James Barr

Going Freestyle

America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East


Basic Books 342pp £19.99 order from our bookshop

On 18 September 1947, just as the CIA formally came into being, two cousins drove over the mountains from Beirut to meet a friend in Damascus. Archie Roosevelt was the spy agency’s new head of station in Lebanon; his cousin Kermit (known as Kim) was supposedly researching a book. Archie was toothy, short-sighted and identified with the ‘losers in history’. Kim, on the other hand, was debonair and stocky. ‘Pleasant and unassuming’, said his namesake Kim Philby: ‘the last person you would expect to be up to the neck in dirty tricks’. The man they went to see was Miles Copeland, a talented jazz trumpeter and Archie’s Falstaffian counterpart in Damascus. Under the guise of touring the crusader castles, the three men then headed northwards on a talent-spotting trip. 

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Why did the 'bold and determined' Empress Matilda never manage to become Queen regnant? Peter Marshall reviews a n… ,
    • From the Archive: Martyn Bedford on Ian McEwan's 'Atonement' ,
    • In 'Silenced Voices' reports the ongoing story of the human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, who has been… ,
    • The mystery of Jack the Ripper's identity has long been agonised over. But what do we know about his victims?… ,
    • A piece of Literary Review history from way back in 1983: John Haffenden talks to the great Iris Murdoch. ,
    • Britain’s only travelling lit fest, the Garden Museum Literary Festival is heading to Houghton Hall, Norfolk, for a… ,
    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,