Spy Story Paperback – June 1, 1975
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|Paperback, June 1, 1975||
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PA and FF take all this in their stride, staying cooler than you or I would. Attentive readers may suspect at this stage that we are mere spectators in a long-planned drama and that PA and FF are mere pawns or larger pieces in some Cold War chess game. Because more incidents occur, esp. to PA, such as a brutal armed burglary of his new flat by Soviet intelligence officers led by KGB Colonel Stok (who reappears as an adept of the Scottish poet Burns in "Billion Dollar Brain"). Another warning to desist? Earlier, upon arrival from Scotland, PA used his abandoned flat to call for a taxi and finds it curiously changed and extended, with medical equipment added, and a passage made to the flat next door. What alarms him most is evidence that his identity has been stolen to benefit another man...
At work (PA and FF both work at a War Office institute devoted to studying historical conflicts with the aid of computers) a new broom has been appointed, the abrasive, retired Colonel Chuck Schlegel (USMC). His task is to merge the institute with similar war games institutions in NATO-land. He orders a naval war game between the Red Room (commanded by Ferdy) and the Blue Room ( led by visiting top US admirals) to secure more funding and legitimacy for the institute. Or what? PA is referee Schlegel's Personal Assistant and able to move between Red and Blue. It gives him a crash course in decision-making and playing foul to obtain higher objectives.
"Spy Story" is about a carefully-planned defection of a key Soviet submarine commander. Len Deighton must remain in print. It is not for claustrophobics. His knowledge in 1974 of the intelligence capabilities of submarines and computers is awesome. Colonel Schlegel makes a comeback in "Yesterday's Spy". Authentic, convincing and with a chilling finale.
The elements of the plot are all familiar: retired spy reluctantly drawn back into the game, infighting among the various intelligence agencies, opportunity for an intelligence coup or it is really a Soviet trick?, public school Brits vs hardnosed American military types, double agents & double crosses, etc. Len Deighton weaves all these near-cliches into a well-written, fast-paced, action & detection narrative.
I never thought I'd use the word nostalgia with regard to the Cold War, but that was my reaction to "Spy Story". As the opening of the Lone Ranger show used to say "Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear".
There is a real spy story about John Richardson who had been a US double agent in the 1930s in military intelligence. He learned about Communist insurgencies and how Lenin had created the Communist International of the show "purge" trials of the 1930s. It was called the golden age of spying from 1950 to 1960.
Len Deighton is a historian who has written several such stories about spies, counterspies, plots, and counterplots, like 'Berlin Game' and 'Funeral in Berlin.' Marx had designed his theories around the belief that Germany would be the first socialist land, and that Communism is the 'opiate of the intellectuals.' As a historian, he also wrote 'The True Story of the Battle of Britain, and 'Blood, Tears, and Folly (WWII) in 1993 which has been re-released in 2005.
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But if you love the other Harry Palmer books, and have read Horse out of Water as well as The IPCRESS File, Funeral In Berlin, and Billion Dollar Brain, then you will like this book, too.