be of interest to anyone exploring the commonalities and divergences between one’s self and one’s parents with a view to better understanding the dynamic that has made us, respectively, who we are.
—Eric Darton, author of Divided We Stand: A Biography of the World Trade Center