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Spycatcher: The Candid Autobiography of a Senior Intelligence Officer

3.69  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,106 Ratings  ·  119 Reviews
From the earliest days of electronic surveillance to the height of the Cold War, Wright was at the center of the action in Mi5, Britain's counterespionage service.
Hardcover, First Edition (U.S.), 392 pages
Published July 31st 1987 by Viking Penguin Inc. (first published 1987)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Manny
If the British Government hadn't tried to ban this book, the memoirs of a former counter-intelligence agent, I would never have read it. And the same probably goes for most of the two million odd people who bought it. You'd think they'd have learned by now, wouldn't you?

It's not brilliantly written or anything, but there are some startling anecdotes. I challenge anyone not to feel just a little bit paranoid afterwards. The one I liked best was the suspect who goes away for the weekend. They brea
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Gail Carriger
I read this book for research not pleasure. I've various thoughts on it, so please excuse me for being scattered and simply reviewing it with bullet points as opposed to full sentences?

* It's not very good as a page-by-page read. The writing is dense and non-linear in an Odyssey way. I had to take it in bite sized chunks, as if it were a textbook.
* Every time a new character is introduced Mr. Wright sidetracks to tell us background or a story about an incident gone wrong involving that person
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Meri
Jan 28, 2008 Meri rated it it was amazing
I devoured this one in two days. I thought espionage movies are interesting, but was blown away by how much more intrigue, deceit, and flashy gadgets there are in the true stories!

Peter Wright was recruited into MI5 following World War II as their first staff scientist. He began in signals technology, designing new methods for detecting and decrypting soviet signals. A rising star, he quickly moved on to counterintelligence, where he spends the remainder of his career trying to ferret out moles
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Anaszaidan
Jun 18, 2016 Anaszaidan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
كتاب لا يشبه اي كتاب..فهو ويكيليس جيل أسلافنا..فكمية الأسرار التي أدلى بها المؤلف لا تكاد تراها في أي كتاب.فلا عجب أن تحاول ماجريت ثاتشر رئيسة وزراء بريطانيا في ذلك العصر، منع صدور الكتاب بحجة حماية أسرار قومية..ولكن دون جدوى.

الكتاب يبدأ بسيرة ذاتية مملة بعض الشيء، حتى يدخل في بيان كيفية انضمامه لما يسمى MI5.

كانت بوابة الانضمام هي الدراية بتطوير تكنولوجيا تجسسة تتفوق على قدرات أعداء بريطانيا..فقد طور بيتر رايت تكنولوجيا للتجسس على الأفراد..وعلى السفارات. تطور عمل رايت فصار يدخل في العمل الميدان
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Si
Feb 20, 2012 Si rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting read that describes the life of Peter Wright, from his early days, his move into MI5 as a techie (particularly developing bugging techniques and detection of foreign transmissions), then concentrates on his work in counter intelligence. It's also fascinating to learn how the organisation worked.

He gives frank opinions of the people with whom he worked, both positive and negative, and similarly on how MI5 was run, giving both praise and criticism, and showing how he tried to impro
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Gavin
This may well still be banned in the UK, although why it would remain to be so now is somewhat of a mystery, what with the supposed opening up of the secret world. At the time of its initial publication this rather tame memoir got a great deal of publicity due to Thatcher's government slapping a ban on it. This naturally led to a surge of interest that probably would otherwise not have been there and it sold in its thousands.

Not having read it before, I approached it with something of a fresh vi
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John Dalton
I picked up this book in our last trip to our favourite second hand book store. I don t read as much non-fiction as I should, but this instantly appealed to me so I decided to take it home.[return][return]Spycatcher is the story of the author s career as an agent for MI5, Britain s secret intelligence service. He was an electrical engineer whose work had proven useful to the intelligence services during the second World War, and by the end of the 1940 s he d been recruited by them to continue hi ...more
Gavin
Feb 09, 2015 Gavin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My dad brought this home to me from Belfast in 1987. It was banned at the time, actually at this point I'm not sure how he picked up a copy, but I really did enjoy the book and I think it crystallized my love of spy tales. The eleventh commandment still sticks out, 'thou shalt not get caught.' Pretty much something that most of the military and political world seem to follow in this day and age. There are still heroes, but not as many as we require.

