Spies: The Secret Agents Who Changed The Course of History
NON FICTION BOOK REVIEW
Title: Spies: The Secret Agents Who Changed The Course of History;
by Ernest Volkman; Publisher John Wiley & Sons Inc.;
ISBN 0 471 55714-5; Hardcover; 304 pages; $32.50.
Reviewer: A. T. Connellan, "Spies is a treat for the mind. Ernest
Volkman's book is about the real thing."
Spies, the price of failure is death
Spies along with harlots, lawyers, and politicians make up the
membership of the world's four oldest professions. It's a tossup
as to which is the least reputable, but espionage is the only one
where the price of failure is death, although there are some who
would argue that this cost should be extended across the board.
Fascination with the murky world of moles, traitors, and spies is
universal, curiosity and misconception abound. The result are
countless portrayals in books, movies, theater, and television,
to the delight of cash registers everywhere. Armchair 007's are
able to vicariously experience the world of the spy without the
danger. That's entertainment.
Ernest Volkman's book is about the real thing, disclosing
perhaps too briefly, the stories of an array of complex characters
who populate a world that most of us will never do more than
fantasize about. He examines the motives of this curious
assortment of figures who put their lives up as chips in a game in
which there is little chance of winning, and the rewards are small.
These are not the James Bonds, but the masters of the double
cross, the diabolical, the methodical, the patient who collect the
vital information used to balance the scales of international power.
The author awards us with a fascinating glossary, without which
we wouldn't know an "asset" from an "agent" or a "dead drop"
from a "discard." Then he introduces us to these 45 men and
women by code name and alias. Their stories make gripping,
suspenseful reading right down to some grizzly endings.
It seems that the Russians outdid even the Nazis in disposing
of their worst traitors. The Soviets knew how to set an example,
"...he was slowly fed into a live furnace, with some of his closest
former comrades forced to watch."
Among the most noteworthy of the Spymasters, Canadians will
recognize the code name Intrepid, the Winnipeg born Sir
William Stephenson, who reported only to British prime minister
Winston Churchill. His story A Man Called Intrepid is worthwhile
Mr. Volkman is considered an expert in the field of espionage,
and is the author of two significant books on the subject; Secret
Intelligence, and Warriors of the Night. He has done his
research well for this book, it shows and we benefit.
Spies is a treat for the mind. Whatever this book may lack in
depth is more than compensated for by breadth. He has
whetted my interest for a sequel.
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