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Pawn’s Move
‘An American Spy,’ by Olen Steinhauer, 386 pp. Minotaur Books. $25.99.


Published: March 30, 2012

Comrade Col. Xin Zhu, obese spy and head of the Expedition Agency within the Sixth Bureau of
the Ministry of State Security, suspects there is a C.I.A. mole burrowing into China’s secrets. But
he is under threat from Wu Liang and his ally, Yang Qing-Nian, of the Supervision and Liaison
Committee, an offshoot of the Central Committee’s Political and Legislative Affairs Committee.
Zhu believes Zhang Guo of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate is on his side, probably, but he is
less sure of the veteran schemer Comrade Lt. Gen. Sun Bingjun.

If this plethora of Chinese names and Chinese bureaucracies is a little daunting, that’s exactly the
intention of Olen Steinhauer, a spy novelist who refuses to make it easy for his readers, but
rewards them richly in the end. Not for Steinhauer the simple, linear march of the traditional
thriller. Rather, he drops the reader (and his characters) into situations of the most mind-bending
complexity and forces them to work things out for themselves.

Not since John le Carré has a writer so vividly evoked the multilayered, multifaceted, deeply
paranoid world of espionage, in which identities and allegiances are malleable and ever shifting,
the mirrors of loyalty and betrayal reflecting one another to infinity. In this intensely clever,
sometimes baffling book, it’s never quite clear who is manipulating whom, and which side is up.

In his earlier novels “The Tourist” and “The Nearest Exit,” Steinhauer introduced the
Department of Tourism, a small, highly trained, perfectly ruthless black-ops cell within the
C.I.A. responsible for doing the agency’s dirtiest work. At the start of “An American Spy,” Xin
Zhu has sent the Tourists packing by luring some 33 of them to their deaths in a coordinated
global hit. Out for revenge, the former head of the department, Alan Drummond, is determined
to recruit Milo Weaver, one of the few surviving Tourists and the dour, damaged hero of
Steinhauer’s two previous books.

But Weaver is trying to give it all up — the drink, the cigarettes, the spying, the lying — to
spend time with an adored daughter (who is not biologically his), restore a marriage (undermined
by deceit) and recover from the latest attempt to kill him (a bullet wound that has required the
removal of part of his intestines). When Drummond disappears and then Milo’s family also
vanishes, he is tricked back into the game, to his own annoyance. “You forgot that no one is
above deception,” he admonishes himself. “You became as naïve as all the other civilians.”

Behind the distortions lie multiple self-deceptions, the personal evasions that muddy every
action. Even the most powerful are fallible. Zhu believes his annihilation of the Department of
Tourism is righteous vengeance for the death of his only son, preferring not to face the guilty
truth that his young new wife, feeding him dumplings in their apartment high above Beijing, was
formerly his daughter-in-law. Weaver can beat a man to pulp in an airport washroom as
effectively as the next spy, but he’s no James Bond: he forgets to put salt in his cooking; he
glumly chews nicotine gum; he has nightmares in which he fails to protect his daughter from a
gang of thugs. The fat Chinese spy is playing Weaver, and being played himself, because the
spies are themselves pawns of the spymasters in Washington and Beijing. “It’s extremely
messy,” Zhu says, with understatement.

Steinhauer is more interested in twists of plot than turns of phrase, but the very bluntness of his
novel’s writing adds to its impact. His women have less psychological depth: the wives of
Drummond and Weaver are all but indistinguishable. A surviving Tourist operative named
Leticia Jones is just a sexy killer of the old school. But where Steinhauer’s fiction succeeds
masterfully is in the portrayal of one reality from different, deceptive angles, transferring his
characters’ indecision and uncertainty to the page. The plot repeatedly shunts back and forth in
chronology and perspective. Everyone lies, for different reasons. The picture is always opaque.

Real espionage is actually like this. Winston Churchill, a keen aficionado of wartime deception,
described the spying game as “tangle within tangle, plot and counterplot, ruse and treachery,
cross and double-cross, true agent, false agent, double agent, gold and steel, the bomb, the
dagger and the firing party . . . interwoven in many a texture so intricate as to be incredible and
yet true.” Spying is itself a form of fiction, the creating of invented worlds, which perhaps
explains why so many of the best spy novelists were once in the intelligence business: W.
Somerset Maugham, Ian Fleming, Graham Greene and le Carré himself.

I don’t know if Steinhauer was ever a spy — he writes with the sort of detailed relish that
suggests personal experience — but he certainly has the right name for it. Gustav Steinhauer was
Kaiser Wilhelm’s spy chief during World War I. He established an elaborate German espionage
network in Britain and even toured the country, in disguise, the month before war broke out. For
reasons that have never been fully explained, the British security service, M.I.5, knew where he
was, but didn’t arrest him. He may have been a double agent. Perhaps Olen Steinhauer is related
to Gustav Steinhauer. Someone should ask him. But I doubt you’d get a straight answer.

Ben Macintyre’s latest book, “Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies,” will be
published in July.

A version of this review appeared in print on April 1, 2012, on page BR9 of the Sunday Book
Review with the headline: Pawn’s Move.

Cryptome Triple Cross
16 March 2012. Set up to publish documents on the use of conventional XX duplicity to deceive and
circumvent more deviously. To examine and expose XX as camouflage for XXX and beyond. Submissions
welcomed: cryptomexxx[at]

00033.htm   Assange-WikiLeaks Crypto Arms Call Triple Cross                           December
5, 2012
00032.htm   Informancy Industry                                                       May 8,
00031.htm   Government and Commerce Dupe About Privacy                                April
20, 2012
00030.pdf   Who Watches the Watchmen: Denial and Deception                            April
19, 2012 (7.0MB)
00029.htm   Secret Service DoD Sexual Entrapment by CU/VZ                             April
18, 2012

00028.pdf      US Evaluation Board Secret Deception Operation                         April
18, 2012
00027.htm      OSS Sources and Methods 1940-1947 Entry 220                            April 6,
00026.htm      OSS Sources and Methods 1940-1947 Entry 219                            April 6,
00025.htm      OSS Sources and Methods 1940-1947 Entry 218                            April 6,
00024.htm      OSS Sources and Methods 1940-1947 Entry 217                            April 6,

00023.htm      OSS Sources and Methods 1940-1947 Entry 216                            April 6,
00022.htm      OSS Sources and Methods 1940-1947 Entry 215                            April 6,
00021.htm      OSS Sources and Methods 1940-1947 Entry 214                            April 6,
00020.htm      OSS Sources and Methods 1940-1947 Entry 213                            April 6,
00019.htm      OSS Sources and Methods 1940-1947 Entry 212                            April 6,

00018.htm    OSS    Sources and Methods 1940-1947 Entry 211                           April 6,
00017.htm    OSS    Thousands of Sources and Methods Files (see above)                April 5,
2012 (offsite)
00016.htm    DoD    Releases Psyop-Media-SM Deception Docs                            April 5,
2012 (offsite)
00015.pdf    IWG    Report on Withheld Records of War Criminals                       April 5,
2012 (7.4MB)
00014.pdf    OSS    Personnel                                                         April 5,

00013.pdf      OSS Terms, Names, Abbreviations, and Code Words                        April 5,
00012.pdf      OSS Covert Operations 1940-1947                                        April 4,
00011.htm      CIA Covert Operations in Europe                                        April 4,
00010.htm   Analysis of the Name File of Heinrich Mueller                                April 4,
2012 (offsite)
00009.htm   An American Spy by Olen Steinhauer                                           April 1,

The following eight triple-crossing files are from the CIA Freedom of Information Act
Electronic Reading Room. These exemplify triple-crossing by spy services through FOIA
releases, favoritism to cooperative media, deliberate leaks, official publications and agency-
approved publications by members and former members to use the appearance of openness as
disinformation, information management and propaganda. Their purpose is to distort through
devious disclosure of files describing such techniques and at a deeper level to demonstrate triple-
cross tertiarily.

00008.pdf    CIA Deception Research No. 9 1980                                           24 March
2012 (5.7MB)
00007.pdf    Central American Psychological Operations 1953                              19 March
2012 (3.0MB)
00006.pdf    UK Spy School 1944                                                          19 March
2012 (1.3MB)

00005.pdf    Rizzo Triple Agent 1944                                                     19 March
2012 (98KB)
00004.pdf    Soviet Triples 1957                                                         19 March
2012 (1.2MB)
00003.pdf    Neble Double Agent                                                          19 March
2012 (69KB)
00002.pdf    Counterspy 1963                                                             19 March
2012 (1.5MB)
00001.pdf    Dogwood 1944                                                                19 March
2012 (2.9MB)

An American Spy by Olen Steinhauer

Everyone lies, for different reasons. The picture is always opaque.

Real espionage is actually like this. Winston Churchill, a keen aficionado of wartime deception,
described the spying game as “tangle within tangle, plot and counterplot, ruse and treachery,
cross and double-cross, true agent, false agent, double agent, gold and steel, the bomb, the
dagger and the firing party . . . interwoven in many a texture so intricate as to be incredible and
yet true.” Spying is itself a form of fiction, the creating of invented worlds, which perhaps
explains why so many of the best spy novelists were once in the intelligence business: W.
Somerset Maugham, Ian Fleming, Graham Greene and le Carré himself.

