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.
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.