On espionage

Recently I listened to a free lecture on The Great Courses app (available for iOS or Android) called “Becoming a Spy”.

I found this intriguing (no pun intended) and really interesting to hear the reasons why an individual decides to betray their country and become an agent of espionage. Several reasons were given, for example ideology, money, a sense of disillusionment with the Government of their own country and a sense of achieving a greater good in the long term.

I decided I wanted to know more about this subject so did some research on the eResource Academic World Book.

I did a search under ‘Espionage’ and found some really interesting articles on the likes of our own Nancy Wake (1912-2011). Nancy was a famous New Zealand-born Australian resistance fighter during WWII. Due to her ability to avoid capture she was nick-named “the White Mouse”.

Nancy Wake  The White Mouse  My Silent War  A Spy Among Friends

The infamous British civil servant Kim Philby who became a spy for the Russians is also an interesting subject and well worth researching or reading about.

Christchurch City Libraries has titles on these subjects in several formats – books, eBooks, graphic novels, large print, audiobooks and DVDs as well as our wonderful eResources.

If you would like to try a spy novel over the holidays here are a few titles by authors whom I enjoy for their ability to write a good spy novel.

Act of Treason  The Amateur Spy  The English Spy  Spies of the Balkans  The Faithful Spy  One Dead Spy

Find more spy fiction and true tales of espionage in the library catalogue.

The joy of noir

Cover of The spies of WarsawI’m  happy. This week the television adaptation of The spies of Warsaw started screening. I’m a long time fan of the author  Alan Furst who has written a number of fascinating novels set in pre-WWII and wartime Europe featuring spies and resistants. His heroes are often sophisticated denizens of major capitals like Paris, Warsaw and Vienna and move easily between high and low life. It’s all very noirish – a phrase much abused I suspect.

I looked up noir in Wikipedia and came up with Film noir:

Film noir (/fɪlm nwɑr/; French pronunciation: ​[film nwaʁ]) is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations. Hollywood’s classical film noir period is generally regarded as extending from the early 1940s to the late 1950s. Film noir of this era is associated with a low-key black-and-white visual style that has roots in German Expressionist cinematography. Many of the prototypical stories and much of the attitude of classic noir derive from the hardboiled school of crime fiction that emerged in the United States during the Great Depression.

Some key words jump out: cynical attitudes, sexual motivations and crime. That pretty much describes a noir novel I think. The world weary hero is sexually sophisticated and operating in a criminal milieu. (Note how writing about noir leads you to throw around those fancy French words).

If reading noirish novels is your thing we have a good list of suggestions called Europe Noir and featuring classics: Le Carre, Philip Kerr, Eric Ambler as well as current writers in that area. Happy noir reading and viewing.