Red Spy At Night


Title:                      Red Spy At Night

Author:                 Helga Pohl-Wannenmacher

Pohl-Wannenmacher, Helga (1977). Red Spy At Night: A True Story of Espionage And Seduction Behind The Iron Curtain. London: New English Library

LCCN:    78318350

UB271.R92 P64613

Subjects

Date Posted:      March 27, 2015

Reviewed by George C. Constantinides[1]

The author, a German born in Poland, became a prisoner in Russia and ended up as a captain in the KGB. She defected to the West in West Berlin in 1956 with her son by a Soviet colonel. This purports to be her story, including some six years with the KGB. There are “Perils of Pauline”-Iike episodes and other features that give it an improbable tone and quality. She says she underwent imprisonment in the Soviet Union, near death from freezing, a marriage to a Soviet doctor who was a bigamist, another marriage to a Soviet colonel, and then recruitment into the KGB. Among her claims is that she was forced to undertake a mission to kill someone in Paris but warned the prospective KGB victim; for this she was not punished but protected. Important names, too, are dropped. She claims to have met Soviet leaders like Serov and Shvernik and the sons of Stalin and Beria. There are odd errors; she refers to the KGB by that name as of 1949 when it was so called only beginning in 1954; she speaks of the NWS when she seems to be referring to the NTS. And her description of CIA methods of operating sounds very implausible. No expert authority is known to have expressed any views of the book.

[1] Constantinides, George C. (1983). Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, pp. 376-377

Ghosts on the Roof


Title:                      Ghosts on the Roof

Author:                Terry Teachout

Teachout, Terry, ed. (1989). Ghosts on the Roof: Selected Journalism of Whittaker Chambers, 1931-1959. Washington, DC: Regnery Gateway

LCCN:    89010268

PN4874.C426 A25 1989

Subjects

Date Updated:  March 27, 2015

Whittaker Chambers is one of the most controversial figures in modern American history a former Communist spy who left the party, testified against Alger Hiss before the House Un-American Activities Committee, and wrote a classic autobiography, Witness. Dismissed by some as a crank, reviled by others as a traitor, Chambers still looms as a Dostoevskian figure over three decades after his death in 1961. A man of profound pessimism, rare vision, and remarkable literary talents, his continuing importance was attested to when Ronald Reagan posthumously awarded him the Medal of Freedom in 1984. Ghosts on the Roof, originally published in 1989, brings together more than fifty short stories, essays, articles, and reviews that originally appeared in Time, Life, National Review, Commonweal, The American Mercury, and the New Masses. Included are essays on Karl Marx, Reinhold Niebuhr, James Joyce, Franz Kafka, George Santayana, Dame Rebecca West, Ayn Rand, and Greta Garbo. These show Chambers at his best, as a peerless historian of ideas.

The Children’s Game


Title:                      The Children’s Game

Author:                 David Wise

Wise, David (1983). The Children’s Game. New York: St. Martin’s/Marek

LCCN:    83009606

PS3573.I785 C5 1983

Date Updated:  March 25, 2015

Editorial Review – Kirkus Reviews

Far less original than Wise’s thriller-debut Spectrum (1981), this serviceably entertaining spy suspense features ex-CIA superstar William Danner—who, in the déjà vu-ish opening chapters, is forced to return to action: there’s a mole in the CIA somewhere, and only Smiley, that is, Danner has the smarts and objectivity to track him down.

All around the world, you see, CIA agents and schemes have been revealed or sabotaged; furthermore, it seems that the “old boys” —a group of angry, fired, ex-CIA agents—is involved with these bloody foul ups. So Danner starts sleuthing—and keeps sleuthing even when the KGB kidnaps his beloved eleven-year-old daughter Carrie in an effort to get Danner off the trail.

