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ConversesSpies & Spy Fiction

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oct. 17, 2006, 4:21pm

I am currently reading Charlie Wilson's War and am learning (or relearning) about how things worked in Washington during the war between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union . It is still amazing to me how a few people can have such an strong impact on our foreign policy and it seems hardly anyone notices! I'm only on pg 100 of 523 so I still am on the background.

nov. 15, 2006, 8:12pm

Well I am still reading Charlie Wilson's War and am now on page 414. (Sometimes I lose a book under all of my book piles and just wait til it resurfaces to continue.
I am learning quite a bit about CIA of the 80s and a lot of it pops up in current news reports. For instance the book discusses Congressman Murtha's involvement with the Abscam controversy and how Tip O'Neil helped him by appointing Charlie Wilson to the Ethics Committee. O'Neil then helped Wilson with funding for the Afghani's fighting the Soviet Union. In the past few days the news has been talking about Murtha's past "ethics issues" and I knew what they were talking about which is fun for me.

nov. 15, 2006, 9:34pm

Very nice, to feel you know that kind of background! I never seem to. It'll be a while yet before I come to anything so contemporary, so it's nice to hear a bit about it.

Sometimes I lose a book under all of my book piles and just wait til it resurfaces to continue.

Happens to me all the time! It may not be best for continuity, but it works ok.

I'm not currently reading any espionage (though I look forward to Sisterhood of Spies); but I am about to begin a pile of books on World War I. If anyone has suggestions on the espionage of that era, I'm all ears. (Non-fiction, in this case - unless it's contemporary.) I ought to post the query elsewhere, but am feeling very lazy. Apologies!

nov. 16, 2006, 2:43am

Currently working through Declare by Tim Powers, bit by bit.

gen. 7, 2007, 10:20am

Currently reading

-'Setting the East Ablaze' Hopkirk's work of Bolshevik vs. British struggles in Central Asia/Subcontinent/Caspian 1918-1922

- 'Man in the Shadows' by Efraim Halevy, previous head of Mossad. Not really about spies per se, but about the Israeli-Palestinian war and intelligence policy.

- 'Spy Handler' by Victor Cherashkin, the KGB case officer who ran both Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen.

- 'Spying on the Bomb' by Richelson about US intelligence efforts against other countries' nuclear programmes.

- 'Open Secrets' and 'Sin of National Conscience' by two different Indian intelligence officers


Why not pick up Milt Bearden's 'The Black Tulip' which is set in the Afghan jihad. Bearden was of course Station Chief in Islamabad in the late 1980s.

gen. 11, 2007, 3:59am

Thanks for the tip Copra- I actually just looked over at the bookmooch site and there is a copy available so I mooched it.
I still haven't finished Charlie Wilson's War but know I will be picking it up again soon. I am reading a book called Imperial Life in the Emerald City which reminds me of CWW because of the reporting style and the look behind the scenes. It is about life in the Green Zone in Iraq. It isn't about spies but it has some Graham Greene feeling about it just because of the foreign service aspects (I should say that it is non-fiction).

gen. 14, 2007, 8:43pm


Tulip is a novel, but Bearden also wrote 'The Main Enemy' about the climax of the intelligence war with the KGB. About 1/3rd of it covers the period in Pakistan/Afghanistan.

A good (and free! at complement to CWW and Bearden is 'Beartrap' written by an ISI Brigadier who ran the Pakistani side of the operations (the Americans mostly just delivered the arms and cash) in the mid-1980s.

Read it and you get a very good idea of why with great allies like Pakistan and the ISI Osama and Zawahiri havent been caught in over 5 years, and the Taliban are back.

gen. 20, 2007, 2:03am

Thanks Copra,
I clicked on the link and looked over the website and that looks like an easy way to read the book. Now I can add another site to the " Where Library Thing Leads" group. But 1st I really need to finish the CWW book and I have 3 days off coming up so I think I will finish up all my unfinished books.

gen. 20, 2007, 4:01am

On the non-fiction side :

Recently I read Oyster, which is a history of ASIS.

The Plunging Point, by Lance Collins and Warren Reed is quite good, written by an ex-DIO and ex-ASIS pair. It is critique, so interesting.

Total Surveillance by John Parker, which is mostly about the NSA, Menwith Hill and Echelon.

Global Intelligence by Paul Todd which is a overviw of the alphabet soup around the world and what they get up to, in all regions.

and I have Dragon's Claw by Peter O'Donnell on my read soon pile. More Modesty Blaise goodness.

feb. 18, 2007, 2:37am

On the Fiction side:

- Corpse in the Koryo by 'James Church', set in North Korea

- The Bank of Fear by David Ignatius

març 21, 2007, 10:05pm

Just finished Tinker, tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carre and posted a review. Excellent psychological study in a fiction thriller set during the Cold War.

