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In Those Days
“This . . . is a most interesting and important book. James Spain, an accomplished writer, tells in fascinating detail of his youth, education, family and family tragedy, of grim even appalling days in the CIA, and then of his diverse and brilliant career in the Foreign Service. It . . . rings true in a highly literate way.”
JOHN KENNETH GALBRAITH, Harvard University, former Ambassador to India
If the twentieth century was the American Century, James Spain was its classic product. From Chicago in 1926 to Sri Lanka in 1998, he has blazed a trail of high adventure and highly intelligent public service. Along the way he published several books on the Pathans of the Khyber, one on his diplomatic role in Turkey, and a collection of short stories. In Those Days is his candid, often funny autobiography.
Spain takes us from his Irish Catholic childhood in gangster-era Chicago, through Army service in occupied Japan and excursions into academia and intelligence, to a Foreign Service career that brought him to four ambassadorships—in Tanzania, Turkey, Sri Lanka, and USUN (as deputy permanent representative). The book is rich in idiosyncratic footnotes to history, drawn from the author’s dealings with mountain tribesmen and U.S. senators, African and Asian heads of state and U.S. secretaries of state.
It is diplomatic life on the edge, told with a bluntness leavened with feeling and humor. Spain’s delightful, incisive, often touching, account of those years spent bouncing around the world with his family while ably serving his country is a very human one, with its full share of accomplishment and tragedy. In the process we also learn a lot about the practice of U.S. foreign relations.