Spycatcher
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Spycatcher

3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  1,370 ratings  ·  84 reviews
From the earliest days of electronic surveillance to the height of the Cold War, Wright was at the center of the action.
Hardcover, 392 pages
Published July 31st 1987 by Viking Books (first published January 1st 1987)
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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...more
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...more
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...more
Si
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...more
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 contin...more
Meri
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...more
Atiey Khairudin
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
Walter
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...more
Sudi
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.
Simon Zohhadi
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
rabbitprincess
Jan 29, 2012 rabbitprincess rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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
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...more
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.
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...more
Betty
I've been reading spy fiction for eons, so I am surprised it took me so long to read Spycatcher. I was fascinated with the inside story of MI5 during the WWII and post-War periods. And I was simply amazed at the perseverance and focus that it took to do the kind of research-based work that Wright specialized in. And sometimes it was mind-boggling, as when he explained the VENONA codebreak. For me, the best part was about his many interviews with Anthony Blunt. While he doesn't help us understand...more
Hayley
Very interesting account of a life's work in MI5. Some of the technical details went over my head but Wright's descriptions of meetings with his co-workers, allies, and informants, were fascinating. He has a knack for dissecting a person on the page and his perceptiveness allows him to comment with intelligent hindsight on the accomplishments and failures of British Security during his career, including the hunt for the alleged mole in MI5, whom Wright believed was eventual Director General Roge...more
False Millennium
I had just read an autobiography by the former head of M15 which read so vetted and flat. This was the exact opposite. He did go into cases and especially the infamous circle of five: Burgess, Philby, Blunt, etc. In one portion of discussing that double agent problem he discussed the idea of loyalties within that group and how it lay, not just in a secret ring, but layers of rings: Cambridge (their education), The Apostle's Club (also college); their work, and their homosexuality, and where they...more
Ryan
Plenty of good intertwining tales in here but the text jumps around in time too much, making the story hard to follow.
Kelvin
An autobiographical account of the life of Peter Wright during his time at MI5. The story starts just before the second world war and ends with his retirement in the 70s. I found it to be a very detailed (overly so in some cases) but interesting look at a seemingly principled man and his attempts to find a possible mole in the highest echelons of MI5. I found the best parts to be the conflict between MI5, MI6, GCHQ and 10 Downing Street. Also the delicate special relationship with the Americans...more
Craig
Aug 23, 2007 Craig rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Old civil servant bods only
While I'm sure in the context of it's release it was fairly groundbreaking, I found Spycatcher to be thoroughly dull. I'm sure when/if I'm a retiring Civil Servant the tone and themes might resonate a bit more so I might come back to it, but on this read it was plodding and lacking depth. As a look at the security services of any nation it was also almost completely unrevealing, although again probably at the time it was a big deal, hence the court case.

Do yourself a favour and read the Mitrkoh...more
René
Stories about spies, but mainly about this man's hunt for spies of the 30's, which he led as a personal crusade in the late 50's and 60's. First chapters badly written, the more "juicy" ones obviously got more of the editor's attention (probably under pressure to publish before the British Government could have it blocked - which they were unsuccessful to do). Does any of it help understand WWII and the Cold War, on which spies made a living ? Doubtful. Does it all really matter ? To ask the que...more
John
This is the second time I read this book. First time was Oct 2006, done in three days.
This time I read it in 3 weeks. A great read and excellent information re spies, politics,
and history, and the personalities and tactics involved. A good exercise in deductive
reasoning, though at times a bit hard to follow, first-rate nonetheless.
A minor complaint was that there was no indication that there is a glossary at the end
of the book, until turning to the final pages. Of the 10 editions, the one I h...more
Lance
Detailed account of MI5 during the 50s and 60s when Wright was exposing double agents and leading the technical team that modernized British intelligence. Some detail may be too arcane, but Wright is a gifted writer. His descriptions of J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI building are terrific, and his recounting of the struggle to uncover enemy agents in the top echelons of British intelligence is suspenseful, frustrating and provide great insight into how governments can be hoodwinked by those they tr...more
Russell Phillips
Peter Wright worked with MI5 from 1949, joining them as a scientific officer in the mid 1950's

His memoirs are an interesting read, though there seems to be little to justify the British government's attempts to ban publication.

Wright was obviously less happy in his work during the 1970's, and that comes across in the writing. That, and the nature of the work being less interesting (to me at least) meant that I didn't enjoy the second half of the book as much as the first.
Bibbulmun
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Benjamin Romney
I saw this book in a collection at the Duplooy's jungle lodge in Belize. Anthony and I were staying as guests in the river house, and Heather let us enjoy her former home. Anthony noticed my interest in the book, and bought it for me for Christmas when we returned home. It is a great book. I enjoyed the British feeling of the author's true analysis and feelings about MI 5 and MI 6, and spies in general. I learned quite a bit from the book.
Angelmae
From what I remember this book caused a huge stir and a courtcase to suppress it. Peter Wright was living in Tasmania at the time of the controversy and the British Government came after him big time. Given the amount of literature that has been published since about Kim Philby and the Cambridge Commies (or was it Oxford?) and their sexuality, I don't think it's all that ground breaking anymore. But there was a time when it was monumental.
Frederick J
Reminded me of an intricate plot of a John Le Carre story, but not as entertaining. I had some difficulty keeping all the code names for spies and operations straight, but that might be in part because I read the book so slowly.
One fascinating allegation Wright makes was the perceived intention of the CIA to "swallow up MI5 up whole... as a supplicant client, rather than a well-disposed but independent ally" in the mid 1960s.
Jay D
Wright's book is about his life in MI5 and the exposure of Soviet infiltration into British intelligence during the Cold War. Most notably, the book deals with the Philby scandal, and the exposure of related spies. The book is relevant in regard to the fact that we are told nowadays that communism is dead. Well, clearly it isn't, and the intense interpenetration of agencies and modern exposures bears this out.
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