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The Great Game: The Myth and Reality of Espionage Hardcover – April 20, 2004

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (April 20, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375412107
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375412103
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,260,251 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This compact study contrasts the fictional treatment of espionage with its real life machinations, and manages to be both informative and entertaining in spite of its modest size. The author, a former CIA officer now teaching at Johns Hopkins, focuses particularly on how living a double life affects the players’ personalities. Each part of the actual spies’ career—from recruitment (or recruiting others) to arrest or retirement—is studied in terms of how differing character traits often lead to different sets of decisions in the construction of a shadow self, and how spies re-train their physical and emotional instincts so that their new personalities feel natural. Such alterations are part and parcel of "tradecraft"; CIA traitor Aldrich Ames and the famous Soviet Colonel Oleg Penkovsky may have been deadly, but they were sloppy in keeping their spy personae and actions consistent, while FBI mole Richard Hanssen was exquisitely careful except where one woman was concerned. (Yes, sex is a part of many espionage scenarios—though Hitz suggests that that these arrangements are more complex than any a novelist would dare create.) Hitz then goes on to analyze fictional spies, giving John Le Carre’s creations high marks, as well as Somerset Maugham’s Ashenden, based on the author’s WWI experience with British intelligence. Hitz also has good things to say about Tom Clancy’s characters, notably Marko Ramius of Red October. As for the future of spying, Hitz believes that satellite-based snooping will exist alongside "human intelligence," but that even the office technocrats behind the controls will have tics that affect their work—and the information they gather.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Hitz, who has had a lengthy career in the Central Intelligence Agency, expounds in varied and interesting ways on how the literature of espionage compares with its actual practice. Copiously quoting from classics ranging from Rudyard Kipling's Kim (1901) to W. Somerset Maugham's Ashenden (1928) to the cold war convolutions of Graham Greene and John le Carre, Hitz concludes that in most instances truth is more surprising and peculiar than fiction. Breaking the espionage trade into its components, such as recruiting spies, Hitz discusses the rarity with which recruitment pitches succeed in real operations; typically, spies are not seduced but voluntarily offer their services (e.g., Oleg Penkovsky and Robert Hanssen). Yet counterexamples, such as the Soviets' recruitment of mole Kim Philby, present models that le Carre crafted into his novels about mole-hunter George Smiley. Hitz feels that such creations, while reflecting the psychology of this secretive world, cannot keep up with the motivations that lie behind real-life betrayals and deceptions. Perfect for spy-story fans who crave an insider's assessment of the reality behind the entertainment. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

Overall, the book is a great disappointment.
David J. Gannon
This and other errors makes it seem like Hitz possesses little knowledge beyond what has already been published and widely accepted.
David M. Dougherty
The beauty of Hitz's book is that he brings to it the experience that comes from a lifelong career in the agency.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on May 25, 2004
Format: Hardcover
If you are a fan of spy films and fiction, you will appreciate the countless times double agents are integral to their plots, and how often the Americans, say, would dangle rewards to recruit Soviet spies to come over to the other side. It worked in fiction; it never worked, not once, in any significant way, in actual spying. Frederick P. Hitz, who has a long history of service with the CIA, knows this and says it is confirmed by former CIA director Robert M. Gates and case officer Dwight Clarridge. In _The Great Game: The Myth and Reality of Espionage_ (Knopf), Hitz gives an overview of 20th century spying, comparing fiction to the real thing. It will be a book best appreciated by those who are familiar with the work of such authors as le Carré and Graham Greene, but it can be appreciated not just for the comparisons between fact and fiction, but for the many observations of fact about the spying game.
Rather than recruitments, there were walk-ins by Soviets; a spy (or potential spy) literally walked in to an embassy and offered his services. Changing sides comes from diverse motivations. Some Soviet walk-ins disliked the repression of the Soviet state. Others needed money. Aldrich Ames walked into the Washington Soviet embassy in 1985 with what he estimated was $150,000 in CIA and FBI secrets, ready to sell because he had a lot of bills for his extravagant way of living. Frequently spies have resentment towards their own bureaucracies and failures to rise in them. Sometimes people are tricked into spying. Even the James Bond novels describe a specific sort of "honey pot" entrapment, whereby the sexual liaison would be filmed and the victim forced to spy if he wanted to avoid exposure.
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Format: Hardcover
I bought this book hoping to read an intellectual treatise of the reality faced by spies and their handlers as contrasted to fictional representations in spy novels. In short I expected an expose` of what really goes on (which is pretty mundane) as compared to riveting and thrilling adventures. What I read was a silly half-baked comparison of fictional spy characters from Ashenden to The Hunt For Red Oktober" (not really spies) to ten well-known and exposed spies, five Brits, two Soviets and two Americans (Ames and Hanssen.) There was little to learn, and what there was was well-hidden.

The author brings interesting bureaucratic credentials to the table having served in the CIA, Departments of State, Defense, and Energy, and finally as inspector general of the CIA. However, although his first position was as an "operations officer" (note the does not use the term "case officer"), he may have spent his entire 18 years at Langley, and all those after his first stint in positions requiring a lawyer. In short, his bio indicates he was the ultimate Washington bureaucrat rather than an intelligence operative. Nonetheless, one would think at least he would know something about spies from osmosis, but this book failed to display any insider knowledge, or indeed, anything that could not be gleaned from reading the fictional works referenced and widely published books by others on the real spies he used for comparisons. The best that can be said for this standard product of an Ivy League school (Princeton) and Harvard Law School is that he can write fairly well, although repetitiously.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Biskup on June 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed this book, though it has several frustrations. It is a relatively small book, and a relatively quick read. Overall, the text is very approachable and the subject matter broad but not deep. Each chapter is for a particular aspect of spying such as: sex, tradecraft, gadgets, recruitment, betrayal, retirement, etc. Each chapter is presented in an artificially independent manner; rarely does one chapter refer back to a reference in another chapter. I suppose this can help keep things straight, but it makes it more difficult to create a continuous thread of understanding through the whole book.
Throughout the book, Hitz compares his experiences (rarely explicitely said or rarely a specific incident cited) to about 10 fictional accounts and about 5 true-life books previously written. There are many extended quotes followed by a short interpertation by Hitz. Most of the book focuses on what the author deems an accurate (versus inaccurate) portrayal. If you are not familiar with most of the sources he uses then you may have a difficult time keeping keeping the references straight throughout the book (as I did).
I had a difficult time deciding whether to give three or four stars. The book is a nice read, but not to deep. I felt myself constantly looking for more; wondering what Hitz was leaving out, what he couldn't say and what is still classified "secret" by the government. In the end, I am not a spook so I have to give Hitz the benefit of the doubt and assume he is relatively thorough and honest.
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