As an aside, the lawyer for Peter Wright, who h
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Frank Inserra
Dec 07, 2014 Frank Inserra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The definitional work on MI5 by a man who should know. The only book that even comes close to it in terms of authenticity is Marchetti's CIA and the Cult of Intelligence.
Dan Cohen
Jan 18, 2015 Dan Cohen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, history

I found this book surprisingly engrossing. I did not read it at the time it came out and the negative publicity that has attached itself to Peter Wright in the intervening years perhaps influenced me unduly to ignore it. But I found it a fascinating read and extremely revealing. The descriptions of the operations mounted by MI5 and of the technological developments were really interesting, as was the picture conveyed of the old-boys-club nature of British intelligence services during the war and
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Mohamad Dahrouj
يبين الكتاب دور المخابرات البريطانية في كثير من الاحداث ويتحدث عن التعاون والتنافس مع المخابرات الامريكية . وكذلك عن قدرة المخابرات السوفيتية على اختراق الغرب
Ross
May 29, 2016 Ross rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Intriguing and frightening exposé of the long-term damage done to British (and Commonwealth) intelligence by the infiltration of Soviet spies into the highest levels, spanning several decades. Also a fascinating insight into the technical ingenuity of the "trade" and the brain twisting hall of mirrors created by the web of double agents. The British government attempted to ban this book. Interestingly, Malcolm Turnbull represented Peter Wright in court.
Atiey Khairudin
Feb 28, 2013 Atiey Khairudin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A glimpse into their world, truly fascinating. I really like it. For years I have tried to read this book, but left it after few pages! The first 8 chapters were very boring, more on how the author started his career in MI5. But from the middle onward, there were more actions, interesting theories and of course, facts. The fact that intelligence agency follows the 11th commandment: "Thou shalt not get caught", is a vivid proof that in this world, sometimes you(authorized people) need to work out ...more
Alexa Wardle
See my blog on wordpress: https://thebritishstoryteller.wordpre... for my opinion.
Ian Lambert
When it was published in 1985 this book annoyed Maggy Thatcher a lot so I figured it must have a lot of uncomfortable truths in it, but didn't read it. A few weeks ago, a tatty old copy found me in a friend's secondhand charity bookstore. I had recently read John Le Carre's biography and just as I finished Spycatcher, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy turned up on the TV. The combination was interesting and illuminating and made me wonder what we might understand fifty years from now about the early 21s ...more
Jean-Luc
Nov 08, 2015 Jean-Luc rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The UK's intelligence agencies are an alphabet soup nightmare, but the important pieces are GCHQ (the UK's version of the NSA), MI6 (the Secret Intelligence Service), and MI5 (the Secret Service). James Bond, the fictional spy, and I must stress that he is fictional, works for MI6. Every single person at MI6 thinks he's James Bond. Any organization founded entirely by loose cannons cannot possibly be effective, but they can serve, if nothing else, as an important example in how not to act.

Peter
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Bill Keefe
Jul 31, 2014 Bill Keefe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a great book! It was a great chronicle of a career, an in-depth look at the British intelligence services and a perceptive look at a culture and an era. To top it off it was very, very well written spy thriller. Stunningly so, if he actually wrote it himself.

The main complaint about this book seems to be that it is simply driven by Mr. Wright's resentment about the failure of people to take action on his major work and his anger for having been denied 17 years of earned pension benefits
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Walter
Feb 17, 2014 Walter rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: espionage
Although the world of espionage is fascinating in and of itself, "Spy Catcher" is a bit of a disappointment. There seems to be a literary genre of books written by disillusioned bureaucrats, military officers and others who leave their organizations under a cloud and write a tell-all book to get their revenge on their former co-workers. If such a genre exists, this book would definitely be part of it.

Peter Wright is a counter-espionage officer who worked for the MI5 and MI6 organizations in Brit
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Chris
Dec 26, 2015 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic.

Wright writes in an engaging, conversational manner. I'm not sure why others have found the writing dense or difficult going, but grew up reading difficult text and so may have more patience than an average reader.

Wright lays out a compelling and interesting case, although as far as I know, the subject of the book took whatever secrets he had to his grave, and Wright went to his without his promised Admiralty pension.

The Thing is covered, which is in my view a staple of any book writ
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Erik Graff
Jan 13, 2015 Erik Graff rated it liked it
Recommends it for: espionage fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: biography
This is at once a professional autobiography and a history of Britain's counterexpionage service, Mi5, from WWII until the mid-seventies. The focus is on Soviet and Eastern Block spies in the UK, ranging from the Cambridge spies, who proved their roles by defection, to the head of Mi5 itself, Sir Roger Hollis, whose actual allegiances, while very suspect from the author's perspective, remain uncertain.

