The best real espionage stories from the perspective of an ex undercover KGB agent

The Books I Picked & Why

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

By Ben Macintyre

Book cover of The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War

Why this book?

This is a nonfiction book that reads like a novel. It is a juxtaposition of two spies, Oleg Gordievsky, KGB, and Aldrich Ames, CIA. Gordievsky risks his life by becoming a top source for MI6 (British Intelligence) because of his moral outrage over the crimes committed by the Soviet State. Ames risks more than prison by betraying his country and causing the death of a great number of CIA sources in the Soviet Union. This is a thriller unequalled by the best espionage fiction.


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Russians Among Us: Sleeper Cells, Ghost Stories, and the Hunt for Putin's Spies

By Gordon Corera

Book cover of Russians Among Us: Sleeper Cells, Ghost Stories, and the Hunt for Putin's Spies

Why this book?

Correra follows the path of 10 illegal deep-cover Russian spies that were finally caught by the FBI and eventually exchanged for four Russian nationals who spied for the CIA, most notably Sergei Skripal. This is a tale of modern Russian espionage and clear evidence that the apple did not fall far from the tree.


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Operation Whisper: The Capture of Soviet Spies Morris and Lona Cohen

By Barnes Carr

Book cover of Operation Whisper: The Capture of Soviet Spies Morris and Lona Cohen

Why this book?

This is the story of how British MI5 zeroed in on a spy ring led by Gordon Lonsdale (aka Konan Molody) and Helen and Peter Kroger (aka Morris and Lona Cohen who previously had been members of the Rosenberg spy group that stole the atomic secret. I was friends with the Cohens while getting my training in Moscow). The book reads like a thriller/detective story.


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Man Without a Face: The Autobiography of Communism's Greatest Spymaster

By Markus Wolf, Anne McElvoy

Book cover of Man Without a Face: The Autobiography of Communism's Greatest Spymaster

Why this book?

Markus Wolf is generally considered the greatest Spy Master of the Cold War. He was in charge of intelligence for the Stasi (East German Intelligence Service) that was focused primarily on the enemy on the other side of the Berlin Wall. The Stasi was incredibly successful, having placed up to 1,000 East German agents into high places in the German government. This is a tale of espionage devised and executed by the best. Wolf was the inspiration for the famous “Karla” character in John Le Carree’s novels


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Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America

By John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr

Book cover of Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America

Why this book?

This book is a true find for history buffs. It is based on the by now declassified thousands of KGB messages that were decoded by the Venona Project. It gives clear evidence of the Soviet espionage efforts by the KGB against the United States even while the two were allies in WWII. It also proves the hitherto only rumored deep penetration of Soviet assets into the United States government. In those decrypted documents there is proof that the much-maligned Senator Joseph McCarthy was more right than wrong, albeit too frenetic and sensationalist in his pursuit of communists in the US government.  


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