Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollectionsEspionage

Who's Who in Espionage : by Ronald Payne and Christopher Dobson (St. Martin's: $15.95; 234 pp.)

August 11, 1985|Kenneth Reich | Reich is a Times staff writer. and

At first glance, one may well ask, what kind of book is this? Because it consists for almost its entire length solely of thumbnail biographical sketches and analyses of the leading figures in the world of espionage over the last several decades. Sometimes these run a couple of pages. More often, they run only a few paragraphs. Then the rest of the book is very brief descriptions of the leading intelligence services around the world and the most important intelligence techniques. There is no plot. It is encyclopedic in style.

But, in fact, of several books on the subject of espionage reviewed lately, this is the most satisfactory. The authors, foreign correspondents for the Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Telegraph of London, are careful, responsible, not at all given to hyperbole, and above all, realistic. They are also able to say a good deal in a few words.

What emerges is a useful primer, for those who enjoy reading about spying--a nice reference book to have at their side. Since so many espionage books appear to be wild flights of fancy, it is particularly valuable to have such a sober, no-nonsense compilation of responsible consensus as to what has happened in the key situations.

Not all the sketches are of high quality. The one, for example, of J. Edgar Hoover falls somewhat below the authors' usual standard. But for the most part, there is fascinating material here and when there is more than one respected point of view, both are given. Ronald Payne and Christopher Dobson are not pedantic either. They do, when appropriate, display a restrained, sardonic sense of humor.

Their one-and-a-half page exploration, incidentally, of the strange case of Sir Roger Hollis, late director-general of MI5 in British intelligence, is thought provoking. It may be recalled that the respected British espionage expert, Chapman Pincher, recently argued in a compelling book that Hollis was a Soviet spy. Here, the authors give this a balanced examination, but they point to another fascinating possibility. "That is," they write, "that KGB manipulators, whose expertise at sowing doubt and disinformation is undisputed, set up through false defectors trails which would point investigators toward Sir Roger in order to hide more deeply their real mole."

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|