February 16, 2021

My current research revolves around the art of espionage.

On the practical, and dry, side is How to Become a Spy: The World War II SOE Training Manual. This was the syllabus from the British Special Training Schools of the Special Operations Executive from 1943. 

Book cover: Dark green background with white text HOW TO BECOME A SPY

It’s in outline format, so doesn’t have a lot of explanation. Still, there’s fascinating information here, such as the criteria for a spy choosing the best housing and the security precautions that should be taken to protect the home. I’ve been reading this in ebook format in small chunks.

Far more engaging is The Moscow Rules: The Secret CIA Tactics That Helped America Win the Cold War, which I’m listening to in audiobook format. The narrator, Wilson Bethel, does a fantastic job of bringing these stories to life.

Book cover: Black background. White text THE MOSCOW RULES over a red star

The book is written by a married couple who worked in the CIA’s Technical Services Division developing disguises and gadgets. Think of them as the American version of Q from the James Bond movies.

This book is as riveting as any top-notch thriller, with the added layer of knowing that these stories had potentially fatal consequences. I can’t listen to the book while the water is running or when I’m driving, because I don’t want to miss a thing.

From a writer's perspective, I'm not only learning about the details of spycraft, but about the personalities of the key players and how they handled themselves in life-or-death situations. That's the type of information that's as critical to a writer as the enemy's military plans are to a government.

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