Ben Macintyre’s latest book, “Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies,” will be
published in July.
A NATO Ministers of Defense meeting begins at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on
Friday, Feb. 3, 2012. Defense Ministers from across Europe as well as U.S. Defense Secretary
Leon Panetta are attending the meeting. (Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)

Conventional XX duplicity

Thesaurus words for "deceive": abuse, bamboozle, be untruthful, befool, beguile, betray, bitch,
bluff, bunk, cajole, cheat, cheat on, circumvent, con, conjure, cozen, debauch, defile, deflower,
defraud, delude, despoil, diddle, do, dodge, double-cross, draw the longbow, dupe, elude,
equivocate, evade, exaggerate, falsify, fib, finesse, foil, fool, force, forestall, four-flush, frustrate,
gammon, get around, get round, give the runaround, give the slip, go one better, gull, hoax,
hocus-pocus, hoodwink, hornswaggle, humbug, impose on, impose upon, inveigle, juggle, lead
astray, lead on, let down, lie, lie flatly, mislead, mock, outfigure, outflank, outgeneral, outguess,
outmaneuver, outplay, outreach, outsmart, outwit, overreach, pass the buck, pigeon, play one
false, prevaricate, put, put something over, rape, ravage, ravish, ruin, seduce, sell out, shift, shift
about, snow, soil, speak falsely, spoof, stonewall, story, stretch the truth, string along, suck in,
sully, swindle, take, take in, tell a lie, throw off, trick, twist and turn, two-time, victimize, violate

Thesaurus words for "circumvent": avoid, baffle, balk, bamboozle, beat, befool, beg, beguile,
betray, bilk, blast, bluff, brave, burke, bypass, cajole, challenge, cheat on, checkmate, circle,
circuit, circuiteer, circulate, circumambulate, circummigrate, circumnavigate, close the circle,
come full circle, compass, confound, confront, conjure, contravene, counter, counteract,
countermand, counterwork, cross, cycle, dash, deceive, defeat, defy, delude, describe a circle,
destroy, detour, diddle, disappoint, discomfit, disconcert, discountenance, dish, disrupt, ditch,
double, double-cross, dupe, elude, encircle, encompass, escape, evade, flank, flummox, foil,
forestall, frustrate, gammon, get around, get away from, get out of, get round, girdle, girdle the
globe, give the runaround, give the slip, go about, go around, go one better, go round, go the
round, gull, gyre, hoax, hocus-pocus, hoodwink, hornswaggle, humbug, juggle, knock the
chocks, lap, let down, make a circuit, mock, nonplus, orbit, outfigure, outflank, outgeneral,
outguess, outmaneuver, outplay, outreach, outsmart, outwit, overreach, pass the buck, perplex,
pigeon, play one false, put something over, revolve, round, ruin, sabotage, scotch, shake, shake
off, shuffle out of, sidestep, skirt, snow, spike, spiral, spoil, stonewall, string along, stump,
surround, take in, thwart, trick, two-time, upset, victimize, wheel.

Thesaurus words for "devious": Byzantine, O-shaped, aberrant, aberrative, ambagious, amoral,
anfractuous, artful, backhand, backhanded, balled up, bending, calculating, canny, circuitous,
circular, complex, complicated, confounded, confused, conscienceless, convoluted, corrupt,
corrupted, crabbed, crafty, criminal, crooked, cunning, curving, daedal, dark, deceitful,
deceptive, deflectional, departing, designing, desultory, deviant, deviating, deviative, deviatory,
digressive, discursive, dishonest, dishonorable, divagational, divergent, diverting, double-
dealing, doubtful, dubious, duplicitous, elaborate, embrangled, entangled, errant, erratic, erring,
evasive, excursive, felonious, fishy, fouled up, foxy, fraudulent, furtive, guileful, helical, ill-got,
ill-gotten, immoral, implicated, indirect, insidious, insincere, intricate, involuted, involved,
knotted, knowing, labyrinthian, labyrinthine, left-handed, lonesome, loused up, many-faceted,
matted, mazy, meandering, messed up, misleading, mixed up, mucked up, multifarious, not
kosher, oblique, orbital, out-of-the-way, pawky, perplexed, planetary, plotting, questionable,
rambling, ramified, remote, removed, retired, rotary, rotten, round, roundabout, roving,
scheming, screwed up, secret, secretive, serpentine, shady, shameless, shifting, shifty, shrewd,
side, sidelong, sinister, sinistral, sinuous, slick, slippery, sly, smooth, snaky, snarled, sneaking,
sneaky, spiral, stray, subtile, subtle, surreptitious, suspicious, swerving, tangled, tangly, tortuous,
treacherous, tricky, turning, twisted, twisting, unconscienced, unconscientious, unconscionable,
underhand, underhanded, undirected, unethical, unprincipled, unsavory, unscrupulous,
unstraightforward, vagrant, veering, vulpine, wandering, wily, winding, without remorse,
without shame, zigzag

XXX Triplicity

A simple case of XXX is to deploy a comparatively easy to discover duplicity to conceal one
more deeply protected. Multi-layered security may serve as a multi-layered decoy to lead away
from a deep-bunkered treasure. Identifiably weak comsec may divert from more valuable
comms. A small error to indicate a larger mistake which hides a great delusion.

March 07, 2000


MARCH 7, 2000



WOOLSEY: Let me just informally say one or two things.

First of all, I am five years out of office, and so much of what I say is -- indeed virtually all of it
is heavily governed by my views and practices when I was DCI. I do continue to hold security
clearances and confer with the government from time to time, but I am not up to speed on things
like current intelligence operations, and if I were, I wouldn't talk to you about them anyway.

I do have, however, a set of views about this set of issues and they were ones that I expressed in
rather substantially the same terms when I was DCI that I'm going to express today. But in the
context of the [European Parliament, Duncan] Campbell report and the current European
interest, particularly in the overall subject of alleged American industrial espionage, I thought it
was a perfectly reasonable thing to respond to the State Department's request that I be available
to answer your questions.
If you look at the Aspin-Brown Commission report of some four years ago, chaired by the late
former secretary of defense and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Les Aspin, it
states quite clearly that the United States does not engage in industrial espionage in the sense of
collecting or even sorting intelligence that it collects overseas for the benefit of and to be given
to American corporations. And although he does so with a double negative, Mr. Campbell
essentially confirms that in his report.

In the Campbell report there are only two cases mentioned in which, allegedly, American
intelligence some years -- several years ago obtained information -- secret information regarding
foreign corporations. One deals with Thomson-CSF in Brazil, one deals with Airbus in Saudi

Mr. Campbell's summation of those issues in one case is five lines long, in the other case it's six
lines long, and he is intellectually honest enough that in both cases he devotes one line in each to
the fact that the subject of American intelligence collection was bribery. That's correct. Not
technological capabilities, not how to design wing struts, but bribery. And it is impossible to
understand American intelligence collection, for my period of time anyway, with respect to
foreign corporations and foreign government who sometimes assist them without realizing that
that issue is front and center.

Now, the Aspin-Brown Commission also said that approximately 95 percent of U.S. intelligence
collection with respect to economic matters, which itself is only one of a reasonable number of
U.S. intelligence targets -- but with respect to economic matters, 95 percent of our intelligence
collection is from open sources. Five percent is essentially secrets that we steal. We steal secrets
with espionage, with communications, with reconnaissance satellites.

Why do we focus, even to that 5 percent degree, on foreign corporations and foreign
governments' assistance to them in the economic area? It is not to provide secrets --
technological secrets to American industry.

In the first place, in a number of these areas, if I may be blunt, American industry is
technologically the world leader. It is not universally true. There are some ares of technology
where American industry is behind those of companies in other countries. But by and large
American companies have no need nor interest in stealing foreign technology in order to stay

Why then do we or have we in the past from time to time targeted foreign corporations and
government assistance to them?

WOOLSEY: There are really three main areas. One is that, with respect to countries that are
under sanctions -- Libya, Serbia, Iraq and the rest -- important economic activity is sometimes
hidden and it is important for the U.S. government to understand how sanctions are functioning,
if they're functioning successfully, whether Iraq is able to smuggle oil out and if so how much,
how Mr. Milosevic does his country's banking and so on.
Those types of sanctions-related subjects and economics are the subject of efforts by the United
States to steal secrets by various methods -- have been in the past.

Second, with respect to dual-use technology, there are some legitimate products, a number of
types of chemicals that are useful in pharmaceuticals and in fertilizers and the like, super-
computers are useful for predicting the weather and other purposes, that also have use in
designing or producing weapons of mass destruction. So particularly where there are efforts
around the world to hide the transportation and sale of certain types of materiel and products that
can be used in the production of weapons of mass destruction, yes, there is a big incentive and an
important reason why the United States government has in the past felt it important to steal

The third area is bribery. We have the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. It is a statute under which I
have practiced as a lawyer. I have done investigations of major American companies on behalf of
their boards of directors to detect Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations. I have sat as a board
member of American publicly owned corporations and questioned management about whether
there had been any foreign corrupt practices.

It is a vigorously enforced statute and an important one. And as a result of it, American industry
is again not perfect, but as a general proposition it does not try and certainly does not succeed in
winning contracts and international commerce by bribery.

