“Wow,” was all I could say when I read a book review of Six Car Lengths Behind an Elephant in the CIA’s own publication. My family spent most of our lives keeping the secret. Now, there’s a memoir, a CIA book review, and invitations to speak at soirées and events.
The CIA’s Book Review
The book review comes from the CIA’s Center for the Study of Intelligence (CSI). This is the description of CSI on its own webpage:
“CSI’s core mission is to enhance the effectiveness of CIA and the Intelligence Community at large. By learning from the past and assessing current practices, CSI prepares intelligence officers for future challenges. CSI publishes the quarterly journal Studies in Intelligence, books, monographs, documentary films, and web-based content. The CIA Museum is also part of CSI’s range of products.”
The review appears in their newly released issue of Studies in Intelligence. It is written by Hayden Peake and featured in his column, “Intelligence Officer’s Bookshelf” (link to read the full review, scroll to page 77). His review concludes:
Six Lengths Behind An Elephant was endorsed by John le Carré as “A charming and unusual portrait of the secret life.” He was spot on.
This is the ultimate affirmation. The CIA considers my mother Lillian McCloy’s memoir important enough to review and share with members of the intelligence community, not to mention posting it on cia.gov. For that, I am so grateful. (I’ve mentioned this before, but I was contacted by a recently retired undercover spy who read her book and thought it should be required reading for all spies in training and their spouses. That floored me. Really? Her Cold War experiences are still applicable today.)
Soirées – Speaking Engagements
The San Francisco Chronicle’s in-depth obituary article about Lillian McCloy prompted several people to contact me. One of those people was Nienke Hohmann. Nienke has been hosting monthly soirées in San Francisco for many years, and she invited me to speak about my mother and her book, which I edited, for an event in June.
I went to Nienke’s May soirée about the painter Sam Francis and it was everything you’d imagine a “soirée” to be. It starts with cocktails and appetizers, followed by an hour-long presentation, and ends with wine/coffee and desserts. It was absolutely lovely. What an honor to be her next presenter.
I gave my presentation in June and many individuals approached me afterward. Some of them were visiting U.S. expats who related to my family’s experiences abroad. One person proclaimed, “Guess what? My father was a spy too!” A few people told me that I served to encourage them to either start interviewing their own relatives, as I did with my mother the last few years, or to start writing their own personal stories. How wonderful!
Nienke has invited me to present again for her soirée on July 27. This one will be hosted at Coterie Cathedral Hill, a luxury senior living community in San Francisco. She’s been hosting soirées there for over a year, including the one I attended in May, and it’s a beautiful location. She anticipates about 50 attendees, including residents and outside guests. (If you’re interested in receiving Nienke’s email-invitation to the July event or other future soirées, please contact me and I’ll forward your email address to Nienke. Note that there is a $65 attendance fee for outside guests.)
Going with the flow
Preparing an hour-long presentation was not an easy task, but it was such a worthy challenge. I enjoy it when serendipity leads me to exciting new opportunities from so-called “left field.” I find left field experiences to be the most memorable and impactful ones in my life. I’m staying open, practicing gratitude, and riding the wave.
I invite you to do the same in your own life.
Here’s to being proactive, to noticing and celebrating serendipitous experiences, to saying yes to unexpected opportunities that present as exciting challenges (aka daring to step outside our “safe” little comfort zones), to practicing gratitude every single day, and to going with the flow . . . as best we can.
“One thing, one thing, leads to annnnnother . . .”