Audiobook: ‘An Officer and a Spy’

Before listening to An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris, I knew only the broad outline of the Dreyfus Affair, a political scandal filled with blatant antisemitism that divided France from from 1894 until 1906. The twists and turns during this 12-year period are amazing and exciting. It is sometimes hard to believe this all really happened. Émile Zola’s 1898 open letter to the President of France accusing the French government of antisemitism was both courageous and dramatic.

Robert Harris’s writing is superb and based upon through research. The book has a lot of detail which added to my enjoyment. As a result of this detail, I felt as though I was actually in France.

I enjoyed learning about an important chapter of French history filled with intrigue. The ending is amazing and left me wanting more, despite the length of the audiobook (a little over 16 hours).

The audiobook is narrated by David Rintoul, an accomplished Scottish actor. His intonation and pronunciation are exceptional and added greatly to my enjoyment of the audiobook.

Spy Story: ‘The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War’

I love a good spy story, especially if it’s true . The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War by Ben Macintyre is a wonderful example of such a tale.

The book is about KGB Colonel Oleg Gordievsky, the son of two KGB agents and the product of elite Soviet institutions, who began spying for the British in 1973 and kept it up until he was betrayed in 1985 — probably by Aldrich Ames, a CIA traitor who is now incarcerated in a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. See also, Thirty Years Later, We Still Don’t Truly Know Who Betrayed These Spies in Smithsonian magazine.

After the KGB was tipped off to Gordievsky’s work with the British, the KGB recalled him to Moscow for interrogation. Miraculously, with the help of the British, he managed to escape to London by car via Finland and Norway. His escape is gripping reading. I still can’t believe the escape plan succeeded. Macintyre’s writing is excellent. He makes every word count.

Ben Macintyre writes for The Times of London and is the author of other espionage books including  A Spy Among FriendsDouble CrossOperation MincemeatAgent Zigzag, and Rogue Heroes.

A thrilling spy story.

You can read more about Gordievsky here.

Podcast: ‘Intelligence Matters’

Since 2017, the Intelligence Matters podcast has provided an in-depth insider look into the intelligence community. The host of the podcast is Michael Morell, who served as the acting Director of the CIA first in 2011 and then from 2012 to 2013. Morell was by President Bush’s side on September 11, 2001 when terrorists struck America and in the White House Situation Room advising President Obama on May 1, 2011 when America struck back-killing Usama bin Ladin.

Morell interviews top leaders of the U.S. intelligence community as they reflect on their lives, careers and the roles they play in shaping national security policies. Past guests have included former Director of National Intelligence James ClapperJohn Miller, Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism at the New York Police Department and former NSA and CIA Director General Mike Hayden. What results is a conversation between two people with deep knowledge of the intelligence community.

Before the advent of podcasting, interviews like this would not have been available to the general public. In addition, Morell is a skilled interviewer. While no secrets can be revealed, listeners learn how those in the intelligence community approach national security issues and how they advise the country’s top leadership, including the President. It’s an eye opening experience.

Morell is the author of The Great War of Our Time: The CIA’s Fight Against Terrorism–From al Qa’ida to ISIS and is now a CBS News national security contributor.