Is the primary motive behind all the dirty work an “old boy” scheme to undermine the current CIA director? So it seems, as Danner tracks down the old-boy ringleader in Zurich—with assorted hi-tech investigatory techniques. But when Danner identifies the source of the old boys’ inside info (more hi-tech, decoding a disguised-voice on tape), he learns what the reader has already been clued into: the old boys have merely been pawns in a plot by the CIA chief himself, who has been secretly trading secrets—for mutual political benefit—with the head of the KGB! So, in the novel’s last section, Danner must (if Carrie is to survive) somehow foil the CIA chief’s latest, greatest machination with the KGB: the planned Moscow assassination of the unstable USSR president, whose would-be assailant (disguised as a circus clown) just happens to be Danner’s new true-love/bedmate, CIA agent Julie!

Ending up with some escape-from-Russia border action: a busy, piecemeal, farfetched plot—lifted a notch or two by Wise’s pleasantly conventional filler (sex, sentiment) and his lively sprinklings of convincing CIA lore/atmosphere.

The Dream Merchant of Lisbon


Title:                      The Dream Merchant of Lisbon

Author:                Gene Coyle

Coyle, Gene (2004). The Dream Merchant of Lisbon. Bloomington, IN: Xlibris Corp.

OCLC:    0592584

PZ7 .C88 2004

Subjects

Date Updated:  March 23, 2015

The Best Spy Novels

This book is from a list I obtained from Nigel West. Nigel West is an author specializing in security, intelligence, secret service and espionage issues. He is the European Editor of the World Intelligence Review, published in Washington DC, and the editorial director of The St Ermin’s Press. In 1989 he was voted “The Experts’ Expert” by The Observer. He writes regularly for SpearsWealth Management Survey and works with The Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies. He judges this book as one of the best spy novels

Nigel’s comment: “A CIA station chief negotiates a KGB defector, written by a senior retiree.”

CIA officer Shawn Reilly recruits foreign officials to spy for the United States. He thinks of his job as selling dreams to people who need money, need their egos stroked or want revenge on their bosses or government. After spending many years in the hellholes of the world, he has wound up in the twilight of his career in Lisbon, Portugal where he faces a “by the book” boss, a crumbling marriage and Boris, the chief of the Russian intelligence service in Portugal who is likewise targeting Shawn. At the same time, the Libyan intelligence service is trying to lure a Central Asian chemical weapons specialist to Libya and the Russian service is on the tail of the Kazak scientist. Boris’ attractive daughter, visiting from Moscow, is swept up in the plots within plots, where as in the real world of espionage, all is not necessarily as it first appears. The various threads of intrigue come together in Lisbon. In addition to performing his professional duties Shawn is forced to face the question for an aging spy of just what really matters in life – one’s duty or love. The Dream Merchant of Lisbon goes into the minds of the major players to explore the psychology of espionage, based on the author’s true life experiences in that shadowy world.

Other books listed by Nigel West as among the best spy books are:

Ambler, Eric (1939). The Mask of Dimitrios

Coyle, Gene (2004). The Dream Merchant of Lisbon

Follett, Ken (1978). The Eye of the Needle

Forsyth, Frederick. The Day of the Jackal.

Furst, Allan. The Nightwatch. Considered by American intelligence insiders to be impressively authentic.

Greene, Graham. The Human Factor. An SIS officer’s troubled conscience leads him to become a mole. Written by Kim Philby’s close friend and wartime subordinate

Higgins, Jack. The Eagle Has Landed. A German spy is planning to assassinate Winston Churchill at an English country house. Untrue, but nevertheless, compelling.

Le Carrè, John. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. An atmospheric tale of Cold War betrayal in Germany written by an SIS officer who served there under consular cover.

The Mask of Dimitrios


Title:                  The Mask of Dimitrios

Author:                Eric Ambler

Ambler, Eric (1939). The Mask of Dimitrios. London: Hodder and Stoughton

LCCN:    39021792

PZ3.A48 Mas

Date Updated:  March 30, 2015

The Best Spy Novels

This book is from a list I obtained from Nigel West. Nigel West is an author specializing in security, intelligence, secret service and espionage issues. He is the European Editor of the World Intelligence Review, published in Washington DC, and the editorial director of The St Ermin’s Press. In 1989 he was voted “The Experts’ Expert” by The Observer. He writes regularly for SpearsWealth Management Survey and works with The Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies. He judges this book as one of the best spy novels

Nigel West says this book is “a classic of the genre. The background of an elusive pre-war master-spy suggests he may be not be dead after all. Endorsed by James Bond.”

