Reading Group Guide

  1. Book ImageThe Wolf and the Watchman: A Father, a Son, and the CIA

    Scott C. Johnson

    What happens when a father asks his son to lie for the greater good?

Interview with the Author

Discussion Questions

  1. To what extent do you think the constant traveling during Scott’s childhood played a role in his choice to become a war reporter? Would you have enjoyed or dreaded living abroad during your childhood?
  2. Compare Keith’s confession to Scott in chapter five with Scott’s confession to Sofia in chapter twelve. Why did one go so well and the other so poorly? How do you think Scott would have reacted if he had found out his father’s secret as an adult?
  3. On a trip to Mexico, Scott asks his father if his career made it harder to establish personal relationships. He answers that it didn’t. Do you think that’s true? Would you avoid close friendships or long-term relationships if you worked for the CIA? If not, how and when would you share your secret?
  4. In chapter nine, Keith recounts his spy teacher’s advice about attracting potential defectors—namely, to become the person they want to confide in when they decide to turn. How do you think Scott leverages this advice in his own work? What problems might this strategy pose in journalistic work and spy work?
  5. In your opinion, which job—journalist or CIA agent—is more honorable?
  6. While digging into Mexico’s murky past and his father’s potential involvement in it, Scott wonders about what happens to spies “when loyalty to their loved ones conflicted with their loyalty to their masters.” Which loyalty is more important? How would you handle that conflict?
  7. What challenges do the women in Scott’s and Keith’s lives face? Do they differ from the troubles between Scott and Keith? If so, how?
  8. Toward the end of the book, Scott writes of his father’s attempt to “have a double life and live each with love and devotion.” Do you think that is possible, or is a sacrifice of one or the other necessary at some point? Immediately after the above quote, Scott says he tried to follow his father’s footsteps but got lost along the way. What do you think he means by that?
  9. What associations does the title have for you? Who do you think is the wolf and who the watchman?

About Scott C. Johnson

Scott C. Johnson was a Newsweek foreign correspondent for twelve years, often providing exclusive war reporting from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other fronts in the Middle East. He also served as Newsweek’s bureau chief in Mexico, Baghdad, and Africa; was part of the team that won the 2003 National Magazine Award for reportage of the Iraq War; and received a 2004 Overseas Press Club Honorable Mention for his reporting from Latin America. He is now a freelance journalist and writer living in Santa Monica, California.

Books by Scott C. Johnson

  1. Book CoverThe Wolf and the Watchman: A Father, a Son, and the CIA

    Longlisted for the National Book Award and named a Washington Post Notable Book of the Year.More