This is not true of the practices of some of our friends and allies and some of our adversaries
around the world. Some of our oldest friends and allies have a national culture and a national
practice such that bribery is an important part of the way they try to do business in international

We have spied on that in the past. I hope, although I have no immediate verification, that the
United States government continues to spy on bribery.

But whether it does or not, it seems to me that it should be understandable to anyone who reads
the Campbell report, to anyone who thinks at all about whether American corporations need to
steal technological secrets from foreign corporations, and anyone who is at all sophisticated
about the way international trade and commerce works, that bribery is -- or should be in any case
and certainly was in my time at the heart of U.S. intelligence's need to collect secret intelligence
regarding foreign corporations and foreign governments' assistance to them.

And with that I'm prepared to take your questions.

MODERATOR: OK, it's fairly crowded today. Please wait for the microphone, identify yourself
and your news organization. We will go right up here in the front.

Yes, we might as well start.

QUESTION: Then I take it that all the hubbub from Brussels and the European parliament with
accusations that the NSA is being fed this information, all that is false?
WOOLSEY: Well, in far as the hubbub in Europe and in Brussels doesn't mention that if there is
any targeting of European corporations, if the past is any guide, it's likely to be about bribery,
then the journalists who are reporting it are hiding the ball. Because Mr. Campbell himself
makes it quite clear, in both of the cases he mentions, that bribery is the issue.

So if people are inventing out of whole cloth in spite of what's said in the Aspin-Brown report, in
spite of what I said when I was DCI, as far as I know, I believe what is being said publicly and
officially on the record by the U.S. government today, that the United States does not conduct
industrial espionage, it doesn't steal secrets of foreign companies to give them to American
companies for purposes of competitions and so forth -- if the hubbub in Brussels ignores that,
then those who are creating the hubbub are intentionally looking away from the major issue.

WOOLSEY: If this were Shakespeare's "Hamlet," to discuss the issue without talking about
bribery, is like talking about it without talking about the prince of Denmark. It's the central thing.

QUESTION: Mr. Woolsey, in spite of all that you said, it seems to me that espionage per se was
two kinds -- the Cold War kind, which you do against your political and ideological adversaries,
and the industrial kind that you're talking about.

Now there's a general feeling throughout the world, that this industrial espionage is sort of open
house, and everybody does it to everybody else. And there have been some reports of American
agents being expelled from Germany, or France, or somewhere.

So in spite of all that, you're saying except for bribery, the United States is not doing it at all.

WOOLSEY: The other two areas -- at least in my time -- that we thought were quite important to
follow, I did mention. One has to do with sanctions. If companies in countries that are friends
and allies of the United States are busting sanctions by what they're selling to a country like
Libya or Iraq, that might be the subject of secret collection. If there are efforts to hide the sales of
dual-use technology that can be used with respect to weapons of mass destruction.

But I generally -- and I think most of us who talk about this issue -- reserve the term industrial
espionage to mean espionage for the direct benefit of an industry. That is, I don't call it industrial
espionage if the United States spies on a European corporation to find out if it is bribing its way
to contracts in Asia or Latin America that it can't win honestly.

I would -- and especially when it is not the practice of the U.S. government -- it certainly didn't
occur in my time, and I'm not aware that it ever has -- that the U.S. government gives this
information about bribery, when we find it, to an American company. That's not what happens.
The information about bribery is not given to the American corporation that may be the victim.

What happens is that the State Department is informed, and then an ambassador, or in some
substantial cases perhaps a very senior official in the State Department, goes to the country
where the government official is being bribed, and says, You know, we really don't -- we know
about this, and we really don't think this is the way you ought to make decisions about awarding
Now what then typically happens, is that the contract award either is made on the merits --
sometimes an American company wins, sometimes not. Or sometimes the host government will
split the contract. And the American company, if it wins all or a share of it, doesn't know that the
reason it won was because the U.S. government uncovered bribery and went to the host
government, and said, We don't think you should be engaged in awarding contracts this way. But
I don't call that industrial espionage.

So in the post-Cold War era, how big a focus is this sort of thing for the United States? I'd say it's
rather modest, in the overall model -- at least in my time as DCI -- of our intelligence -- of our
secret intelligence collection.

Economic intelligence is important, but as I said, it's about 95 percent from open sources. What
our major focus is, is on rogue states, weapons of mass destruction, whether Russia is going to
turn into a non-democratic country. We focus on major issues that could directly affect the
security of the whole country.

But there is some increased emphasis on economics -- 95 percent of it from open sources. The
part that's from covert sources is as I described.

QUESTION: You answered part of my question with your statement just now that, if in fact,
U.S. intelligence were to uncover attempts at bribery by a corporation from another country, they
would not inform the U.S. corporation.

But while we're on, sort of the issue of process, presumably U.S. intelligence inadvertently
perhaps, runs across technologically interesting information -- technologically valuable
information -- even in the course of investigations predicated on the three areas that you laid out
-- technologically valuable information that would be commercially useful. What happens to that
information? Does it sit mouldering on a shelf, or is there a means by which that information
does wind up in the hands, either of U.S. government corporations, or U.S. corporations?

WOOLSEY: I don't think so, realistically. Given the fact that the problem for the U.S.
intelligence community is that there's a great deal of data that goes unanalyzed -- the problem is
sorting through all this material. It is a substantial commitment of time and effort to devote an
able analyst to sorting something out. And in the important high-tech areas -- computers,
telecommunications, software, and the like -- these are areas -- again, I don't want to sound
nationalistic about this. But bluntly, these are areas in which the United States is the world

And it is -- it would be a substantial misuse, I think, of the time of valuable analysts to go
through technological analysis of material from other trading countries, you know, that we have
cordial relations with, and deal with all the time, and where there's a great deal out in the open
anyway, in order to do an analytical piece that can't be given to anybody. I mean, it could not be
given to an American corporation.

There's a separate problem here, which is, what's an American corporation? Is it a company that's
headquartered in New York, but does most of its manufacturing in Canada -- an American
corporation? Is it a Canadian corporation that manufactures largely in Kentucky? Who knows.
We have a terrible time sorting this sort of thing out in trade issues, generally. And it's just a
morass that the U.S. intelligence community has no particular instinct or reason to get into.

And so, can one absolutely guarantee that nothing is ever leaked, that shouldn't have leaked? I
suppose one can never absolutely guarantee anything. But would, in the normal routine business,
somebody do a technological analysis of something from a friendly country, which had no
importance, other than a commercial use, and then let it sit on the shelf because it couldn't be
given to the American company? I think that would be a misuse of the community's resources. I
don't think it would be done.

QUESTION: There was a specific case which involved a radar system that was installed in
Brazil, and involving a European company and an American company. Both companies found
out what the government had found out, that the European company was trying to bribe the
Brazilian companies...

WOOLSEY: Is this the Thompsen C.S.F. case...


WOOLSEY: ... in the report?

QUESTION: Yes. I have two questions on that. One is, if you are spying on a company because
you think it might be bribing its way to a contract, you can -- in this case for example, everyone
knew exactly what technology was being sold. So, it isn't like that you have to get a special
analyst to analyze the system, because everyone knew exactly it was radar system.

So going back to Paul's question. In the case -- knowing that you're analyzing radars, if you did
have some information that, let's say the European company had a special system, or something,
would that just sit on a shelf? That's one thing.

And the other thing is, could you use that -- if you pass some information to the State
Department, but it could be used in commercial negotiations, like let's say you're spying on
companies or something.

QUESTION: And then you find out that in a WTO negotiation or a WTO panel something will
come up related to that that still is information that can be used by the government commercially
or not.

WOOLSEY: I can't exclude the possibility that at times in the past, information that would come
to the attention of the U.S. intelligence community would be used in a circumstance like the
second one you mentioned, for U.S. government purpose. Something like that would not be the
focus of collection or the focus of even the sorting of intelligence. But it's just too far down the
food chain of interests, frankly.
But I think the -- you can't exclude the possibility that if a report including information about
something technological were disseminated inside the United States government, it would be
used for a government-wide purpose by someone who knew about it in the State Department or

What wouldn't be done, is that it wouldn't be given to the American company in question. But
intelligence community's main problem over the course of the last several years has been that as
the Cold War has ended, it's relatively speaking, its resources are insufficient in its eyes and in
mine to do a lot of what is necessary. I've often said that it's as if we were fighting with a dragon
for some 45 years and slew the dragon and then found ourselves in a jungle full of a number of
poisonous snakes. And that in many ways, the snakes are a lot harder to keep track of than the
dragon ever was. The snakes are rogue states and terrorists and the like. We have now six or
eight major issues we have to watch instead of just the workings of the Soviet Union and its
various manifestations in the world.

And that has meant that on these crucial issues for U.S. intelligence, rogue states, weapons of
mass destruction, terrorism, narcotics smuggling, the community has found itself very strapped.
And you know, to spend time trying to figure out whether some technological fact about some
friendly country's part of their technology is relevant to some trade negotiation is -- got to be
something -- I can't believe anybody would be focusing on or spending any time on.

MODERATOR: OK, let's start from the back and we'll work our way forward.

