The Great Game: The Myth and Reality of Espionage

In this fascinating analysis, Frederick Hitz, former inspector general of the Central Intelligence Agency, contrasts the writings of well-known authors of spy novels—classic and popular—with real-life espionage cases. Drawing on personal experience both as a participant in “the Great Game” and as the first presidentially appointed inspector general, Hitz shows the remarkable degree to which truth is stranger than fiction.

The vivid cast of characters includes real life spies Pyotr Popov and Oleg Penkovsky from Soviet military intelligence; Kim Philby, the infamous Soviet spy; Aldrich Ames, the most damaging CIA spy to American interests in the Cold War; and Duane Clarridge, a CIA career operations officer. They are held up against such legendary genre spies as Bill Haydon (le Carré’s mole in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy), Magnus Pym (in le Carré’s A Perfect Spy), Tom Rogers (in David Ignatius’s Agents of Innocence), and Maurice Castle (in Graham Greene’s The Human Factor).

As Hitz skillfully weaves examples from a wide range of espionage activities—from covert action to counterintelligence to classic agent operations—we see that the actual is often more compelling than the imaginary, and that real spy case histories present moral and other questions far more pointedly than fiction.
A lively account of espionage, spy tradecraft, and, most of all, the human dilemmas of betrayal, manipulation, and deceit.