With WWII looming, Eric Ambler created this moody masterpiece that is only dated because of its capacity to be shocked by evil. The experience of WWII would take care of that little problem. We follow the trail of Dimitrios, part spy, murderer, pimp and thief, and it’s a familiar tale of small-time desperation and large-scale ambition with the volatile politics of Europe and the Near East thrown in to add interest and a sense of bigger things at stake. It’s sad but true that this book couldn’t be written today because evil has become so much more comprehensive, and the neat plot twist at the end would be the starting point for a much more shocking expose. Nevertheless, it’s well worth the experience to read a great storyteller at work.

This book is from a list I obtained from Nigel West. Nigel West is an author specializing in security, intelligence, secret service and espionage issues. He is the European Editor of the World Intelligence Review, published in Washington DC, and the editorial director of The St Ermin’s Press. In 1989 he was voted “The Experts’ Expert” by The Observer. He writes regularly for SpearsWealth Management Survey and works with The Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies. He judges this book as one of the best spy novels

Nigel West comment: A German spy is on a mission to discover the secrets of D-Day and MI5 fears he may uncover the truth about a deception campaign.

Forsyth, Frederick. The Day of the Jackal. An assassin hired to kill President Charles de Gaulle is chased across Europe, constantly switching is identity to elude his hunters.

Furst, Allan. The Nightwatch. Considered by American intelligence insiders to be impressively authentic.

Greene, Graham. The Human Factor. An SIS officer’s troubled conscience leads him to become a mole. Written by Kim Philby’s close friend and wartime subordinate

Higgins, Jack. The Eagle Has Landed. A German spy is planning to assassinate Winston Churchill at an English country house. Untrue, but nevertheless, compelling.

Le Carrè, John. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. An atmospheric tale of Cold War betrayal in Germany written by an SIS officer who served there under consular cover.

 

Spytime


Title:                      Spytime

Author:                  William F. Buckley, Jr

Buckley, William F., Jr. (2000). Spytime: The Undoing of James Jesus Angleton. New York: Harcourt

PS3552.U344 S6 2000

LCCN:    99054977

Date Updated:  November 21, 2016

I was surprised to find this book to be a novel. However, James Jesus Angleton (nobody ever used his middle name with him, I have on good authority) provides all the elements for a good novel. He is, for example, a major character in The Company: A Novel of the CIA (Robert Littell, 2002).

To be sure, even to his supporters, Angelton was an enigma, a secretive man whose power was at its peak during the height of the Cold War. Founder of U.S. counter-intelligence, hunter of moles and foes of America, his name has become synonymous with skulduggery and subterfuge.

Angleton pursued his enemies, real and imagined, with a cool, calculating intelligence. Eventually convinced that there was a turncoat within the highest reaches of the U.S. government, Angleton turned all of his considerable skills to finding and exposing him. The result was a near-victory for U.S. Intelligence-and total defeat for himself. A brilliant re-creation of a world that included Soviet defectors, the infamous traitors Burgess, MacLean, and Philby, and American presidents from Truman to Carter, Spytime traces the making-and unmaking-of a man without a peer and, at the end, a man without a country to serve.

Among his intellectual achievements, Buckley was a successful spy novelist. In 1975, Buckley recounted being inspired to write a spy novel by Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal: “…If I were to write a book of fiction, I’d like to have a whack at something of that nature.” He went on to explain that he was determined to avoid the moral ambiguity of Graham Greene and John le Carré. Buckley wrote the 1976 spy novel Saving the Queen[1], featuring Blackford Oakes as a rule-bound CIA agent, based in part on his own CIA experiences. Over the next 30 years, he would write another ten novels featuring Oakes. New York Times critic Charlie Rubin wrote that the series “at its best, evokes John O’Hara in its precise sense of place amid simmering class hierarchies”. Stained Glass, second in the series, won a 1980 National Book Award in the one-year category Mystery (paperback).

