Sunday, 27 November 2022

I Was Never Here: My True Canadian Spy Story of Coffees, Code Names, and Covert Operations in the Age of Terrorism by Andrew Kirsch

Today I finished I Was Never Here, by former CSIS spy, Andrew Kirsch, which possibly is his real name. Proudly this is the 30th book I have read this year, surpassing my previous reading record of 29 books, set in 2011 and 2020. 

Andrew Kirsch didn’t grow up watching spy movies, or dreaming about being a real-life James Bond. He was hardly aware that Canada even had its own intelligence service—let alone knew what its officers did. But when a terrorist attack occurred near the office of his financial services job, all of a sudden fighting terrorism meant a lot more to him than the markets. Within 18 months he had landed a job with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)—where he spent the next decade of his life.

In I Was Never Here, Kirsch (now an in-demand security consultant) spills the secrets of what life as an intelligence officer is really like, and dispels a few myths along the way. With humour, honesty, and candour, Kirsch shares his on-the-ground experience (or as much of it as he’s allowed to) of becoming a member of CSIS: from his vetting and training, to his initial desk job as a policy analyst, to his rise up the ranks to leading covert special operations missions. If you’ve ever wondered whether spies can have real dating lives, how they handle family responsibilities, or how they come up with cover stories or aliases, you’re in luck.

From the time he tried to get the code names “Burgundy” and “Anchorman” assigned to human sources (with no luck), to the night a covert operation was almost thwarted by a flyer delivery man, Kirsch takes you behind the scenes with an authentic view of Canada’s spy agency, and the intricate intelligence-sharing apparatus that works day and night to keep us safe. I Was Never Here is also a testament to one man’s drive to serve his country, and the sacrifices, big and small, that he made along the way

I always wondered what the mandate for CSIS was vs that of the RCMP. This book explains it. CSIS really has a first look at any possible threat to Canada, including foreign espionage, theft of secrets and, of course most prominently, terrorism.

Even though Kirsch could not go into great detail, it was interesting reading, hearing the day to day operations he was a part of. No dirt. No inside scandal, just he job they did. There were some funny tales of some jobs which had issues, interesting midnight jobs and how his life with CSIS affected his life outside of it.

It's a book, I quite enjoyed.

Saturday, 19 November 2022

Predators and Prey Book Launch

This afternoon was the official book launch of my crime novel, Predators and Prey, which took place at my favorite Toronto Restaurant, the Local Public Eatery in Liberty Village. 

I loved the sign they posted on their rotating board. It was a nice touch!

The turnout for it was great and the food excellent. Not to mention the service. Megan, our server, did an excellent job looking after everyone. She was friendly and made sure nobody did without.

It was a fabulous afternoon and I want to thank the Local for hosting and providing us  all with a good time.

Saturday, 12 November 2022

Look Both Ways by Linwood Barclay

I just finished reading Linwood Barclay's, Look Both Ways.

The media have descended on Garrett Island, a small, isolated community that is the setting of a visionary experiment. All the residents’ cars were sent to the mainland and for the past month the islanders have been “driving” the Arrival, a revolutionary autonomous vehicle. With a simple voice command, an Arrival will take you wherever you want to go and, because the fleet is networked and aware of one another, car travel is now 100% safe. The future, it seems, has arrived.

As the excitement reaches a fever pitch, Sandra Montrose – islander, single mom, and public relations executive – prepares for Arrival Inc.’s flashy press event. Sandra is more than ready for this new world. Her husband died after falling asleep at the wheel and she’s relieved that her two teens, Archie and Katie, will never need driver’s licenses.

But as the celebratory day gets underway, disaster strikes. A visiting journalist has vanished, possibly murdered. Before long, the Arrivals run amok, no longer taking orders from their passengers. They’re starting to organize. They’re beginning to hunt. And they seem hell-bent on killing any human they encounter.

Is this all just a tragic accident, a technological malfunction with deadly consequences? Or were the vehicles programmed to act this way in a cruel act of corporate sabotage? Or could it be that the Arrivals have a mind of their own?

This novel is a departure from the usual books which Barclay writes .... and it's excellent. Reads like a horror story. Picture Stephen King's, Christine, but where thousands of cars are out to kill. If that's not bad enough, the residents all live on an island with no way to escape.