QUESTION: I have a question about a definition. If the American company hires a local
consultant in China, or Brazil or Afghanistan, who bribes at his own expense and his own
account with or without knowledge of the American company, and he pays bribes. Is that as far
as you are concerned, is that bribery or it is not?

WOOLSEY: It probably depends on the facts. But if the American employer had reason to
believe from the past behavior of this individual or from the overall circumstances or from his
expenses or from the fact that an award was given that didn't seem understandable or justified by
the bids, if for any reason, the American employer including a foreign individual who was
directly employed by the United States, the gut (ph) company, had reason to believe that a bribe
had occurred, it would be a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. This is the sort of
thing -- there are things under the FCPA called red flags.

There's a rather long list of behavior and circumstances which should raise suspicions. And the
American companies and their boards of directors, are charged not just to report to the SEC or
the Justice Department when they clearly and definitely know that someone overseas has been
bribed. They are charged with conducting investigations and being on top of what all of their
commercial agents and the like are doing. It's a very demanding statute.

QUESTION: My question is not about industrial espionage specifically. I hope that's all right.
Sorry, Charlie.
There was a report in the New York Times a few weeks ago that said the Jordanian secret service
had surpassed the Mossad, the Israeli Mossad in terms of how much they helped the U.S. in
fighting terrorists and things like that. And I'm wondering if you could speak at all about how
much -- and that in fact, even in Jordan that the U.S. identifies its spies to the Jordanian
government, a practice it doesn't do in other places. So I was wondering if you would comment
on that.

But also, if you could describe in any way how much the Israeli intelligence service and the U.S.
intelligence service work together in terms of even finding out things about Iraq and weapons of
mass destruction and those kinds of things.

WOOLSEY: Even if I were current -- and I have not been current on this subject for the last five
years since I left the government -- I wouldn't answer that question. I will say this. Both Jordan
and Israel have very fine intelligence services. Both countries are friends of the United States.
The countries under a lot of circumstances today are friends of one another. And a number of
friendly countries in the Mideast cooperate with intelligence and otherwise, in dealing with rogue
states and aggressive states in the Mideast. And I would certainly count Iraq as first and foremost
in that later category.

MODERATOR: Far be it for me to ever try to control the topic of a conversation, but we are --
I'll go across the Sinai Peninsula to Thomas, if he's on the economic topic?

OK, Thomas?

QUESTION: Trying to figure out what you said about (inaudible) and jungle of the snakes.
Definitely, in the golden age of espionage there was spying and counter spying. And you cannot
say that you are just a victim of the others and you don't want to try to get information about the
others. Definitely there is a kind of a spying, you know, to counter attack his espionage. This is
my first question.

My second question is...

WOOLSEY: Let me see if I understand. Does the United States spy on countries that are trying
to conduct industrial espionage against American corporations?


WOOLSEY: In my time, yes. I don't know whether we still do or not. But I would have
considered it a useful, although not perhaps actually top priority for the United States to
understand the workings of a foreign intelligence service that at the behest of its government was
conducting espionage against American corporations to steal say technological secrets. What
counter espionage it really is in the international context is essentially intelligence services
spying abroad on foreign intelligence services that are in turn spying on their country.

And that is part of the warp and woof of international intelligence collection for the United
States, for Egypt and for the countries represented by essentially everybody in this room.
QUESTION: My second part of the same question was that what about the privatized economic

QUESTION: I mean which is more than related to the industries and the firms and the -- in
general because always even the regular espionage were asking, for all of the human factor of
intelligence collected. It's important or just...

WOOLSEY: Well, with respect to some types of intelligence targets, particularly in the post-
Cold War era -- terrorism is one very good example -- human intelligence, the human factor,
espionage is distinct from technical intelligence collection, has really got to be first and foremost.

Terrorism is not something you learn a lot about from plants, to the contrary, notwithstanding
from looking at terrorist camps through reconnaissance satellites. You need spies.

But with respect to you know economic espionage against the United States...

QUESTION: I mean in general from your perspective, economic espionage doesn't get more
human intelligence or rely on...

WOOLSEY: It's hard to say. Again, these three areas that I mentioned that were salient in my
time, again for this 5 percent of economic intelligence that's secret, 95 percent being you pick up
newspapers and surf the Web and whatever. But for the 5 percent that involves needing to steal
secrets, I would say yes, that human intelligence if you're talking about bribery, if you're talking
about finding out about companies that are shipping material around sanctions, if you're talking
about companies that are selling super computers to institutions in other countries, that can use
them to design nuclear weapons, a lot of that, I would say a rather high proportion of it would
typically have to come from human agents, from human sources.

QUESTION: With all of the other sources can you state why you're failing and as dragon you
mention the snakes? Secondly, recently it was deserved (ph) by India and the United States to
cooperate more on international terrorism? Do you expect the intelligence agencies of the two
countries to cooperate in order to track international terrorism and cooperate (ph)?

WOOLSEY: Well, the dragon was the Soviet Union and the last time I looked we won the Cold
War. I don't think we failed against the dragon. I would comment to your Mr. Matrokin (ph) and
Mr. Andrews recent book, "The Sword and the Shield," based on the KGB archives that
Matrokin (ph) stole from essentially 1917 to 1985. And it's a complicated story.

There were some things the KGB were very successful at such as technical intelligence
collection against American corporations actually. But after the demise essentially of the
American communist party's vibrant life, right after the end of World War II and after the end of
the American Soviet Alliance in '45, beginning in '47 or '48, the playing field tended to move in
an American direction. And Matrokin (ph) and Andrew would say that particularly in the '60s
and '70s and into the '80s, probably American intelligence collection against the Soviet Union
across the board particularly against the government, was substantially superior to a rather
dismal KGB performance against the United States.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) country?

WOOLSEY: The dragon that we fought for 45 years and slew, was the Soviet empire in my

QUESTION: That isn't what I had in mind...

WOOLSEY: Well, but you -- it was my analogy so I get to say what I had in mind.


Now with respect to the United States and India, India is a friendly country and we cooperate on
a number of things and we're -- both diplomatically and from time to time in intelligence areas,
and I would hope that it would continue.

At least that was true with I was DCI. For the last five years you would have to ask somebody

QUESTION: I know it's hard to quantify, but what region of the world, if you can break it down,
is most afflicted by this -- if I can use the word -- by this U.S. espionage, especially bribery?

Is it Middle East? Is it South Asia? Is it Europe? Is it...

WOOLSEY: Well, you have the bribers and the bribees. OK. Now in a number of parts of the
world although some are struggling against it, there has been a tradition of public officials
accepting bribes and it occurs in a number of places.

The part of the world that where this culture of getting contracts through bribery, that actually
has a great deal of money, and is active in international contracting is to a first approximation
Europe. And indeed if you look at the recent negotiations that deal with implementing the OECD
convention on bribery that was signed, I think in late 1997, there have been a number of
parliamentary acts passed.

WOOLSEY: The Germans, for example, have gotten rid of the provision of German tax law that
permitted bribes to be deducted from income taxes. France is debating it; hasn't gotten rid of it

But there has been a general history -- both because it's been relatively prosperous, because it's
companies export -- that I would say the principle offenders, from the point of view of paying
bribes in major international contracts in the world, are Europe. And indeed, they are some of the
very same companies -- the companies are in some of the very same countries where the most
recent flap has arisen about alleged American industrial espionage.

It leads me to wonder whether the next major international investigation on this sort of subject
coming from Europe is going to be charging that there needs to be a major look at the problem of
rude American maitre d's.
I'll leave it at that.

QUESTION: I have two questions, the first one regarding the peace process. In case of the peace
process in the Middle East, do you believe the CIA will be able to change the way handling the
cases in the region? And the second question regarding how did you handle the espionage
against you, United States, from your allies, like Israel and the other famous cases in that?

WOOLSEY: Second one first. Certainly the United States, often for reasons for learning about
technology, is the target of espionage from some very good friends and allies. It happens.
Normally we try to work it out. We try not to make a major public fuss about it. But where
prosecution is necessary and where it does occur, we are generally of the view that one should
impose penalties consistent with the seriousness of the espionage and the amount of material that
was turned over, not the degree of friendliness with the country.

I'm going to use a clear example, one that I've spoken on publicly a number of times, Jonathan
Pollard. The question has come up, since Israel is a friend of the United States, shouldn't the
United States pardon Mr. Pollard? Both I, and I think almost anybody connected with the
American intelligence community and law enforcement community has said no, because of the
volume and seriousness of what he stole.

Now, you're first question was about?

QUESTION: It was about the peace process...


WOOLSEY: The peace process, yes. CIA officers in a number of negotiating situations -- and
here we're largely talking about analysts -- are extremely helpful. I was an ambassador and arms
control negotiator for the United States. I negotiated the CFE Treaty in Vienna in 1989 to '91.
And I had several CIA analysts on my delegation and they functioned very much like other U.S.
government officials.

WOOLSEY: We didn't formally call them CIA officials, but our Soviet and other counterparts
knew that they worked for the CIA. And they chaired working groups for me on verification.
They negotiated provisions with other countries, dealing with verification. They were valuable
members of the team.

