Joshua Cohen reviews Meir Doron and Joseph Gelman’s Confidental: The Life of Secret Agent Turned Hollywood Tycoon Arnon Milchan, in n+1:

The Department of Homeland Security’s Analytic Red Cell Unit employs thriller novelists to envision terrorism scenarios: Brad Meltzer and Brad Thor and writers not named Brad receive assignments like, “Think of a way to blow up the Super Bowl.” When I first heard about this unit a few years ago, I started going to parties, drinking too much, and telling everyone I’d been recruited to Red Cell 2: We were a group of literary novelists, tasked with envisioning the terror scenarios the thriller novelists were envisioning before they envisioned them. This was in the event that any of the thrillerists went rogue. (Soon I was hinting at the existence of a Red Cell 3, assembled to predict our predictions of predictions. It was staffed entirely by poets in Brooklyn.)

It’s depressing that the days of litterateurs working as intelligence officers—the days of Greene and Buchan, Fleming and le Carré—are largely over. Why would Ahmadinejad want to klatsch with Philip Roth? What would Kim Jong-il have to say to Jonathan Franzen? If there’s any arts bureau today with the cachet to access world leaders, it’s Hollywood: America’s greatest asset—in every respect—is Brangelina.

If you’re a reviewer, once in a while you’re sent a book in the mail so chintzily produced by a publishing house too busy to edit that you wonder how it is that its sensationalist claims aren’t better known. This was certainly the case with the full-color illustrated, under-proofed Confidential: The Life of Secret Agent Turned Hollywood Tycoon Arnon Milchan.