Book Review: “Victor in the Jungle” by Alex Finley

Phil Walter is the founder of www.DivergentOptions.org.  All of his written works and podcasts, which do not contain information of an official nature, can be found at www.philwalter1058.com.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


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With this opening paragraph I am very pleased to announce to the reader that Victor Caro is back! What? You have never heard of Victor Caro? Aah, well then I am duty bound to bring you up to speed. Victor Caro is a Case Officer with the CYA who hunted down the terrorist Omar al-Suqqit during his tour in West Africa. But, in the case of Victor, it wasn’t the capturing of al-Suqqit that was the victory. Instead, Victor’s victory was overcoming the bureaucracy of both the CYA and the Intelligence Über Director (IUD) who together worried more about receipts for expenditures than recruiting spies to steal secrets and capturing the baddies.

On a more serious note, Victor Caro is a fictional character invented by Alex Finley (https://alexzfinley.com), a former officer in the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) Directorate of Operations. Victor made his debut in Alex’s first book, “Victor in the Rubble,” which was a joy to read and a true satire focused on CIA human intelligence (HUMINT) activities. As I had leaned on Alex in the past for writing advice with my own fictional pursuits, she was kind enough to send me an advance copy of her second book, “Victor in the Jungle,” and I am pleased to review it here as a one-time deviation from Divergent Options’ regular content.

“Victor in the Jungle” takes place seven or so years after the first book and finds Victor married with one child and assigned to Guyandes, a fictional country in South America. In this book the reader bears witness to the efforts of Victor and his colleagues to break up an alliance between one country’s charismatic autocrat and a narco-trafficking revolutionary group in the country next door. When Victor and his team aren’t enough, he enlists help from his wife who has just the connections needed to accomplish the mission.

“Victor in the Jungle” brought me joy and tears (of both laughter and sadness) in a similar manner to the first book. This time around we get to meet a cast of characters that I submit most people who have worked in or around HUMINT are well aware of. CYA Case Officer Mike pursues and achieves promotion despite his only operational experience being in a cubicle in Iraq where he occasionally recruited a walk-in source. Frank is a CYA Contractor who, when he is not loving on different women who all share the name Maria, provides security for Victor. Simon is a tech-guru from Des Moines, Iowa but insists that he be called See-mone, as is the local custom. Adam is a CYA Case Officer on his first tour, and not yet as experienced (read: jaded) as Victor. Sergio works on a floor of the Embassy that does not exist and, despite his unconventional appearance, provides Victor and his colleagues the additional intelligence information they need to succeed.

All of the preceding characters work for the Chief of Station Patrón, a highly accomplished CYA Case Officer who, having angered the CYA Director, chose to be Chief of Station in Guyandes as a way to lay low until the political winds changed. I smiled widely when Victor once overhears Patrón on the phone saying “Of course I drank it! He was a murderous drug dealer, I didn’t want to offend him,” as, in HUMINT, rapport can be everything. I loved reading about Patron, not only because I know people who have needed to lay low for a while, but also how he expertly employed his personnel in accordance with their capabilities. Patrón directs one of this Case Officers to pursue things that don’t matter on the ground but matter to the CYA Director (we call these low-hanging fruit) so the rest of the team can be left alone to do real work.

While I enjoyed reading about each of these characters, my favorite part of the book was watching Victor’s wife, who I shall not name as maybe you are familiar with her from the first book, “Victor in the Rubble,” navigate the world of a CYA dependent. At one point Victor’s wife exclaims “It’s like fucking Real Housewives, U.S. Embassy Edition.” Victor’s wife adjusts to her new life amidst a fellow CYA dependent who addresses every Guyanden as “Jorge” despite what their real name may be and the music of Eminem blasting at maximum watts from the Marine House.