And they had very cordial relations with Soviet counterparts. Sometimes we would even have
parties with the American CIA people, and the Soviet KGB people, you know. It was an odd

But nonetheless, this tradition of American intelligence officers being involved in negotiations is
one that I think can be entirely positive. There is one aspect of the CIA officers' involvement in
the negotiations in the Mideast that I couldn't tell from the public statements whether it was
taking place or not, but I was concerned that it might, because it seemed to me it put the
intelligence officers in the middle, between the negotiating parties, and led them to have to try to
assess whether one party was violating the accords, and then explain it to the other party, going
both ways. And I thought that was a bad position to put an intelligence officer in.

I thought the U.S. intelligence officers should collect intelligence for the United States. And if an
American official had to go to one party or the other in the negotiations, and say, "You haven't
turned in all your weapons, and we know it," or, "You haven't done this, and we know it." It
ought to be a diplomat. It ought to be an official from the State Department, not an intelligence

But with that footnote, with that, you know -- and I can't tell still, from the public statements,
exactly what the role of the CIA officers in the Mid-Eastern -- in the Palestinian-Israeli
negotiations has been. With that footnote, I think that for the CIA, and for intelligence officers
from other countries, there are a number of circumstances in which they can have a quasi-open,
and professional, and very useful role on issues such as verifying agreements.

QUESTION: Mr. Woolsey, I understand that the U.S. is for -- to promote democracies around
the world, compared to dictatorships -- number one. Number two -- how much -- and also CIA
briefs president on a regular basis -- on a daily basis on intelligence matters. How much
president listen to the CIA reports, or their advice, including now, this report here in India Globe,
and around the world in newspapers that he should not visit Pakistan? That's according to the
CIA intelligence reports. Should he visit Pakistan or not, in your guess?

WOOLSEY: Well, my -- I'm not going to bite on that substantive recommendation. But I will
say this. I think the CIA got a little bit spoiled in President Bush's presidency, because having
been a director of Central Intelligence himself, he was, and remains absolutely fascinated by
intelligence, by the CIA. The CIA headquarters is now named after him. He had the intelligence
briefer in every day, and so forth.

President Clinton is a speed reader. And he rather frequently reads the morning intelligence
briefing, and annotates it, and sends it back with questions, rather than having the CIA briefer in.
And if you'll pardon me a moment of humor, when in 1994, in the autumn, after I'd been in the
CIA job for a little over a year and a half, a small plane crashed into the south front of the White
House. The White House staff joke, at the time, was, That must be Woolsey still trying to get an


So, I may not be the best individual to ask with respect to daily interactions of that sort. But
whether a president absorbs information by a daily meeting, or by reading -- as at least in my
time, was principally President Clinton's method of absorbing intelligence -- presidents normally
pay a great deal of attention to what U.S. intelligence as a whole -- not just the CIA --
communicates to them. And sometimes they discount it and do something else. And sometimes
they have a right to discount it. And sometimes they were wrong. But on that particular issue, I'm
going to stay away from that with a 10-foot pole.
QUESTION: Sir, you mentioned about the dual technology transfer. I believe, you know, that's
from the other side of the story. This is a -- maybe that's falling into the term of an FBI, but given
your experience, I'd like to have your comment on that. That is, what are those countries
involved the most, in terms of stealing U.S. industry secrets here?

When you're talking about rogue states, I consider that -- do you consider China as a rogue state,
or what? I mean, according to a lot of report that it is China, it is Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Israel
involved most in those case.

QUESTION: But maybe you can tell us what exactly...

WOOLSEY: I'm not going to get in the business of talking about individual countries that way.

I would say this. With respect to technology theft from American corporations especially, the
Soviet Union and the KGB were very good at this. The Metrokin (ph) book explains how and
why. Happily, the Soviet Union was unable to take advantage of much of the technology because
of their incredibly decrepit and terribly inefficient economy. But they were very vigorously
involved in this.

It has also been the case, because of American technological leadership in a number of high-
technology areas, that some of our old friends and allies are in this business as well, not only by
putting microphones in the head rests of their airliners which cross the Atlantic, in first class
seats, but in other ways as well.

There are European countries where one wants to -- if you leave your briefcase when you go to
dinner, if you're a businessman and there's anything sensitive in it, you should have your head
examined. There are a number of parts of the world where American companies and individuals
when they travel where there's intelligence collection against them. And there's some in this
country, including from some friends -- old friends of the United States.

We try to discourage this. We work hard at it. We talk privately with the countries and
companies involved. We exert a good deal of effort to try to keep this from happening. But it is
something that is rather substantially, in this country, principally on the mind of the FBI not the
CIA. Because the only way it comes up for U.S. intelligence is if we learn overseas, in
conducting an intelligence operation or collection, that that foreign country's intelligence service
is going to be doing something inside the U.S. Anything that actually takes place here, 99.9
percent of the time the relevant people are the FBI not the CIA.

I don't know what to say other than I don't really want to get into accusing individual countries.
This waxes and wanes. No one is as involved in it as deeply as the KGB used to be on the behalf
of the Soviet Union. But a number of countries still do it.

MODERATOR: And on that note, I'd like to say thank you. Thank you ladies and gentlemen.

WOOLSEY: Thank you for having me.
The Spy Novelist Who Knows Too Much

                                                                              Denis Rouvre for The New York Times

Gérard de Villiers, the author of the best-selling S.A.S. espionage series.

Published: January 30, 2013 82 Comments

Last June, a pulp-fiction thriller was published in Paris under the title “Le Chemin de
Damas.” Its lurid green-and-black cover featured a busty woman clutching a pistol, and its
plot included the requisite car chases, explosions and sexual conquests. Unlike most
paperbacks, though, this one attracted the attention of intelligence officers and diplomats
on three continents. Set in the midst of Syria’s civil war, the book offered vivid character
sketches of that country’s embattled ruler, Bashar al-Assad, and his brother Maher, along
with several little-known lieutenants and allies. It detailed a botched coup attempt secretly
supported by the American and Israeli intelligence agencies. And most striking of all, it
described an attack on one of the Syrian regime’s command centers, near the presidential
palace in Damascus, a month before an attack in the same place killed several of the
regime’s top figures. “It was prophetic,” I was told by one veteran Middle East analyst who
knows Syria well and preferred to remain nameless. “It really gave you a sense of the
atmosphere inside the regime, of the way these people operate, in a way I hadn’t seen

Enlarge This Image

                                                                                          Photograph from Gérard de Villiers

De Villiers with Jonas Savimbi, the leader of the rebel group Unita, in Angola in 1982.
The book was the latest by Gérard de Villiers, an 83-year-old Frenchman who has been
turning out the S.A.S. espionage series at the rate of four or five books a year for nearly 50
years. The books are strange hybrids: top-selling pulp-fiction vehicles that also serve as
intelligence drop boxes for spy agencies around the world. De Villiers has spent most of his
life cultivating spies and diplomats, who seem to enjoy seeing themselves and their secrets
transfigured into pop fiction (with their own names carefully disguised), and his books
regularly contain information about terror plots, espionage and wars that has never
appeared elsewhere. Other pop novelists, like John le Carré and Tom Clancy, may flavor
their work with a few real-world scenarios and some spy lingo, but de Villiers’s books are
ahead of the news and sometimes even ahead of events themselves. Nearly a year ago he
published a novel about the threat of Islamist groups in post-revolutionary Libya that
focused on jihadis in Benghazi and on the role of the C.I.A. in fighting them. The novel, “Les
Fous de Benghazi,” came out six months before the death of the American ambassador, J.
Christopher Stevens, and included descriptions of the C.I.A. command center in Benghazi (a
closely held secret at that time), which was to become central in the controversy over
Stevens’s death. Other de Villiers books have included even more striking auguries. In 1980,
he wrote a novel in which militant Islamists murder the Egyptian president, Anwar Sadat, a
year before the actual assassination took place. When I asked him about it, de Villiers
responded with a Gallic shrug. “The Israelis knew it was going to happen,” he said, “and did

Though he is almost unknown in the United States, de Villiers’s publishers estimate that the
S.A.S. series has sold about 100 million copies worldwide, which would make it one of the
top-selling series in history, on a par with Ian Fleming’s James Bond books. S.A.S. may be
the longest-running fiction series ever written by a single author. The first book, “S.A.S. in
Istanbul,” appeared in March 1965; de Villiers is now working on No. 197.

For all their geopolitical acumen, de Villiers’s books tend to provoke smirks from the French
literati. (“Sorry, monsieur, we do not carry that sort of thing here,” I was told by the
manager at one upscale Paris bookstore.) It’s not hard to see why. Randomly flip open any
S.A.S. and there’s a good chance you’ll find Malko (he is Son Altesse Sérénissime, or His
Serene Highness), the aristocratic spy-hero with a penchant for sodomy, in very explicit
flagrante. In one recent novel, he meets a Saudi princess (based on a real person who made
Beirut her sexual playground) who is both a dominatrix and a nymphomaniac; their first
sexual encounter begins with her watching gay porn until Malko distracts her with a medley
of acrobatic sex positions. The sex lives of the villains receive almost equal time. Brutal
rapes are described in excruciating physiological detail. In another recent novel, the
girlfriend of a notorious Syrian general is submitting to his Viagra-fueled brutality when she
recalls that this is the man who has terrorized the people of Lebanon for years. “And it was
that idea that set off her orgasm,” de Villiers writes.