Buckley was particularly concerned about the view that what the CIA and the KGB were doing was morally equivalent. As he wrote in his memoirs, “To say that the CIA and the KGB engage in similar practices is the equivalent of saying that the man who pushes an old lady into the path of a hurtling bus is not to be distinguished from the man who pushes an old lady out of the path of a hurtling bus: on the grounds that, after all, in both cases someone is pushing old ladies around.

Angleton’s resignation from the CIA was announced on Christmas Eve of 1975, just as President Ford demanded that Colby report on the allegations and as various Congressional committees announced that they would launch their own inquiries. Angleton was never prosecuted for his involvement in the surveillance of antiwar protesters and domestic dissidents. Three of Angleton’s senior aides in counterintelligence, his deputy Raymond Rocca, executive officer of the counter-intelligence division William J. Hood, and Angleton’s chief of operations Newton S. Miller, were coaxed into retirement within a week of Angleton’s resignation after it was made clear that they would be transferred elsewhere in the agency rather than promoted, and the counter-intelligence staff was reduced from 300 people to 80 people.

Hersh reported that Angleton subsequently called him to claim that Angleton’s wife, Cicely, had left him as a result of the story. A friend of Hersh’s immediately laughed off this claim, telling Hersh that Angleton’s wife had left him years ago and had since returned — and knew well enough that Angleton worked for the CIA. Indeed, they remained friendly for years after they began living apart, and yearly took a vacation together to his beloved fishing spot. Here he was known as a fisherman and a documenter of the river, but not for his profession, although it was quietly known. Rumors swirled around Washington thereafter that Colby was himself the KGB mole, but these were never conclusively attributed to Angleton. Angleton was awarded the Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the CIA’s second highest honor, in 1975.

Angleton had become increasingly convinced that the CIA was compromised by the KGB. Golitsyn convinced him that the KGB had reorganized in 1958 and 1959 to consist mostly of a shell, incorporating only those agents whom the CIA and the FBI were recruiting, directed by a small cabal of puppet masters who doubled those agents to manipulate their Western counterparts. Hoover eventually curbed cooperation with the CIA because Angleton refused to relent on this hypothesis. Angleton also came into increasing conflict with the rest of the CIA, particularly with the Directorate of Operations, over the efficacy of their intelligence-gathering efforts, which he questioned without explaining his broader views on KGB strategy and organization.

Golitsyn was considered discredited within the CIA even before Angleton’s ousting, but the two did not appear to have lost their faith in one another. They sought the assistance of William F. Buckley, Jr. (himself once a CIA man) in authoring New Lies for Old, which advanced the argument that the USSR planned to fake its collapse to lull its enemies into a false sense of victory. Buckley refused but later went on to write this novel, Spytime, about Angleton

[1] Buckley, William F., Jr. (1976, 1978, 2005). Saving The Queen: A Blackford Oakes Novel. Nashville, TN: Cumberland House

 

 

Sole Agent


Title:                  Sole Agent

Author:                Kenneth Benton

Benton, Kenneth (1970 ). Sole Agent. London: Collins

LCCN:    73864210

PZ4.B479 So

Subjects

Date Updated:  March 19, 2015

According to Nigel West, this is one of the best spy novels. A second international hotfoot for Peter Craig who also proceeds by fast car to try and keep up with Amanda, the daughter of the Defense Attaché who has “lunatic” ambitions to become a Russian spy (and her entree actually is pretty sound) who is also involved with a local agitator.

However, to me, the author is more interesting than the novel. Kenneth Benton, CMG (1909–1999) was an English MI6 officer and diplomat from 1937-68. Following retirement, Benton began a second career as writer of spy and crime thrillers.

