16th December 2012
Photoset with 5 notes
Let’s talk spies in literature:
I have plenty of books on the topic (even more than Sherlock Holmes and other genres that I love combined, which will mean something), so this is just a personal top 10 favourite list, after plenty of pondering, which books to include (fictional and real accounts are mixed):
- John le Carré – Absolute Friends: That was a hard choice, because I actually love all his books! He is a fabulous author. A Honourably Schoolboy was a close second (as were all George Smiley books), but Absolute Friends just has something very special. Set during the present instead the Cold War it is chilling and heartbreaking.
- Jeremy Duns – The Dark Chronicles (Free Agent, Song of Treason, The Moscow Option): Duns is my second favourite author in the genre, right after LeCarre. I’m very picky when it comes to my spies and hesitated for quite a long time before picking up the first book. But woah! I don’t think I ever regretted a book buy less! The writing is stellar and the story just drags you into Paul’s world, never letting go again. I certainly hope that Duns will write much more in the future.
- Oleg Steinhauer – Vienna Assignment: I know that all people are head over heals for him and his books, but this is the only one of his novels that I not only enjoyed, but loved. Amazing writing, engagingly story and just a fantastic book in the genre!
- Kim Young-ha and Kyong-Hae Flügel - Empire of Light / Your Republic Is Calling You: another book I initially hesitated to buy and now I’m just sad that the authors never wrote more in the genre. Then again, the story feels so big, so complete, maybe it’s one of those one-book-a-genre things. The setting is very interesting, too, since, unlike most of the other books on my list, it has nothing to do with the cold war or Western spies, but is about a North Korean spy/Sleeper and his family in Seoul, questions of identity and loyalty and is just an all around amazing book!
- Kim Philby – My Silent War: the memoirs of the (probably) most notorious of the Cambridge Five. I’m still not sure what to make out of the book, actually. It was a highly interesting read, but in the end, it didn’t answer any of the questions I had. Philby really knew how to keep his motivations (beyond the obvious), a mystery until the very end. Still, as I said before, it was a very fascinating glimpse into the “other side” (after countless books written about the Cambridge Five) and I highly recommend it.
- Peter Wright – Spycatcher: Also known as: Spycatcher: The Candid Autobiography of a Senior Intelligence Officer. The book is part memoir, part exposure of the failings in MI5 and Wright’s investigations into those (including the Cambridge Five, especially Anthony Blunt). It’s also the book the British Government tried to ban.
- Elizabeth McIntosh – Sisterhood of Spies: the women who worked for the OSS and they were no less active and successful than their male counterparts. A very interesting read and a wonderful book!
- Ian Fleming – James Bond: I’m not going to chose a favourite here, because I enjoyed all that I have read so far. My love for Connery, Lazenby and Craig aside, and even if Craig’s Bond is much closer to the books than any of his predecessors, the books are much more espionage and much better than the movies. So even if you don’t like the films, you maybe want to give them a try.
- Vasili Mitrokhin - The Mitrokhin Archives: The KGB in Europe and the West +The Mitrokhin Archive II: The KGB in the World: Mitrokhin was a Major and senior archivist for the Soviet Union’s foreign intelligence service and the First Chief Directorate of the KGB. His books are chilling accounts of the history (honestly, some things in the books I will never ever forget again and it has been some years since I read them first) and highly interesting must-reads.
- Greg Rucka - For Queen and Country: This is actually an American comic series, but seeing how realistically it deals with aspects of the business, it certainly deserves to be listed here. The series is centered on Tara Chace, an operative of SIS, colloquially known as the Minders. It tries to portray the bureaucracy and politics , as well as typical missions (and the effect they have on the agents) realistically. Rucka has also written some books with Tara Chace, but while I have them here, I didn’t get around yet to read them.
And, as an extra:
Yasuko Aoike – From Eroica with Love /Eroika yori Ai wo Komete and, even more so, Z: Granted, Eroica is a manga and it is more slapstick than anything else, but it does have spies and I love it when Klaus turns all spy on us. Never mind the - at the time of writing – existent/actual settings and the hints to current events. But if Eroica is too light for you, there is always Z, which is much more serious and deals with the topic as well, just without the comedy.
Any thoughts? Recommendations?
And with that I will be off to watch The Hobbit! Have a good Sunday, everybody!