Monday, December 14, 2009

Tradecraft Holiday Wish List III

Book Suggestion:

The Real Spy's Guide

The Real Spys Guide to Becoming a Spy

By Peter Earnest with Suzanne Harper in association with the International Spy Museum.

I picked this book up in Miami a couple months ago while the team was in South Florida conducting interviews and doing a little training with our FBI pals. I intended to give it to a young friend, the son of one of my best buddies, as a gift, but, I am ashamed to admit, I fell in love with it and gave him, instead, a book on golf.

It’s published by Abrams Books for Young Readers, intended for kids, and written only just above my reading level. The amazing thing is that this book actually has some solid advice that field operatives could (should) know.

There’s the obligatory history of the craft, from the first recorded account of spying in the Court of King Hammurabi of Babylon to the 2008 arrest of Chi Mak, a naturalized U.S. citizen who sold secrets to the Chinese. There are lessons on spy speak, quizzes that help you decide if you have what it takes to be a spy, and really cool stories about actual spies.

You’ll find chapters on how to become a spy, what training is required, and what to expect in the life. You’ll be briefed on how to tell if someone is lying, how to create a cover ID, and how to work undercover.

But for my money, Chapter 6 is the reason to buy this book. It’s a practical guide to honing your skills as an undercover operative. I have bought countless books over the years that claim to be the ultimate text on topics like disguise and surveillance. This one chapter, however, may be the best written, most concise, and optimally useful single source for learning the trade.

I have taken this chapter and made it a kind of training manual for the [FIND] Investigations team. From the basics of keeping an open mind and being curious, to research skills, note taking skills, writing skills, and observation skills, this chapter covers it all and does so with an economy of words. You’ll learn valuable tips for improving memory, being aware of your surroundings, and remembering the details.

I am recommending this book as a gift for the curious kid in your life, that little James Bond wannabe who can’t put down the Alex Rider books, but in reality this book is just fun. Check it out on Amazon here.


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