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7 Super Spies

By Hugo Munday • November 02, 2015

The latest in the James Bond movie franchise is released this month and I'll go. It's not a book by Ian Fleming, most of the ideals of the movie are outdated and corny, but out of allegiance to my childhood, I'll go.

This week you can use the code ASTON at Thrift Books to get a 15% discount on books in the Spy Stories and Tales of Intrigue genre, so that got me digging up a lot that wasn't related to James Bond. Much of it would make, or even has made, block-buster movie scripts and so it follows that we have some good books too. Starting with the interesting and working up to mind-blowing...

Kim Philby A Spy Among Friends - The story of Harold "Kim" Philby was more British than afternoon tea. The son of a true English eccentric, he had the perfect "old school" pedigree and rose to the highest ranks in MI6 (the English Secret Service.) The only problem was - he was a Soviet spy and had been since his under-graduate days. He defected in 1963 to Russia after being exposed.

Sidney Reilly Reilly: Ace of Spies, Ace of Spies - There's a lot of James Bond in this real-life character, a ruthless spy with an eye for the opposite sex. English-born, he spied on post-revolutionary Russia and eventually got caught and came to a sticky end in a KGB cell.

Virginia Hall The Spy with the Wooden Leg - Born in Baltimore, she went to finish her studies in Europe and was in France at the outbreak of WWII. So effective were her efforts to organize for the French resistance, that the German Gestapo named her "the most dangerous of all Allied spies." She also had a wooden leg that made disguise really problematic.

Casanova Casanova: Actor, Lover, Priest, Spy , The Story of my Life - Casanova served as a spy for Venetian authorities from 1774 to 1782. He had perfect credentials. He was the son of actors, he travelled and socialized freely and he was one of the greatest observers and recorders of eighteenth century society.

Mata Hari Take Nine Spies , Femme Fatale , Signed Mata Hari - Born Dutch, she was an exotic dancer, prostitute and spy for Germany in the First World War, who was finally shot in Paris. The idea of a double agent being able to wield such power through her powers of seduction is about as archetypical as it gets for a "femme fatale."

Major William Martin Operation Mincemeat - Major Martin's body washed up on the beaches of Spain, during WWII and made its way into the hands of German intelligence. He was of interest because in his case were detailed documents summarizing the upcoming Allied invasion of Europe - vital information for Hitler's faltering war effort. Only there was no Major Martin - it was the body of a tramp that died more than 12 months prior in a bombed out building in London, after eating rat poison. The body had been pushed ashore from a submarine at night dressed as a Major with minutely detailed ephemera planted on him, such as used theatre tickets from a London show, and documents that gave the false location of the Allied landing. All of it fictitious, but the ruse worked.

Shi Pei Pu Liaison - Shi Pei Pu died in Paris 5 years ago. In the 60s he was an opera singer in Beijing and at one point was introduced to an accountant, Barnard Boursicot, at the French Embassy. Shi convinced him that although his appearance was male, he was really a woman, disguised as a man, in order to satisfy a domineering father who hadn't had a son. He began a 20 year affair with Bernard, even producing a child and convincing him that the child was theirs. Through this relationship Boursicot was pressured into handing over more than 500 sensitive documents. The French government convicted them both of espionage.

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