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The Great Game: The Myth and Reality of Espionage

3.08  ·  Rating Details ·  90 Ratings  ·  18 Reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published April 20th 2004 by Knopf
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Lisa (Harmonybites)

The book arose out of seminar Hitz taught in which "great works of spy fiction are compared to actual espionage operations." As such there is a lot of quoting of espionage fiction in the book, and from the Notes and index one could get a great reading list of such fiction from Rudyard Kipling's Kim to John le Carre, Graham Greene and Tom Clancy. In fact, it may be that as supplying a reading list of such fiction it's at its most useful. On the fact side of things, Hitz is certainly qualified to
Apr 13, 2014 Deepak rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If someone would ask me the description about this book then I would use the phrase " truth is stranger than fiction ".This book is a comparison between actual spying business and what is written in spy novels. Though reality does not entail such sophisticated gadgets as shown in James Bond Movies, however, the the real human spying is far more complex and astonishing than that. What is written in spy novels is to catch reader's eyes but an author can't foresee the real complexity of this ...more
Sam Stewart
Nov 10, 2008 Sam Stewart rated it really liked it
Wow, this was a good book! It was interesting having this ex-CIA Director of Opereations(for Europe) compare and contrast good spy literature with real-world spying. Sadly, there were only the publicized cases, of course, and I'm sure he even had to pare those down for security purposes as well. I wish he used more than a handful of authors, though. But, alas, maybe there only is a handful of good authors in the spy genre. Like anything else, 90% is crap and 10% is quality.
Jan 16, 2009 Martin added it

The Great Game: Review

There's a good deal of interest in this comparative analysis of spying as it appears in fiction and reality--Frederick P. Hitz had a long history of service in the CIA and the State Department, so he's able to speak as a knowledgeable insider. But is there something in the nature of secret service work that obliges its practitioners to wear blinders in perpetuity? even long after their official career terminates? It's not that Frederick HItz never touches on a moral issue
Norman Smith
Jan 27, 2016 Norman Smith rated it it was ok
This book was "OK". I liked it enough to read (it isn't a very long book), but not enough to keep it. I will put this in the donation pile for giving away.

Given the subject matter, it is likely that the author can't really get into a lot of specifics, but it seemed to me that the main cases that he examined - Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, Pyotr Popov and Oleg Penkovsky, and to a lesser extent, Anthony Blunt and Kim Philby - became somewhat repetitious after a while. There must have been a muc
Jun 14, 2015 Kathleen rated it liked it
Shelves: history, nonfiction, 2015
The Great Game traces the work and reality of the CIA, complete with discussions of how actual spying worked (not remotely like James Bond) both diplomatically and prosaically. It then compares the reality to the fictional depictions of spies in books like, well, James Bond* and Le Carre novels.

Now, I knew nothing whatsoever about the spy fiction that Hitz references, but that turned out to be a good thing because apparently they are all very wrong? I'm not sure. I did like the book, and I appr
Apr 07, 2016 catechism rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, spies
This was developed out of an undergrad survey course on spy fiction vs spy reality, and it reads as exactly that: It consists of short, disconnected chapters with long excerpts from John Le Carré and Graham Greene, on a variety of topics like tradecraft, bureaucracy, sex, etc. If that's what you're looking for, cool -- and there are some interesting real-life tales here -- but it was way too much of a survey for me.

Also I got mad when the author was like, it wasn't until World War II that govern
Aug 30, 2012 Todd rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I think I grabbed this book from the give-away pile in my apt lobby but I'm glad I didn't pay for it. The title sounded awesome and it had such good potential, but it was more a summarization of other spy novels and some real-life spy stories. Even that could've made for a good book, but the format was so scattered. I honestly didn't enjoy this at all.
Jordan McCollum
Jun 03, 2012 Jordan McCollum rated it liked it
Shelves: research, nonfiction, 2012
I read this after reading several CIA memoirs (including at least one that this book referenced), and I think I might have liked it better had I read it first. I wished it had dug deeper--it certainly didn't feel like a college-level look at the disparity between real and fictional espionage.

Perhaps the reading list from this course would be a better place to start.
Mar 30, 2015 Claire rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
I had to read this book to prepare for my Espionage UVA~OLLI class which begins this Wednesday. This book's purpose was to compare spy literature with real life spy cases from around WWi to 9/11. It just touches the surface of what could be discussed. Thus the book begs more questions than it answers. So now, I cannot wait to ask those questions during the OLLI lecture series.
Donald Dudley
May 13, 2014 Donald Dudley rated it did not like it
I didn't care for this book. I thought the writing style to be jumbled and disorganized. I enjoy espionage as a non fiction and fiction genre. I had high hopes for this book. Alas my hopes were dashed.
Bridget O'Connor
Jul 28, 2015 Bridget O'Connor rated it it was ok
This book is difficult to get through without a required reading book list. Sometimes the literary scene would be set up to explore the plot but many times it was not. There were some interesting points and facts but this material is better discussed in a class or seminar rather than book format.
Jay D
Aug 09, 2011 Jay D rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating read. Compares the basics of espionage and tradecraft with aspects of the classical spy fiction works. Plenty of nuggets of veiled hints, as well as juicy tidbits and conspiracy. A must-read for those who enjoy conspiracy and espionage, as well as literature.
Nov 17, 2011 Carol rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Comparison of real spycraft and history with fictional stories - an interesting idea but you would have to have a pretty good grasp of each to follow this easily and then it probably would be too simplistic
Oct 25, 2010 Boozy rated it it was amazing
excellent discussion on the multiple facets that it takes to develop and become a professional in the intelligence field. The Author uses literary examples to highlight the differences between reality and popular beliefs.
Mar 23, 2016 Katie marked it as gave-up-won-t-finish
This book is written for people fluent in spy literature. Extended passages of novels are quoted to compare and contrast fiction and fact. Spoilers included. Make sure you've read all the classic spy fiction first.
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Mike Summers
Mike Summers rated it it was ok
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Nov 19, 2007 colleen rated it liked it
Shelves: scpl, nonfiction
read 02.13.06
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