Many people who worked in national security and espionage—professions that prize discretion—have turned to successful careers as novelists. These former spies, security advisers, counter-terrorism operators and intelligence directors lend a realistic, veteran approach to their prose, but their books still don’t give up all their secrets. Here are some of the best.
A former CIA agent, Stockwell resigned and made a splash with his book In Search of Enemies. He also wrote, in fictional form, about his idea that the Cold War would end peacefully (and what a crazy idea that turned out to be, no?). Like many other writers about espionage, he did eventually get sucked into the world of movies, becoming a consultant for Oliver Stone’s film about the JFK assassination, JFK.
Stella Rimington spent 30 years in Britian’s M15, specializing in counter-subversion, counter-espionage and counter-terrorism. She became the first female Director-General of M15 before retiring to write Open Secret in 1996. She later begin work on spy thrillers featuring agent Liz Carlyle, which have become bestsellers. Rimington’s fiction often earns high praise from critics for its highly compelling, believable depictions of the intelligence agency workplace.
Richard A. Clarke
Clarke is a former chief counter-terrorism advisor on the U.S. National Security Council (NSC). He was in government for 30 years, serving presidents Reagan, Bush, Clinton and George W. Bush. He resigned from the latter’s administration and was sharply critical of its counter-terrorism policies. He has since published influential non-fiction books on national security and cyber-security, as well as military thrillers The Scorpion’s Gate and Breakpoint.
It seems only fair to include a writer from the other side of the Iron Curtain. He worked in the KGB and, after the fall of the USSR, the Federal Security Service, which was basically the KGB of the Russian Federation. He later published two exposé books, pinned the killing of journalist Anna Politkovskaya on Vladimir Putin, and was rumored to have been working for British intelligence in his later years. He died from radioactive poisoning. Many believe he was assassinated inthis way by the Russian government.
John Le Carré
Unsurprisingly, one of the greatest writers of multilayered political/espionage/diplomatic thrillers is at least a little coy about his own identity. John Le Carré is a pen name. The writer’s real name is David John Moore Cornwell. He has been publishing popular, acclaimed stories and novels since the early 1960’s—when he was still working for MI6. Some of his best-known works include A Murder of Quality, The Russia House and The Constant Gardener.