Borchardt Agency
Published by
Norton (November 2013)
Original language


A CIA Childhood

by Johnson, Scott

Growing up, Scott Johnson always suspected that his dad was different. Only as a teenager did he discover the truth: his father was a spy, one of the CIA’s most trusted officers. And, as Scott came to realize, his father had been living a double life for so long that it was often hard to distinguish the lies from the truth.

When an adult Scott embarked on a career as a war correspondent, he found himself returning to many of the troubled countries of his youth. In the dusty streets of Pakistan and Afghanistan, amid the cold urbanity of Yugoslavia, and down the mysterious alleys of Mexico City, he came face to face with his father’s murky past – and his own complicity in it.

The Wolf and the Watchman is a provocative, meditative reckoning on truth, deception, and manipulation, and the fidelities we owe to ourselves and to our families. It is also an intensely personal story of a bond between father and son that endured in the shadow of one of the world’s most secretive and unforgiving institutions.

Scott Johnson has spent much of the last decade in the Middle East, covering the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and in Africa, reporting on politics and current affairs. He has been the chief of Newsweek’s Mexico, Baghdad, and Africa bureaus, as well as a special correspondent from Paris. He was part of the team that contributed to Newsweek’s 2003 National Magazine Award for reportage of the Iraq war, and in 2004 the Overseas Press Club honoured his reports on Latin America. He has appeared in various American media, including on CNN, MSNBC, and National Public Radio, and his work has been featured in publications such as Granta, Guernica, and National Geographic Explorer. He lives in California with his wife and cat, Dude.

Available rights (1)

Language Territory Type Vendor Status
German World All

Mohrbooks Literary Agency
Sebastian Ritscher

Available View on Rightsdesk



Scott Johnson has written an aching, lyrical father-son story of the spy world that is dark and intriguing.

Quote: Evan Thomas

Scott Johnson’s stunning memoir could be ripped from the pages of a John Le Carre novel. What if your father is a spy? Johnson answers this question by telling his own incredible tale in this beautifully written debut. He brings a journalist’s eye to exploring a childhood of intrigue and secrets inside the CIA, and adulthood spent as a war correspondent in the world’s most dangerous places, from Kabul to Mexico City to Baghdad. How do we live with lies? Does the truth really set us free? Can we really know our fathers? A fascinating, important, book by one of the great American foreign correspondents of his generation.

Quote: Michael Hastings

Scott Johnson has written a mesmerizing book about a mysterious father, a son’s search for truth, and the hidden motives of hearts and souls. Part spy story and part love story, The Wolf and the Watchman is beautifully written, deeply moving, and compulsively readable.

Quote: David Finkel

A beautifully written memoir, and a cautionary tale about double lives. I couldn’t put this book down.

Quote: Robert Baer

Scott Johnson's childhood didn't make sense until his father revealed a secret. Johnson has now written a book delving into his complex relationship with his still much-loved father and the way the CIA cast its shadow over their lives. Called The Wolf and the Watchman: a CIA childhood, it ranges across continents, part-spy mystery part-memoir, showing how the intelligence world co-opts the families of agents into a moral universe where truth is no longer an absolute virtue.

Review: Sydney Morning Herald

With haunting imagery and admirable candor, Scott Johnson unfolds a coming of age story in the shadow of the CIA. This brave and memorable book provides a rare glimpse at the private life of a spy and digs into the love, lies and ambiguities between father and son. The resulting work is a globetrotting adventure with a bittersweet aftertaste.

Quote: Megan Stack

Captures the intensity of the father-son relationship beautifully … This poignant, untold flipside of the classic spy story has the big screen written all over it. PICK OF THE WEEK.

Review: The Age

powerful new memoir

Review: Mercury News

nice mention of The Wolf of the Watchman in the School Library Journal blog, which names title as "the big winner" and gives it a starred review.

Review: School Library Journal

dreamlike, entrancing memoir. One of the rare first-person accounts spouses and children of CIA operatives.

Review: Washington Post

The Wolf is an easy, smooth, and fascinating read. Scott’s story is not told through rose colored glasses, but is an honest and revealing one that captures things the author might not have intended: that all father-son relationships are complicated, sometimes raw; and that his life was really not that much different from ours—except maybe for the endless family secrets.

Review: New York Journal of Books

Scott Johnson’s moving account of life with a covert CIA dad is very much worth your reading – for its important discussion of the consequences of secrets on ordinary Americans and particularly CIA families.

Quote: Joel Whitney

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