Spy Fiction

As you can see I took the long Thanksgiving weekend off from blogging. It was fun just to relax and not think about anything except food, football, and friends. It might take me a little bit to get up and running again so here is an interesting article to chew on: The Spy Who Loved Me: What’s real in espionage fiction?

Former FBI agent Jim Ohlson takes a look at two recently released works on espionage and fiction. Alan Furst’s The Book of Spies and Frederick Hitz’s The Great Game: The Myth and Reality of Espionage Fiction. Here is a teaser:

The Report of the 9/11 Commission has put the CIA and related services in an unflattering spotlight and provoked an unprecedented debate over the structure of the U.S. intelligence program. But for every American who reads the report, a hundred will head to the local multiplex to see The Bourne Supremacy or The Manchurian Candidate. At home, they may have a copy of Absolute Friends, the latest novel by John le Carré, or Dark Voyage, the new book from Alan Furst, who has supplanted le Carré as the reigning master of espionage fiction. It is from such stories, in print or onscreen—from John Buchan’s Thirty-Nine Steps and the exploits of James Bond in all his guises; from Eric Ambler and William F. Buckley, Jr.; from Len Deighton and Robert Ludlum and Charles McCarry and all the rest—that most of us, however sophisticated we imagine ourselves to be, have formed our notions about the shadowland of “intelligence.” Even spies, after all, read spy fiction.

But how much—or how little—do these notions correspond to reality? Two recent books shed light on this question. In The Book of Spies, Alan Furst has compiled a lively anthology of literary espionage. And in The Great Game, Frederick Hitz—formerly inspector general at the CIA—attempts to sort out the hard reality of espionage fiction from the confabulations of myth. Both books belong on the shelf right next to the 9/11 report.

I used to be a avid reader of spy thrillers and have read most, if not all, of Deighton, Le Carre, Buckley, Ludlum, and quite a few others. I still enjoy a good spy story, I have Furst’s Dark Voyage on the TBR pile, but my tastes range wider these days so I read fewer in any given genre. I think I will put these two works on the Christmas list, however, as they seem like interesting reads as well as valuable resources.

About the author

Kevin Holtsberry

I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season - oh, and watching golf too).

View all posts