Alex Finley described writing “Victor in the Rubble” as a catharsis. She describes writing “Victor in the Jungle” as pure fun. In both cases, I can see why. For me, reading both books made me feel at home, motivated, disgusted, and laugh out loud. In chapter 12 of “Victor in the Jungle” I came across a word that is extremely obscure and only used by those in HUMINT (can you find it?). This word caused me to laugh so loud my daughter asked me what was so funny. Later, in chapter 27, I swallowed hard as prior to a high risk meeting Victor tells his team “I’ll see you at the site. If they try to kidnap me, don’t let them take me alive.” My hard swallow was based upon me delivering similar direction to my team in one of my previous lives.

The book ends with, well, I am not going to tell you how it ends. But I will say this, I look forward to Victor’s next posting, which might be his retirement tour. How will things go at this next posting? We don’t know. Will Victor be able to adjust to eventual retirement? Time will tell. Well, time won’t tell, but author Alex Finley will. Also, I hope to attend the “Victor in the Jungle” book launch party (https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/victor-in-the-jungle-book-launch#/) in Washington DC on June 7, 2019 — maybe Alex Finley will be able to explain to me exactly what Victor’s “Swedish Porn Vest” looked like.

Phil Walter

Divergent Options on The Loopcast

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On June 11, 2017 the Divergent Options Team of Phil Walter, Steve Leonard, and Bob Hein joined Chelsea Damon and Sina Kashefipour of The Loopcast for a 62 minute discussion of the origin and intent behind Divergent Options.

You can access the podcast via the The Loopcast here, download the MP3 here, or access it via iTunes here.

If you enjoy The Loopcast please consider making a donation to support it via Patreon.

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70th Anniversary Writing Contest: Options for a New U.S. National Security Act

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Background:

On July 26, 1947, U.S. President Harry S. Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947 into law.  The National Security Act of 1947 mandated a major reorganization of the foreign policy and military establishments of the U.S. Government.  The act created many of the institutions that Presidents found useful when formulating and implementing foreign policy, including the National Security Council[1].  As July 26, 2017, marks the 70th anniversary of the signing of this historic document Divergent Options is holding a writing contest.

Contest:

Using our Options Paper template or Assessment Paper template, in 1,000 words or less, provide your assessment or options for how the National Security Act of 1947, or portions thereof, could be re-written to address better the threats, challenges, and opportunities the U.S. faces in the ever-changing national security environment.

Timelines:

Divergent Options will accept entries for 70 days beginning on July 26 and ending on October 4th, 2017.

Awards:

Divergent Options’ Strategic Advisory Board will review all entries and award First Place ($100), Second Place ($50) and Third Place (Divergent Options Coffee Mug) in each of the following award categories:

1.  Best Overall Option Paper

2.  Option Paper Most Able to be Implemented

3.  Most Disruptive Option Paper

All submissions, regardless of whether they win an award or not, will be published.

Submission Procedures:

A.  Review our templates.

B.  Send your 1,000 words or less to submissions@divergentoptions.org between July 26 and October 4th, 2017 and note which award category you wish to be considered for.

References:

–  National Security Act of 1947

–  National Intelligence Council Global Trends Report


Endnotes:

[1]  Milestones 1945-1952, National Security Act of 1947. (n.d.). Retrieved April 23, 2017, from https://history.state.gov/milestones/1945-1952/national-security-act

Contest Option Papers Phil Walter United States

Divergent Options Social Event – Thursday, April 27, 2017 – 6pm to 8pm – Arlington, VA

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Divergent Options will be hosting a social event on Thursday, April 27, 2017, from 6:00pm to 8:00pm in Arlington, Virginia.  The location of the event is somewhere along the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Orange Line.

How do you find out the specific location?

Send an e-mail to RSVP to:  submissions@divergentoptions.org

We look forward to meeting many of you in person, sharing ideas, and discussing writing opportunities.

 

Phil Walter Social Event

Divergent Options on Blogs of War / Covert Contact Podcast

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On February 12, 2017, Divergent Options’ Founder Phil Walter appeared on the Blogs of War / Covert Contact podcast where for 25 minutes he discussed the origins and intent behind Divergent Options.

You can listen to the podcast on the Covert Contact webpage or click here.

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