“The French elite pretend not to read him, but they all do,” I was told by Hubert Védrine,
the former foreign minister of France. Védrine is one of the unapologetic few who admit to
having read nearly every one of Malko’s adventures. He said he consulted them before
visiting a foreign country, as they let him in on whatever French intelligence believed was
happening there.
About 10 years ago, when Védrine was foreign minister, de Villiers got a call from the Quai
d’Orsay, where the ministry is based, inviting him to lunch. “I thought someone was playing
a joke on me,” de Villiers said. “Especially because Védrine is a leftist, and I am not at all.”
When he went to the ministry at the scheduled time, Védrine was waiting for him in his
private dining room overlooking the Seine.

“I am very happy to join you,” de Villiers recalled telling the minister. “But tell me, why did
you want to see me?”

Védrine smiled and gestured for de Villiers to sit down. “I wanted to talk,” he said, “because
I’ve found out you and I have the same sources.”

De Villiers’s books have made him very rich, and he lives in an impressively grand house
on the Avenue Foch, a stone’s throw from the Arc de Triomphe. I went there one day this
winter, and after a short wait on the fourth-floor landing, a massive wooden door swung
open, and I found myself facing a distinguished-looking man in brown tweeds with a long,
bony face and pale brown eyes. De Villiers uses a walker — a result of a torn aorta two years
ago — but still moves with surprising speed. He led me down a high-ceilinged hallway to his
study, which also serves as a kind of shrine to old-school masculinity and kinky sex. I stood
next to a squatting woman made of steel with a real MP-44 automatic rifle coming out of her
crotch. “That one is called ‘War,’ ” de Villiers said. In the middle of the floor was a naked
female figure bending over to peek at the viewer from between her legs; other naked
women, some of them in garters or chains, gazed out from paintings or book covers. On the
shelves were smaller figurines in ivory, glass and wood, depicting various couplings and
orgies. Classic firearms hung on the wall — a Kalashnikov, a Tommy gun, a Winchester —
and books on intelligence and military affairs were stacked high on tables. Among the
photos of him with various warlords and soldiers in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, I
noticed a framed 2006 letter from Nicolas Sarkozy, praising the latest S.A.S. novel and
saying it had taught him a great deal about Venezuela. “He pretends to read me,” de Villiers
said, with a dismissive scowl. “He didn’t. Chirac used to read me. Giscard read me, too.”

After an hour or so, de Villiers led me downstairs to his black Jaguar, and we drove across
town to Brasserie Lipp, a gathering spot for aging lions of the French elite. As we pushed
through a thick crowd to our table, a handsome old man with a deeply tanned face called out
to de Villiers from across the room. It was the great French nouvelle vague actor Jean-Paul
Belmondo. He grinned and waved de Villiers over for a conspiratorial chat.
“That’s Table No. 1,” de Villiers said as we sat down. “Mitterrand always used to sit there.”
After a waiter rushed up to help him into his seat, de Villiers ordered a suitably virile lunch
of a dozen Breton oysters and a glass of Muscadet. He caught me looking at his walker and
immediately began telling me about his torn aorta. He nearly died and had to spend three
months in a hospital bed. “If you fall off your horse, you have to get back on or you are
dead,” he said. He was able to maintain his usual publishing pace even while in the hospital.
There was only one real consequence: he had used the real name of the C.I.A. station chief
in Mauritania in his manuscript, and in the confusion after the accident, he forgot to change
the final text. “The C.I.A. was angry,” he said. “I had to explain. My friends at the D.G.S.E.
[the French foreign-intelligence agency, General Directorate for External Security]
apologized on my behalf, too.”

One of the many myths surrounding de Villiers is that he employs a team of assistants to
help with his prodigious turnout. In fact, he does it all himself, sticking to a work routine
that hasn’t changed in half a century. For each book, he spends about two weeks traveling in
the country in question, then another six weeks or so writing. The books are published on
the same schedule every year: January, April, June, October. Six years ago, at age 77, de
Villiers increased his turnout from four books a year to five, producing two linked novels
every June. “I’m not a sex machine, I’m a writing machine,” he said.

De Villiers was born in Paris in 1929, the son of a wildly prolific and spendthrift playwright
who went by the stage name Jacques Deval. He began writing in the 1950s for the French
daily France Soir and other newspapers. Early on, during a reporting assignment in Tunisia,
he agreed to do a favor for a French intelligence officer, delivering a message to some
members of the right-wing pro-colonial group known as la main rouge. It turned out de
Villiers was being used as a pawn in an assassination scheme, and he was lucky to escape
with his life. He returned to Paris and confronted the officer, who was completely
unrepentant. The incident taught him, he said, that “intelligence people don’t give a damn
about civilian lives. They are cold fish.” But rather than being turned off, de Villiers found
that blend of risk and cold calculation seductive.

In 1964, he was working on a detective novel in his spare time when an editor told him that
Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, had just died. “You should take over,” the editor
said. That was all it took. The first S.A.S. came out a few months later. Although sales are
down a bit since his peak in the 1980s, he still earns between 800,000 and a million euros a
year (roughly $1 million to $1.3 million) and spends summers at his villa in St. Tropez,
where he gads about on his boat by day and drives to parties in the evenings in his 1980s
Austin Mini.

He has long been despised by many on the French left for his right-wing political views. “We
are all strangled by political correctness,” he told me, and he used the word “fags” several
times in our conversations. But his reputation as a racist and anti-Semite is largely myth;
one of his closest friends is Claude Lanzmann, the Jewish leftist and director of “Shoah,” the
landmark Holocaust documentary. And in recent years, de Villiers has gained a broader
following among French intellectuals and journalists, even as his sales have slowed down.
“He has become a kind of institution,” said Renaud Girard, the chief foreign correspondent
of Le Figaro. “You can even see articles praising him in Libération,” the left-leaning daily.

De Villiers created Malko, his hero, in 1964 by merging three real-life acquaintances: a
high-ranking French intelligence official named Yvan de Lignières; an Austrian arms dealer;
and a German baron named Dieter von Malsen-Ponickau. As is so often the case, though,
his fiction proved prophetic. Five years after he began writing the series, de Villiers met
Alexandre de Marenches, a man of immense charisma who led the French foreign-
intelligence service for more than a decade and was a legend of cold-war spy craft. De
Marenches was very rich and came from one of France’s oldest families; he fought heroically
in World War II, and he later built his own castle on the Riviera. He also helped create a
shadowy international network of intelligence operatives known as the Safari Club, which
waged clandestine battles against Soviet operatives in Africa and the Middle East. “He was
doing intelligence for fun,” de Villiers told me. “Sometimes he didn’t even pick up the phone
when Giscard called him.” In short, de Marenches was very close to being the aristocratic
master spy de Villiers had imagined, and as their friendship deepened in the 1970s, de
Villiers’s relationship with French intelligence also deepened and lasts to this day.

De Villiers has always had a penchant for the gruesome and the decadent. One of his models
was Curzio Malaparte, an Italian journalist whose best-known book is “Kaputt,” an eerie
firsthand account from behind the German front lines during World War II. Another was
Georges Arnaud, the French author of several popular adventure books during the 1950s.
“He was a strange guy,” de Villiers said. “He once confessed to me that he started life by
murdering his father, his aunt and the maid.” (Arnaud was tried and acquitted for those
murders, possibly by a rigged jury.) I couldn’t help wondering whether Georges Simenon,
the famously prolific and perverted Belgian crime writer, was also an influence. Simenon is
said to have taken as little as 10 days to finish his novels, and he published about 200. He
also claimed to have slept with 10,000 women, mostly prostitutes. De Villiers laughed at the
comparison. “I knew Simenon a little,” he said, then proceeded to tell a raunchy story he
heard from Simenon’s long-suffering wife, involving roadside sex in the snow in Gstaad.

This seemed like a good moment to ask about de Villiers’s own preoccupations. “I’ve had a
lot of sex in my life,” he said. “That’s why I have so much trouble with wives. In America
they would say I am a ‘womanizer.’ ” He has married four times and has two children, and
now has a girlfriend nearly 30 years his junior, an attractive blond woman whom I met
briefly at his home. When I suggested that the sex in S.A.S. was unusually hard-core, he
replied with a chuckle: “Maybe for an American. Not in France.”

One thing de Villiers does not have is serious literary ambitions. Although he is a great
admirer of le Carré, he has never tried to turn espionage into the setting for a complex
human drama. He writes the way he speaks, in terse, informative bursts, with a morbid
sense of humor. When I asked whether it bothered him that no one took his books seriously,
he did not seem at all defensive. “I don’t consider myself a literary man,” he said. “I’m a
storyteller. I write fairy tales for adults. And I try to put some substance into it.”

