In the coming months, Le French Book, an ebook publisher specialized in bringing France's top crime fiction and thrillers to readers across the English-speaking world, is adding spy novels to its lists. As a result, they got to wondering just what the French can teach us about espionage. This begs other questions, like do spy novels have anything to do with real espionage? And do spies from good spy novels make good spies?
One of their upcoming thrillers is by Bernard Besson, who has had a long career in French intelligence and law enforcement. He is a former chief of staff of the French FBI, was involved in dismantling Soviet spy rings in France and Western Europe at the fall of the Soviet Union, and is one of the country's top specialists in economic intelligence. He is also aprize-winning thriller writer-eight of his novels have been published in French. His latest, a spy novel set on a backdrop of global warming, is the one Le French Book will be bringing into English soon. He says that in the real world, James Bond and Jason Bourne are just the tip of the iceberg.
Here is an excerpt from the interview (full interview available online):
What are a spy's best weapons?
Ninety-five percent of an intelligence officer's assignments consist of gathering information and verifying it. Computers and software, along with general knowledge and conversational skills are more useful in this area than guns. What a spy needs most is to be in the trust of well-informed people. However, every intelligence agency has action units used to extract agents, remove people from threatening situations, or commit sabotage. Their James Bond and Jason Bourne, if you will. Well-trained military personnel generally carry out these operations.