• The Devil's Chessboard

  • Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America's Secret Government
  • By: David Talbot
  • Narrated by: Peter Altschuler
  • Length: 25 hrs and 23 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (1,732 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

An explosive, headline-making portrait of Allen Dulles, the man who transformed the CIA into the most powerful - and secretive - colossus in Washington, from the founder of Salon.com and author of the New York Times best seller Brothers.

America's greatest untold story: the United States' rise to world dominance under the guile of Allen Welsh Dulles, the longest-serving director of the CIA. Drawing on revelatory new materials - including newly discovered US government documents, US and European intelligence sources, the personal correspondence and journals of Allen Dulles' wife and mistress, and exclusive interviews with the children of prominent CIA officials - Talbot reveals the underside of one of America's most powerful and influential figures.

Dulles' decade as the director of the CIA - which he used to further his public and private agendas - were dark times in American politics. Calling himself "the secretary of state of unfriendly countries", Dulles saw himself as above the elected law, manipulating and subverting American presidents in the pursuit of his personal interests and those of the wealthy elite he counted as his friends and clients - colluding with Nazi-controlled cartels, German war criminals, and Mafiosi in the process. Targeting foreign leaders for assassination and overthrowing nationalist governments not in line with his political aims, Dulles employed those same tactics to further his goals at home, Talbot charges, offering shocking new evidence in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

An exposé of American power that is as disturbing as it is timely, The Devil's Chessboard is a provocative and gripping story of the rise of the national security state - and the battle for America's soul.

©2015 David Talbot (P)2015 HarperCollins Publishers

What listeners say about The Devil's Chessboard

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Disturbing. Makes you question the company line.

Where does The Devil's Chessboard rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

A chilling tale of the Dulles brothers and their vast and I would contend very negative influence on history. Many of today's ills can be traced back to them. I have difficulty with sensationalist stories where "fact" seems too extreme to be plausible, but in this case, most of the "facts" seem to hold together, at least until we get to the Kennedy assassination part, as to which I have no basis to judge. Some of the facts mesh with first hand evidence that I have: my dad worked for CIA in Iran and much of what is related about the Mossadegh affair comports with tales he told to me as a child. I can not know the truth of the Kennedy killings, but at a gut level I know there is more than we have been told or than we will ever know. Allen Dulles was too careful. Although the narration is a bit slow, you grow used to it. The story is compelling, more so because it is true and because we can look in hindsight and see the stupidity and unintended consequences of our nations irrational fear of communism and our imperialist approach to other nations. I is well worth the time.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Devil's Chessboard?

The descriptions of the Patrice Lamumba's murder and the role of Larry Devline, whom I once met briefly during a visit to Washington DC by Mobutu Sese Seko for whom Mr. Devline worked.

What about Peter Altschuler’s performance did you like?

It was ok.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

No particular moment, rather a succession of moments leading to the realization that our nation is too hypocritical to accept, and its people too brainwashed to consider for a moment that many of the worlds ills stem from the corruption, greed and fear that formed the core of administrations from the not so distant past. I never liked the Eisenhower administration much, now I detest it. Read the book and see why.

38 people found this helpful

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The Devil's Chessboard

Excellent narration of a detailed and well researched book about how America has been betrayed. This is the story of how two brothers and their associates, followers and inner circle have devastated the American dream. This book shows how conspiracies work and how the unsuspecting public is manipulated into believing the lies. It is a book that should be read, or listened to, by everyone.

26 people found this helpful

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Very biased

Couldn't finish. Author injects way too much personal opinion and speculation in the book. Some facts are laid out, but tries to suggest all the right leaning characters as having ill intentions. Deifies anyone with a D next to their name.

22 people found this helpful

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Biased and Factual Errors

This is a really biased book. Dulles may well have been a very bad man. But you can see where an author stands on issues when he argues that both Alger Hiss and Harry Dexter White were not communist spies. The section on the JFK assassination is a mess. There is no consensus even among hardcore conspiracy theorists that Oswald actually visited Sylvia Odio right before the assassination. Most believe that it was an imposter. Also, the "magic bullet" was not the head shot. It was the back/throat shot. The bias combined with the factual errors make the whole book suspect, in my opinion.

21 people found this helpful

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  • DS
  • 11-10-15

The clearest explanation of the '50's & '60's

This is just one more book about the Dulles brothers but probably the clearest and best explanation of the cold war mess from the US side. While the content made me sick to my stomach, the story was well told and I liked the narration just fine. But god those two were destructive psychopaths.

20 people found this helpful

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One of the best books I've recently read

This is a fantastic book. I'm aware of many things the CIA has been involved in, but did not know about the extensive career Allen Dulles had and the hand he had in world affairs. This book was fascinating to me. Many are aware of the transition of the OSS to the CIA and the control the CIA had and has over America, but the book goes into great detail about the history of this. It also sheds light on the how's and why's of what the CIA did and the control it assumed over the government and beyond. There is a lot of excellent history taught in this book as well as the unscrupulous things Dulles did throughout his long career with the CIA. I can't say enough good things about this book. I read for education and this book delivered in the CIA and deep state arena.

18 people found this helpful

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  • M
  • 09-18-19

Very disappointed

The editing was choppy and the voice changed throughout. Performance issues aside, this is an incredibly one sided unreasonably pro-Kennedy. If you’ve read anything Arthur Schlesinger Jr. wrote on Camelot you have covered all this book talks about on the Kennedy administration. As unoriginal as it was unenlightening. Three fourths is superfluous pulp.

12 people found this helpful

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narrator painfull

never got past the droning on and on of facts by date. his voice is worse than a tranquilizer making tracking the story impossible.

12 people found this helpful

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An apologist for the Kennedys?

The premise of this book is one of a government ostensibly run by the CIA. I had a hard time buying it, especially since there’s little or no mention of the Kennedy’s role in the invasion of South Vietnam. That’s a curious omission.

10 people found this helpful

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Why would anyone trust the CIA?

Conspiracy after conspiracy. Coverup after coverup. If 1/10th of what this book says is true, elections are meaningless and this particular branch of the Deep State is really in charge.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Jim W
  • 03-12-18

Amazing book.

Fascinating from start to finish. A truly terrible story that describes Dulles’ personality and actions as head of CIA

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  • Sebastian Tiplea
  • 01-04-16

Excellent, complex book

Fascinating stories, goes way broader then just the JFK assassination, very enjoyable book. Interesting side events and people involved.