I had no idea what kind of “substance” until a friend urged me to look at “La Liste Hariri,”
one of de Villiers’s many books set in and around Lebanon. The book, published in early
2010, concerns the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister. I
spent years looking into and writing about Hariri’s death, and I was curious to know what
de Villiers made of it. I found the descriptions of Beirut and Damascus to be impressively
accurate, as were the names of restaurants, the atmosphere of the neighborhoods and the
descriptions of some of the security chiefs that I knew from my tenure as The Times’ Beirut
bureau chief. But the real surprise came later. “La Liste Hariri” provides detailed
information about the elaborate plot, ordered by Syria and carried out by Hezbollah, to kill
Hariri. This plot is one of the great mysteries of the Middle East, and I found specific
information that no journalists, to my knowledge, knew at the time of the book’s
publication, including a complete list of the members of the assassination team and a
description of the systematic elimination of potential witnesses by Hezbollah and its Syrian
allies. I was even more impressed when I spoke to a former member of the U.N.-backed
international tribunal, based in the Netherlands, that investigated Hariri’s death. “When ‘La
Liste Hariri’ came out, everyone on the commission was amazed,” the former staff member
said. “They were all literally wondering who on the team could have sold de Villiers this
information — because it was very clear that someone had showed him the commission’s
reports or the original Lebanese intelligence reports.”
When I put the question to de Villiers, a smile of discreet triumph flashed on his face. It
turns out that he has been friends for years with one of Lebanon’s top intelligence officers,
an austere-looking man who probably knows more about Lebanon’s unsolved murders than
anyone else. It was he who handed de Villiers the list of Hariri’s killers. “He worked hard to
get it, and he wanted people to know,” de Villiers said. “But he couldn’t trust journalists.” I
was one of those he didn’t trust. I have interviewed the same intelligence chief multiple
times on the subject of the Hariri killing, but he never told me about the list. De Villiers had
also spoken with high-ranking Hezbollah officials, in meetings that he said were brokered
by French intelligence. One assumes these men had not read his fiction.

What do the spies themselves say about de Villiers? I conducted my own furtive tour of the
French intelligence community and found that de Villiers’s name was a very effective passe-
partout, even among people who found the subject mildly embarrassing. Only one of those I
spoke with, a former head of the D.G.S.E., said he never provided information to de Villiers.
We met in a dim corridor outside his office, where we chatted for a while about other
matters before the subject of de Villiers came up. “Ah, yes, Gérard de Villiers, I don’t know
him,” he said, chuckling dismissively, as if to suggest that he had not even read the books.
Then after a pause, he confessed: “But one must admit that some of his information is very
good. And in fact, one sees that it has gotten better and better in the past few novels.”

Another former spook admitted freely that he had been friends with de Villiers for years. We
met at a cafe in Saint-Germain-des-Prés on a cold, foggy afternoon, and as he sipped his
coffee, he happily reeled off the favors he’d done — not just talking over cases but
introducing de Villiers to colleagues and experts on explosives and nuclear weapons and
computer hacking. “When de Villiers describes intelligence people in his book, everybody in
the business knows exactly who he’s talking about,” he said. “The truth is, he’s become such
a figure that lots of people in the business are desperate to meet him. There are even
ministers from other countries who meet with him when they pass through Paris.”

A third former government official spoke of de Villiers as a kind of colleague. “We meet and
share information,” he told me over coffee at a Paris hotel. “I’ve introduced him to some
sensitive sources. He has a gift — a very strong intellectual comprehension of these security
and terrorism issues.”

It is not just the French who say these things. De Villiers has had close friends in Russian
intelligence over the years. Alla Shevelkina, a journalist who has worked as a fixer for de
Villiers on a number of his Russian trips, said: “He gets interviews that no one else gets —
not journalists, no one. The people that don’t talk, talk to him.” In the United States, I spoke
to a former C.I.A. operative who has known de Villiers for decades. “I recommend to our
analysts to read his books, because there’s a lot of real information in there,” he told me.
“He’s tuned into all the security services, and he knows all the players.”

Why do all these people divulge so much to a pulp novelist? I put the question to de
Villiers the last time we met, in the cavernous living room of his Paris apartment on a cold
winter evening. He was leaving on a reporting trip to Tunisia the next day, and on the coffee
table in front of me, next to a cluster of expensive scotches and liqueurs, was a black
military-made ammunition belt. “They always have a motive,” he said, absently stroking one
of his two longhaired cats like a Bond villain at leisure. “They want the information to go
out. And they know a lot of people read my books, all the intelligence agencies.”

Renaud Girard, de Villiers’s old friend and traveling companion, arrived at the apartment
for a drink and offered a simpler explanation. “Everybody likes to talk to someone who
appreciates their work,” he said. “And it’s fun. If the source is a military attaché, he can
show off the book to his friends, with his character drawn in it.” He also suggested that if the
source happens to have a beautiful wife, she will appear in a sex scene with Malko, and some
of them enjoy this, too. “If you have read the books,” he said, “it’s fun to enter the books.”

I asked de Villiers about his next novel, and his eyes lighted up. “It goes back to an old
story,” he said. “Lockerbie.” The book is based on the premise that it was Iran — not Libya —
that carried out the notorious 1988 airliner bombing. The Iranians went to great lengths to
persuade Muammar el-Qaddafi to take the fall for the attack, which was carried out in
revenge for the downing of an Iranian passenger plane by American missiles six months
earlier, de Villiers said. This has long been an unverified conspiracy theory, but when I
returned to the United States, I learned that de Villiers was onto something. I spoke to a
former C.I.A. operative who told me that “the best intelligence” on the Lockerbie bombing
points to an Iranian role. It is a subject of intense controversy at the C.I.A. and the F.B.I., he
said, in part because the evidence against Iran is classified and cannot be used in court, but
many at the agency believe Iran directed the bombing.

De Villiers excused himself to continue packing for Tunisia, after cheerfully delivering his
cynical take on the Arab Spring. (“What this really means is the empowerment of the
Muslim Brotherhood across the region.”) His views on other subjects are similarly curt and
disillusioned. “Russia? Russia is Putin. People fooled themselves with Medvedev that there
would be change. I never believed it.” And Syria? “If Bashar falls, Syria falls. There is
nothing else to hold that country together.”
     Girard and I poured ourselves more Scotch, and he began reeling off stories of his and de
     Villiers’s adventures together. Many of them involved one of de Villiers’s former wives, who
     always seemed to show up in Gaza or Pakistan in wildly inappropriate dress. “One time in
     the mid-’90s, we went to a Hamas stronghold together, and Gérard had his wife with him,
     wearing a very provocative shirt with no bra,” Girard said. “There were young men there
     who literally started stoning us, and we had to flee.”

     It was getting late, and Girard seemed to be running out of stories. “He is 83 years old, and
     he is not slowing down,” he said before we parted. “He still goes to Mali and Libya, even
     after his heart troubles.” He paused for a moment, looking into his Scotch. “I remember one
     time during the rebellion in Albania, in 1997, we were sitting on a rooftop together, and we
     started talking about death. He told me: ‘I will never stop. I will keep going with my foot on
     the accelerator until I die.’ ”

     Robert F. Worth is a staff writer for the magazine. He last wrote about the bunker
     mentality of American diplomacy.

     Editor: Joel Lovell


     Share your thoughts.

    ALL


     Write a Comment

o   Rao R N
o   Farmville, VA

    Anyone read "Mort a Gandhi" by Mr. de Villiers? Any new information in that novel on the assassination
    of Indira Gandhi (which I believe is the focus of the novel)? Any English translation of that book, and if
    yes, where can I find it?

o   Feb. 1, 2013 at 3:10 p.m.
o   Recommended1

o   Charlie
o   Grenada

    Why has the English speaking world igmored this prolific writer? I would love to read his books but
    unfortunately I do not read or speak much French.

o   Feb. 1, 2013 at 3:10 p.m.
o   Recommended2

o   expat nature boy
o   Philippines

    Who found his depiction of the twin towers disaster on 9/11 in one of his novels? Which book covers that
    event? Is it in English yet? It seems rich in espionage material.

o   Feb. 1, 2013 at 12:32 p.m.
o   Recommended1
o   Solomon
o   Miami Beach

    International brotherhood of spying sodomites is very accurate. And they make the waves of political
    tsunamis that wash against us all. Hang ten for the big one coming.

o   Feb. 1, 2013 at 12:31 p.m.
o   Recommended1
o   <="">

o   Georg Witke
o   Orlando, FL

    Just goes to show: the CIA "plots" and "secrecy" are the most predictable pulp fiction trash novels
    fantasies. And we the taxpayers pay for them. Dearly.

o   Feb. 1, 2013 at 12:31 p.m.
o   Recommended3
o   <="">

o   speekez
o   abbot kinney
    That's a great suit, Kiton?

o   Feb. 1, 2013 at 12:31 p.m.
o   <="">

o   FastGuy
o   Daytona FL

    On first glance at the small picture at the bottom of the page, I thought it was Conan doing a character.
    Surely, with that hat, you have quips and punchlines at the ready...?

