Saturday, July 26, 2008

Five best books about spies in Britain

For the Wall Street Journal, former MI5 director-general Stella Rimington named a five best list of books about spies in Britain.

One book on her list:
Shot in the Tower
by Leonard Sellars
Leo Cooper, 1997

This humane and touching book describes the fate of 10 men who came to England to spy for Germany before World War I. They discovered little of value before they were caught, tried and shot in the Tower of London, that grim symbol of the determination of the British state to destroy its enemies. We read about the spies' lives, from their recruitment and brief espionage careers in London and the naval ports to their trial and execution. Unfortunately for these men, who lie in largely forgotten English graves, German espionage tradecraft at the time was primitive; several of the spies had similar cover stories and codes for their messages, making detection by British authorities relatively easy. In one case, after British counter-intelligence had broken the code and arrested the spy, his captors fed false information to the Germans and in return received a pay-off sufficient to buy a motor car for office use.
Read about the other four titles on Rimington's list.

Stella Rimington's latest novel, Illegal Action, is out this month from Knopf.

--Marshal Zeringue