Argo by Antonio Mendez is his true account of strategic points of his career at the CIA, interspersed with moments from his exfiltration of Americans from Iran, popularized in the recent movie of the same name.
His career began inauspiciously, as a young artist recruited by the CIA—he had never heard of the CIA before! Mendez and similar people in the agency used their talents to forge passports and other documents to infiltrate and exfiltrate people to and from foreign countries. They became so good at it, they would visit Moscow to see if their latest techniques would work!
For those of you haven’t seen the movie, during the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979-1981, several Americans were held hostage at the American embassy in Iran. What the world did not know was that six of the Americans had escaped and were hiding in the private homes of Canadian diplomats. Mendez had to go in there and get them out, knowing that any minute now the Iranians would put together documents that had been ineffectively shredded at the embassy and figure out these six were somewhere out there.
The crazy idea he had was to pretend they were a movie crew scouting out locations for a science fiction movie named Argo. He reasoned that only Hollywood types would be so crazy as to visit Iran during a hostage crisis, so it would make sense. No fiction movie would be so audacious, but this is a true story.
For those of you who have seen the movie, the book does not have as many action scenes. Much of the tension came from standing or sitting around, trying to look convincing while hoping the Iranian guards would not figure them out and haul them away. Other times, they combine together different incidents. For instance, the movie shows a scene at an Iranian bazaar where the six are surrounded by shouting Iranians. This did not happen to these particular six, but to a different group of six Americans who also escaped the embassy, went the opposite direction down the street, and were surrounded and returned to the embassy.
In an interview, Antonio Mendez said that Ben Affleck, who played him in the movie, was spot on. Did he succeed in getting the six Americans out? Watch the movie or buy the book.