Will soon be reading the non-fiction Jawbreaker : The attack on Bin Laden and Al Qaeda : A personal account by the CIA's key field commander by Gary Berntsen about the CIA's search for bin Laden.

març 22, 2007, 12:22am

Finally started one by Vince Flynn. (Executive Power) - Figured I'd see if he lives up to the hype.

maig 19, 2007, 2:24pm

I began the month with The Secret Pilgrim, and I'm now almost halfway through The Tailor of Panama. That's the last of the John Le Carre novels I have on my shelves. I guess this means I should start hitting the bookstores for his work again soon.

Earlier this month, I also read Spooks: Behind the Scenes as well as my first Eric Ambler: funnily enough, his last novel The Care of Time. That was quite good, too.

Editat: feb. 13, 2008, 10:38am

Not books I`m reading at present, but ones that may interest you - Rex Hardinge is best-known as a writer of fiction, but was apparently a real-life spy. I usually take this sort of claim with a pinch of salt as it seems it was fashionable at one time for writers to claim they `worked in intelligence` during the war, but I always wonder just what that means. I recall that Penguin at one time published a thriller by some character with a great fanfare about how they couldn`t reveal his true name etc - then printed his picture on the back cover !

Anyway, back to Rex - I`ve listed and reviewed his fictional By Whose Hand, but you may also be interested in a 10 page letter he wrote to his parents concerning his espionage days - go to, look for the heading A Baker Street Scapbook and it`s there in the letters section.

A quick query from me - Basil Davidson is best known as a writer of books on Arican history - though he actually wrote fiction and non-fiction on a variety of subjects - but also wrote two books about his very distinguished career in espionage etc - Partisan Pictures and Special operations Europe : Memoirs of an Anti-Fascist War. I`d love to read them but gather quite a lot of spondulicks have to be shelled out to acquire copies - has anyone read them ? Are they any good ?

If anyone knows I`d be glad to learn your thoughts.

feb. 15, 2008, 3:13pm

...and just about to start Dark Wanton by Peter Cheyney, one of relatively few spy stories he wrote.

març 1, 2008, 10:31pm

I recently read Robert Littell's The Debriefing and enjoyed it. I might go for another of his novels, but something less thick than The Company (which I'll read after I go through my copy of Norman Mailer's Harlot's Ghost). I'm thinking The Once and Future Spy, Legends, The Defection of A. J. Lewinter, or An Agent in Place, but I'll take whatever turns up my way.

Right now, I'm currently reading and enjoying the only Graham Greene novel I own: The Human Factor. I finally started on it after, oddly, having recently seen and enjoyed the recent film adaptation of The Quiet American.

març 22, 2008, 5:36am

Never did get Dark Wanton finished - I`ll try it again in a while. I have read Without Warning by W Howard Baker, not strictly a spy story, but certainly a Cold War thriller. My `To be read` pile includes the Man From Space by Rex Hardinge, not science fiction as you might think, but a story about a man travelling incognito accross a police state, conceivably written from personal experience. I`ll list and review it once it`s read.

març 22, 2008, 5:38am

P.S. you might know Howard Baker by one of his many pseudonyms - Peter Saxon, W A Ballinger, Bill Rekab etc.

des. 29, 2011, 12:11pm

Hello all new to the group.
reading Charles McCarry's Last Supper a great read and one of my fav authors
dan petrosini author of push back and ambition cliff

gen. 4, 2012, 5:15pm

I just completed The Shekinah Legacy, which is an outstanding amalgam of espionage (CIA, Mossad, Vatican intelligence) and assassins with "esoteric thriller" elements thrown in. Just added my review of it here in LibraryThing.

gen. 8, 2012, 4:50pm

Recently read Dragons at the Gate by Robert L. Duncan, a 1970s CIA thriller set in Japan.

gen. 16, 2012, 7:04am

Stella Rimington's Rip Tide. This is her sixth Liz Carlyle novel. It's a good read, although somewhat more predictable than the earlier novels. Rimington's having served as the director general of MI5 does add some welcome plausibility to her plots and personalities.

març 29, 2012, 7:02pm

Spy's Honour by Gavin Lyall a pre-WWI story-entertaining.

ag. 31, 2012, 8:04pm

A Winter Spy by Macdonald Lloyd It is retro, set in late 58-59 and I am enjoying it so far.

nov. 13, 2012, 1:33pm

Following up my most recent 5 star read - The Spy Who Came in From the Cold - with a brilliantly unsettling Call for the Dead.

abr. 24, 2013, 1:36am

Just finished Spies of the Balkans by Alan Furst and now am on Restless by William Boyd

abr. 24, 2013, 1:43pm

Spies of the Balkans is tucked away on my 'spy thrillers' shelf waiting to be read. Did you enjoy it quartzite? So far my only Furst has been The Polish Officer which I enjoyed. I also just acquired The Foreign Correspondent the other week...looking forward to reading more of him.

