History is a story. There’s a timeline; a plot (even if it’s derived later); heroes and villains; uncertain conclusions; some resolutions and loads of stuff to be learned or enjoyed along the way. Just like in a good novel. Well, sort of. History writers have great fodder for books, but often don’t execute well enough to tell a story like a good novelist does. This is NOT the case for Charlie Wilson’s War. This book is outstanding. The author, George Crile, long time producer of the show 60 Minutes, uses the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction facts available to him to tell a story about a totally wild, frequently drunk, womanizing, power abusing Texas Congressman who was responsible for “the CIA’s victory against the USSR in Afghanistan.”
Who knew that while Ronald Reagan was unsuccessfully funding rebels in Nicaragua, it was an out-of-control Congressman who was making sure that the USSR bankrupted itself trying to fight their own Vietnam against the Afghans? The characters are straight out of a good novel, although I doubt any writer would be inventive enough to manufacture stories like the real ones recounted in this book.
At times, the book is a scary lesson in how politics inside the Beltway really work. At times it’s about military strategy and at times it’s like a great spy novel with real super-covert CIA guys. It’s about what I expect would be produced if Tom Clancy and Bob Woodward got together to write a book.
If you like history, spy stuff, underdog stories or just plain ol’ good historic story telling, check this book out. You’ll have a blast. Absolutely one of my new all-time favorites and great summer reading.
Note: When googling the book, I found out that there is a movie being produced due out this year based on it. Starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts and directed by Mike Nichols.