In 1937, in Vienna, Benton was offered a job by Captain Thomas Kendrick, the British Passport Control Officer for Vienna, who he had met initially through his future wife, Peggie Lambert. He was subsequently interviewed by Maurice Jeffes and Admiral Hugh Sinclair, then chief of MI6. Benton quickly realized that his role in the Passport Control Office was in fact a cover for intelligence work for MI6.

“I had expected to begin dealing with visas, but instead was brought in to one of the back rooms where Bill Holmes passed me a letter addressed to somebody with a Czech name in some street in Vienna and asked me to translate it. I opened the letter, called Bill, and said, ‘Look, I can’t do this; it is in Czech.’ She said, ‘Oh, I’m sorry; how stupid; hang on for a moment.’ At the back of my desk there was a little open bottle of colourless liquid, with a brush, and she dipped the brush in the liquid, passed it over the whole of the front of the letter and to my amazed eyes red writing appeared at right angles to the Czech text and it was in German. Then she turned the letter over and did the same on the rear side, so that I had two sides of what was in fact a German report.”

After the annexation of Austria in 1938, Kenneth and Peggie (married in March of that year) were posted to Riga, he as acting vice consul; after the Soviet occupation of Latvia two years later, he returned to England and after briefing at Bletchley Park was subsequently posted to Madrid as head of MI6’s Section V, dealing with intercepted intelligence traffic and identifying German spies travelling through Spain.

Assigned to Madrid, Benton reported technically to Hamilton Stokes, Head of the Madrid SIS Station, but because of the confidential nature of his decoding work, he was not allowed to discuss ISOS traffic. This situation created friction between the two men, and Benton was eventually appointed head of a separate station, named ‘Iberia’. The cover that the Visa office provided allowed Benton and his wife to create a database of information on individuals leaving and entering Spain, which could be compiled with other intelligence reports to identify patterns.

“The card index, in the course of nearly three years when I was in charge, grew to fourteen feet in length and really appeared to have a life of its own, because it often produced information that we did not know it had. Into that card index went the names of visa applicants, lists of ship passengers, names of known agents, Abwehr officers, guests at hotels, passengers on air flights, passengers on trains, as well as individuals about whom we had received information from Head Office or locally.”

Benton’s team identified 19 spies during his time in Madrid, including the Double Cross agents TREASURE, ARTIST, TRICYCLE and GARBO.

“What we wanted to do was to get them to England and turn them into double agents, not just to satisfy the Germans that they were getting a lot of spies into England, but of course for the great deception which was so effective in deceiving the Germans on D-Day […] the great advantage of the ISOS double agents was that, as soon as the false messages had been sent to the German case officers, we knew by their reactions how they had been accepted, which was an enormous advantage.”

In 1941, Kim Philby was appointed head of the Iberian section, which dealt with both Spain and Portugal, and became Benton’s boss. He later articulated the emotional effect of Philby’s outing as a Soviet agent in 1963: “Philby betrayed us all […] He had no loyalties, either to HMG or friends, or to the women he married. We had liked and admired him and were left feeling unclean.” His sentiments were shared by his wife:

“Years later, when Philby made his escape to Moscow, Peggie and I were having a drink with Footman, who was looking shattered. ‘I know’, said Peggie. ‘we could work out a plan to leak information to the NKVD showing that Philby was a triple-cross, that Nicholas Eliot’s last meeting with him in Beirut had really been to brief him on how to make touch with our Embassy in Moscow. I’ll bet they’d swallow the story, if we did it craftily.”

“But the NKVD would shoot him,” protested David, shocked to the core. “Yes”, said Peggie happily, “and serve him bloody right.”

Shortly after the Allied invasion of Italy in September 1943, Kenneth and Peggie were posted to Rome; Kenneth had been appointed head of the MI6 station attached to the new British Embassy, which as a result of rationing and ongoing disruption in Italy, was only opened in July 1944. Benton’s later career included a further posting to Madrid in 1953, then to London from 1956-62 as head of recruitment for SIS. He was subsequently posted to Lima, Peru and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as Deputy Director for Latin America (DDLA), and retired from the Service in 1968.