Sunday, December 30, 2012

Five notable books on secret agents

William Stevenson was trained in aerial espionage as a British naval fighter pilot during World War II. A distinguished journalist and war correspondent, he is the author of sixteen books, including A Man Called Intrepid, Intrepid’s Last Case, Ninety Minutes at Entebbe, and, most recently, Past to Present: A Reporter's Story of War, Spies, People, and Politics.

For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of books about secret agents, including:
Family of Spies
by Pete Earley (1988)

An old-fashioned Washington reporter brings his superb investigative skills to this gripping narrative about U.S. naval warrant officer John Walker, who, from 1967 to 1985, compromised American security with unprecedented sweep. Among millions of secrets he handed to the Russians were details of U.S. troop movements during the Vietnam War and some of the actual authentication codes needed to launch U.S. nuclear strikes. The story of how Walker recruited family and friends to do his dirty work for 20 years, and then discarded them as "misfits and weaklings" who brought him down, makes better reading than most novels. Since it is all based on Earley's interviews and astute analysis, it is also an education. No other book I know of exposes the banality that drives unscrupulous spies like Walker, a quality Earley describes as "moral weightlessness." Money was the primary incentive for this biggest of U.S. traitors in recent times. Almost equally important was ego. When Walker was arrested, he firmly believed that the government wouldn't be "so stupid" as to prosecute him. "I was too important as a [potential] double agent," he told Earley later.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue