Spy novels have taken the art of espionage out of the shadows and into the hands of readers since the end of the 19th century. Eric Ambler, Graham Greene, and John Le Carre elevated the genre to new levels of sophistication. Ian Fleming's James Bond novels — and the films based on them — romanticized espionage to the point of fantasy, and secured for the spy a central role in popular culture.
In his new book The Great Game: The Myth and Reality of Espionage, Frederick Hitz compares the exploits of fictional spies, such as Le Carre's George Smiley, to real-life secret agents. Hitz is a former CIA operations officer, and also served as the CIA's inspector general. The book is based on a seminar he teaches at Princeton University.
Hitz and NPR's Liane Hansen recently discussed the mystique of the spy's craft — fictional and otherwise — during a visit to Washington's International Spy Museum.