Friday, April 26, 2013

Weekend reading -- Spy Novels

Since the point of this blog is to encourage more reading by students of clinical psychology, it seems proper and fitting to include "entertainments" as well as Great Books. Not everything worth reading has to be serious (and not everything serious is worth reading). If people are going to read trashy books for pleasure, they might as well read high-quality trashy books. From here on out, I'll just call it "weekend reading."

Here are three excellent books on espionage that I have enjoyed. Every serious reader has four lists: 1) books they have read; 2) books they intend to read; 3) books they pretend to have read; and, 4) books that they have read twice. All three of these books are in that last, exalted category, which is the finest endorsement of them that I can think of. Of course, your tastes might vary and there is no guarantee that you will enjoy what I do.

1. Vengeance by George Jonas. This is the basis for the movie, Munich (Steven Spielberg, dir.) and is the reason I was so terribly disappointed by that movie, which apparently many people liked. The book was tremendous. There is some controversy about the veracity of the account, as there must be in any memoir of an intelligence operation.

2. Saving the Queen by William F. Buckley. This is the first of the Blackford Oakes series of spy novels, which trace the history of the Cold War. Blacky is arguably far cooler than James Bond (who is rather a psychopath, particularly in the Ian Fleming novels and the movie Casino Royale). This first installment involves the initial recruitment and training of Blackford Oakes into the CIA in the 1950s, which author Buckley presumably knew something about, since he was a CIA officer at that time.

3. The Tears of Autumn by Charles McCarry. This one of several spy novels featuring CIA officer Paul Christopher. McCarry's books are often referred to as "the spy novels that real intelligence officers read." Like Buckley, McCarry also has a history of service in the CIA (although apparently more extensive and covert). This book is not only a high quality novel in its own right but presents one of the most interesting alternative explanations of the Kennedy assassination I have ever encountered. Here is a nice review of the book.

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