Since author Wright had an electronics background the beginning of his narrative pays much atte
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Sudi
Oct 06, 2007 Sudi rated it liked it
Buku yang mengungkap liku-liku dunia intelijen dan kontra-spionase. Salah satu trik intelijen MI5 adalah menyortir surat-surat dari dan ke alamat Partai Komunis Inggris Raya dengan cara diuapkan amplopnya. Suatu ketika, saat membuka amplop surat, direktur MI5 mendapatkan tulisan berisi, "Bangsat, pasti kalian baca surat ini!!" Surat itu kemudian dibingkai, dan dipajang di dinding kantor.
Behzad
Feb 08, 2015 Behzad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are too many things one could say about this book. Details of MI5, its relationship with MI6, Cambridge ring, less known Oxford ring, and many fascinating details about British Security services. Peter Wright comes out of shadows and shed light on the most secretive aspects of this service. Details of decades of confusion and embarrassment demonstrate how the dark side of world is very much humane.

There are a few parts of the book that are particularly interesting for me. Most important o
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Simon Zohhadi
May 19, 2014 Simon Zohhadi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourite-books
A fascinating autobiography from Peter Wright detailing his work for British intelligence. This is a controversial book that Thatcher tried to ban. The suspicions and exposure of the Cambridge Four spies are all discussed and a name is put to a fifth high ranking traitor in MI5. Blake and other lower ranking spies are also included in the account. Peter Wright is clearly a very clever scientist & intelligence officer but at times seems too eager to point the figure at high ranking intelligen ...more
Les Mason
Jul 07, 2016 Les Mason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have a special reason for liking this book. I'm into writing spy thrillers and espionage.

Perhaps not so scintillating for the average reader, it is packed with real insight useful to the would-be spy novelist. And all of it is true.

Hunting spies is not nearly so glamourous as the movies tend make out, so us fiction writers have to spice things up a bit. There's none of that here. Instead it possesses a ring of stark authenticity.

I guess no one told Margaret Thatcher that getting a book banne
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rabbitprincess
Jan 29, 2012 rabbitprincess rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who are interested
Recommended to rabbitprincess by: Ray
Shelves: pilfered, 2012
As the subtitle indicates, this is "the candid autobiography of a senior intelligence officer" with Britain's MI5, the domestic intelligence service. My edition, a mass market paperback, is covered with plenty of laudatory quotes. The Financial Post believed that "Margaret Thatcher was quite right in trying to ban the book," while The New York Times said that "anyone with a taste for cloak-and-dagger mysteries should find Spycatcher a compelling read." I can't speak to the accuracy of the statem ...more
Sheehan
Jul 26, 2011 Sheehan rated it it was ok
After almost 400pages I feel like I have a pretty good sense of one insider's take on the flood of Russian spies who allegedly infiltrated high level positions of the MI5 in 1930's to 1960's; but all this was pretty clear from the first 200 pages. The last half, chronicling the intra-office politics, and the generational shift to a bureaucratization of the services from agent-based to technology-based analytics got pretty boring, and I was ready for it to end.

Apparently Wright was a pariah for h
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Andrew L
I quite liked this and really sped through it, due to the interesting subject matter, in interesting times. However, its not particularly well written. Lots of acronyms and details of department structures and similar that are exceptionally hard to follow (and in some cases, don't seem to be that relevant). And lots of technical detail about particular spycraft (eg listening devices) that isn't explained all that well. Still, a good read.
Dave Fleet
Mar 14, 2015 Dave Fleet rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely fascinating.

Spycatcher isn't particularly well-written - the author takes detours constantly and it is often hard to follow which layer of story you're currently in - nor is it free of his own personal bias. Still, the stories themselves and the picture it paints of the intelligence services during the Cold War are captivating.

I blew through this book as though it were a novel.
Chris Oler
Dec 09, 2014 Chris Oler rated it really liked it
Mr. Wright's frustration is palpable as he leads the effort to find the most notorious double agent in Britain's history. I read this 20 years ago and found it fascinating, though a little dry. My read was probably too quick and I wouldn't mind giving it another look. If you're interested in the history of espionage during the Cold War, you can't pass up this firsthand account.
Anna
An interesting topic and insights to the history of the UK intelligence a few decades ago.
While overall it felt a bit too long, it had interesting descriptions on spying equipment and practices, and ... the whole world seems so different back then. Spying with microphones and watcher cars, wiretapping phones, using encoded radio connections. The spying world before the Echelon (but with GCHQ already there, among with MI5 and MI6) and the modern threats.
A big part of the book (and the career or
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