A gripping, exciting novel, one of Barclay's best. I finished it quickly as I couldn't put it down.

Monday, 7 November 2022

Diary of a Void by Emi Yagi, David Boyd (Translator) , Lucy North (Translator)

I just finished reading the translated book, Diary of a void by Japanese author, Emi Yagi.

When thirty-four-year-old Ms. Shibata gets a new job in Tokyo to escape sexual harassment at her old one, she finds that, as the only woman at her new workplace--a company that manufactures cardboard tubes--she is expected to do all the menial tasks. One day she announces that she can't clear away her colleagues' dirty cups--because she's pregnant and the smell nauseates her. The only thing is . . . Ms. Shibata is not pregnant.

Pregnant Ms. Shibata doesn't have to serve coffee to anyone. Pregnant Ms. Shibata isn't forced to work overtime. Pregnant Ms. Shibata rests, watches TV, takes long baths, and even joins an aerobics class for expectant mothers. But pregnant Ms. Shibata also has a nine-month ruse to keep up. Helped along by towel-stuffed shirts and a diary app on which she can log every stage of her "pregnancy," she feels prepared to play the game for the long haul. Before long, though, the hoax becomes all-absorbing, and the boundary between her lie and her life begins to dissolve

This is an entertaining story. The main character, Shibata, is highly likable. I thought at one point in the story, I saw a twist coming and was disappointed I could figure out what it would be. However, I was wrong and the story went in a different direction. Well done Emi!

Friday, 4 November 2022

Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn

I just finished reading, Killers of a Certain Age, by Deanna Raybourn

Billie, Mary Alice, Helen, and Natalie have worked for the Museum, an elite network of assassins, for forty years. Now their talents are considered old-school and no one appreciates what they have to offer in an age that relies more on technology than people skills.

When the foursome is sent on an all-expenses paid vacation to mark their retirement, they are targeted by one of their own. Only the Board, the top-level members of the Museum, can order the termination of field agents, and the women realize they've been marked for death.

Now to get out alive they have to turn against their own organization, relying on experience and each other to get the job done, knowing that working together is the secret to their survival. They're about to teach the Board what it really means to be a woman--and a killer--of a certain age

This is an entertaining story. Four woman in their sixties who are trying to figure out why they've been targeted for death and what to do about it. What I feel is really well done is how they constantly have to deal with the limitations of their age. Not being agile as they once were, hot flashes, taking longer than usual to recover from aches and pains, plus their limited ability in a hand to hand fight.

Killers of a Certain Age, is a terrific escapist read.

Thursday, 3 November 2022

Signing Predators and Prey at Book City on the Danforth

Today I was at Book City on the Danforth to sign my new novel, Predators and Prey, which they are currently stocking.

It was a fun time. June was friendly and helpful. In fact, she took the above photo and the one below.

Stop on in if you want a copy of Predators and Prey signed by the author.

Monday, 31 October 2022

Hat Talk by Debbie Henderson

According to my parents, I have been wearing a hat since I was three years old. They bought me a straw hat which I clamped onto my head and never took off. I've been wearing a hat ever since. So, when I saw Hat Talk by American author, Debbie Henderson, in BeauChapeau Hat Shop in Niagara on the Lake, I just had to have it. Never walked out of there with a book instead of a new hat before.  

Subtitled "Conversations with Hat Makers about their hats -- the Fedora, Homburg, Straw and Cap", the author delves into the history of hats through the very personal visions of those who lived hats all their lives. This focus enables her to examine how of some of the best known hat companies founded and maintained their activities, their fashion leadership and their national and international commercial roles.

It's an interesting read about the the hat industry in North America, from the very early days of hat making and felt processing, to modern times. 

The book describes how the decline of the hat followed the popularity of the automobile. When people ask me why I wear a hat, I always answer by saying it's to keep the weather off my head. Turns out, that was the reason men and women did back then, but when the car came along and more and more people were driving, the car's roof protected them instead.

I was surprised by how the film, Urban Cowboy, from the 80's popularized the wearing of hats. Production of hats ramped up causing some companies to flourish, some to prolong their lives and brought others into bankruptcy.

For anyone who enjoys wearing a hat, this is an excellent book to read.