Today, in of all places the National Botanic Gardens of Wales, I was browsing their used books sale room - for visitor donations, when I find among the usual trashy paperbacks a virtually mint condition 1964 hardback of The Light of Day by Eric Ambler. It's now mine!

maig 1, 2013, 2:46am

Everything by Alan Furst is top notch stuff

maig 30, 2013, 6:35pm

I just started The Good German by Joseph Kanon.

nov. 21, 2013, 1:57am

Just dropping in to say the The Good German was terrific. Maybe more murder mystery than espionage, though.

març 17, 2014, 1:03am

Just started Spycatcher by Matthew Dunn. Seems like a lot of fun so far, about 56 pages in.

març 17, 2014, 2:15am

A Gathering of Saints by Christopher Hyde a based on true events WWII spy story and murder mystery.

abr. 1, 2014, 12:49am

Winter in Madrid by C.J. Sansom good but gloomy.

abr. 1, 2014, 4:21pm

I recently read the bonkers but really good fun Goldfinger by Ian Fleming. My 'review' (more comments really on the eponymous arch-villain and 007 themselves) is here for anyone interested.

març 30, 2015, 11:51am

I recently finished Sentinel, the second in Matthew Dunn's "Spycatcher" series. I'd rate this series good but not great, and I plan on reading at least one more in the series (I think there are four entries, now).

set. 14, 2015, 10:04pm

hi there, just joined the group - started Kipling's Kim today on the train

set. 15, 2015, 5:41pm

>38 addamour: Welcome!

oct. 8, 2015, 2:29am

I have started The Cleaner, the first in Brett Battles' "Jonathan Quinn" series. I'm 120 pages in (about a quarter of the way through) and so far it's quite enjoyable, indeed.

des. 17, 2015, 3:17pm

I read and enjoyed The Fourth Protocol by Frederick Forsyth. The Cold War! Those were the days. :)

des. 28, 2015, 1:27pm

Also a great movie!

ag. 26, 2016, 7:41pm

I had a good time reading John Buchan's espionage classic, The 39 Steps.

ag. 26, 2016, 9:38pm

Will have to look into The 39 Steps. Currently reading The Shanghai Factor by Charles McCarry. He's still got it.

gen. 15, 2017, 12:48pm

Just started Midnight in Europe by Alan Furst.

gen. 16, 2017, 4:54pm

>43 rocketjk: I enjoy all John Buchan's Richard Hannay books. As an Englishman of a certain age I can gloss over Buchan's anti-semitism without getting too upset. Some might find it a bit much.

gen. 16, 2017, 11:22pm

46> As an American Jew of a certain age, I've learned to wince and move on when I come upon such things in the work of authors I otherwise admire and/or enjoy. As folks would say in the New Jersey neighborhood I grew up in, "Waddaya gonna do?"

feb. 11, 2017, 3:44pm

In the fictional Spy genre if you've not already done so, read, The Ipcress File, by Len Deighton. A genuine masterpiece of under-stated gritty contrast to the panache of Fleming's Bond.

Editat: març 16, 2017, 8:10pm

Last night I finished The Deceived, the second in Brett Battles' "Jonathan Quinn" series of espionage thrillers. For fans of the action novel, this is a fine series.

juny 2, 2017, 9:25pm

I started John Buchan's Greenmantle this morning.

juny 3, 2017, 11:00am

Recently read Jason Matthews' Palace of Treason, his second novel. He's writing some of the most compelling espionage fiction now.

des. 13, 2018, 1:39am

I finished Field Gray, the seventh book in Philip Kerr's scandalously entertaining "Bernie Gunther" Berlin Noir series. The book jumps around in time, taking us back and forth from Berlin, circa 1931, through Russian front World War 2, to the opening of the Cold War in Berlin, 1954. Kerr is scrupulous in historic and physical detail, bringing the reader into those dangerous times and evil situations.

abr. 6, 2019, 10:13pm

Looking forward to Alan Furst's next book Under Occupation, coming some time this year, and even more for Agents Running in the Field, coming this fall from John Le Carre.