    And then you realize: what a magnificent hat.

o   Feb. 1, 2013 at 12:22 p.m.
o   Recommended1
o   <="">

o   Denis
o   Paris

    It's always strange to see how american jounalists can see french writers, and more generally, french
    culture and french society : it looks as if Marco Polo was describing the Kublaikan Khan 's court, or the
    ambassador of Siam talking about Louis the 14th 's castle. It's the same kind of misunterpretation and
    overflatuation of details, whithout talking of the essentail points. The author of this article should have
    talken of the fact that de Villiers is largelly suspected in France not to have really written his books, but to
    let them published under his name, like Dumas used to do, or, more recently, Paul Lou Sulitzer, a famous
    french "writer", of rather a "business book publisher". How could a man write all by himself 4 books every
    year since 50 years !!! It's not credible ! The journalist seems to be very impressed by de Villiers and try to
    show him as a "french Ian Flemming or Le Carré", only to impress the readers, but he's nothing much
    than a french "business publishing books", or maybe a french crook of the french edition. That's why he's
    so despised in France by authors, and the "french elite", as you call it. He defends also a vision of global
    geostrategy quite cynical, that is "right wing" oriented. These things should have been said more clearly in
    this article, if you really want to inform american readers with truth...

o   Feb. 1, 2013 at 12:21 p.m.
o   Recommended12
o   <="">

o   Bruce
o   Montevideo

    Can you get his books in the states?

o   Feb. 1, 2013 at 12:14 p.m.
o   Recommended1
o   <="">

o   Ruth M.
o   Forest Hills, NY

    When will we see the English translation?
    Ruth M.
o   Feb. 1, 2013 at 12:14 p.m.
o   Recommended1
o   <="">

o   joanmlister
o   tegwen33

    The full story of the OBL liquidation has not yet been told. There very likely will be some surprises when
    more details emerge.

o   Feb. 1, 2013 at 12:14 p.m.
o   <="">

o   isaac32767
o   Portland, OR

    He grinds out a new book every 4 months? That doesn't sound like "geopolitical acumen". More like
    formulaic hack work.

o   Feb. 1, 2013 at 12:14 p.m.
o   <="">
o   Harry Reynolds
o   Scarsdale, New York

    A ushanka?
    Russian fur hat ripped from the body of a poor animal in Siberia after it had been shot more than once?
    I feel sorry for the animal to have had the bad luck to end up in that way.
    Don't you?

o   Feb. 1, 2013 at 12:14 p.m.
o   Recommended3
o   <="">

o   GoodGriefCB
o   Redwood Curtain

    I'd be all over these if they were in english.

o   Feb. 1, 2013 at 12:14 p.m.
o   Recommended1
o   <="">

o   Matt S
o   NYC

    And none of his books are available in English at the NYPL.
o   Feb. 1, 2013 at 12:11 p.m.
o   Recommended1
o   <="">

o   Jamie Nichols
o   Santa Barbara

    Gérard de Villiers seems to have done quite well financially by writing about the more unsavory side of the
    intelligence business. Vast amounts of taxpayer money has flowed into the coffers of the SAS, MI6, CIA,
    Mossad, KGB, and East Germany's HVA, and the bank accounts of those employed by these and other spy
    agencies. Spy agencies have no problem recruiting employees and clandestine agents since there are
    writers like de Villiers and Tom Clancy and movies and television shows too numerous to mention that
    glorify their work, often misleadingly, if not falsely. While I am not so naive as to believe we or any other
    nation can adequately protect itself without a spy service, I'd love to see an end to covert actions by such
    services that are intended to overthrow or destabilize foreign governments. Guys like de Villiers may
    believe that spies who engage in such activities are manly or heroic, I think they more often than not do a
    disservice to the nation they represent. We are still having to deal with the understandable, ugly blow-
    back from our earlier CIA misadventures in Iran.

    Will De Viiiers one day be viewed as a great writer? No one quoted in the article seems to think so. He has
    simply cultivated a lot of contacts among those in the dirtier side of the espionage business who seek self-
    glorification, or at least a moment of recognition in one of de Villiers' pulp fictions. That he has gotten rich
    in doing so is a sad reflection on French literary tastes and morality.

o   Feb. 1, 2013 at 12:04 p.m.
o   Recommended4
o   <="">
o   cleopatra 1
o   new jersey

    Good story - but please do not equate John Le Carre with Tom Clancy. Le Carre can actually write, Clancy
    is a successful potboiler writer.

o   Feb. 1, 2013 at 10:56 a.m.
o   Recommended9
o   <="">

o   Mark Hugh Miller
o   Los Angeles, California
o   Verified

    Referring to John le Carré as a “pop novelist” is like calling Mark Twain a joke writer.

o   Feb. 1, 2013 at 10:49 a.m.
o   Recommended16
o   <="">

o   Alan
o   Phoenix

    Interesting article about de Villiers. Never cared, however, for the practice of tossing off foreign-language
    phrases (especially without translation), Mr. Worth. It comes across as arrogant elitism. Entschuldigen
    Sie mich (Excuse me) for not having chosen to learn French. Given that the purpose of writing is to
    communicate content and is thus reader-focused -- rather than to posture and be self-focused (or so I
     thought) -- eschew the obfuscatory practice of mixing languages and instead write in one language. This is
     an English-language publication, so write the article all in English. If you want to write in French, then
     write it all in French and choose a French-language publication as your outlet.

o    Feb. 1, 2013 at 9:50 a.m.
o    Recommended3
o    <="">

    DR
    Slovenia

     I am a professional translator and would generally agree with your criticism, but French and English have
     a special relationship and it is to be expected that educated readers of English will know some French
     phrases that have become part of English. (I'm reminded of the term "voilà," still commonly used but
     distressingly spelled as "wa-la" and other abominations by internet forum participants.) The sprinklings
     of French gave this article nice flavor without making it incomprehensible. Other than book titles given in
     the original language, the terms used were:

     monsieur: surely everyone knows this or can guess from the context?
     Son Altesse Sérénissime: translated as His Serene Highness right in the article
     nouvelle vague: easily identified as "New Wave" by an internet search if you didn't already know.
     la main rouge: the name of a group, easily Googled up.
     passe-partout: looks a lot like "pass," which is what it means

     That was all. Seems to me an acceptable and sensibly chosen repertoire.

    Feb. 1, 2013 at 10:31 a.m.
    Recommended21
    <="">

    Law
   New York, NY

    How boring.

    You could look it up, you know, or discern from context. Being shown things you don't readily understand
    is not "arrogant" or "elitist." It's an opportunity to learn.

   Feb. 1, 2013 at 10:56 a.m.
   Recommended14
   <="">

o   KS
o   NY

    Robert F. Worth, merci, for this brilliant writing about Gérard de Villiers... what an awesome author!
    Makes me wish I could read beyond the smattering of French I learned in middle-school quite a while
    back. To have actually met this intriguing personality on his turf and held a meaningful conversation that
    lead to this article... hats off to you, monsieur. Speaking of which, that's a befitting 'chapeau' on de Villiers'
    crown in the photograph. :) Some day, I've no doubt, a brave person with English-French proficiency
    combined with excellent writing skills may venture out to embark on the translations. Again, thank you
    for this introduction to what the French may refer to as 'pulp fiction'. ;) ;)

o   Feb. 1, 2013 at 9:50 a.m.
o   <="">

o   Carl
o   Harpers Ferry, WV
    John LeCarre is not a "pop" novelist placed by Mr Worth in the same category as Tom Clancy. Mr Worth
    should read his novels and he would know that there is a degree of skill and sensitivity that elevate Mr. Le
    Carre's novels far above the "pop" characterization.

o   Feb. 1, 2013 at 9:50 a.m.
o   Recommended12
o   <="">

o   ted mizzi
o   gozo

    Many thanks for a great article. I am really looking forward to read his forthcoming book about Lockerbie
    - perhaps he will eventually shed some more light on the real truth...

o   Feb. 1, 2013 at 9:50 a.m.
o   Recommended1
o   <="">

o   Michael
o   San Francisco

    I have read 138 of the 197. The best one was the first, Malko in Istanbul, there was even a bit of tongue-in-
    cheek. Some are definitely better than others, it was a revelation to learn that he writes them all himself,
    as I assumed that sometimes he was luckier than others with his ghost writers. The sex has become more
    sophisticated recently, though the love-deaths (that I love) that usually have begun the novels are less
    frequent. Now I am vindicated when I claim to have the inside track on Syria, Mali, the Mexican drug
    wars, September 11, Russian assassinations, etc. They would lose much in translation. Let them serve as
    primers for the French language, primers for slightly risque French sex. You will stop looking up words in
    two pages as you will intuitively understand just about everything. Thank you for this article, giving
    credibility to my fascination with this series (well, some of them are boring, and usually I don't read the
    last few pages because the denouement is always lame).

o   Feb. 1, 2013 at 9:50 a.m.
o   Recommended4
o   <="">

o   TheEtruscan
o   South Padre Island, TX

    While I admire the stamina of the 83 year old Gerard de Villiers, out of curiosity what is the average
    length of his 196 books?

o   Feb. 1, 2013 at 9:50 a.m.
o   <="">

o   Ebukah E. Nzeji
o   Port-Harcourt,Nigeria

    What more can I say...The prolific writer in question(De Villiers) from what I have read in this expository
    piece,is one of those few writers blessed with an uncanny sense of indepth intelligence. The in-built
    stamina he has, to churn out his works so prolificly and consistently as well,shows he's an exceptionally
    thorough-bred writer. For the fact that his connections into the Intelligence Services of diverse
    countries,is one that marvels even top Journalists,I can only conclude by saying that De Villiers is a rare
    breed in the Pulp Fiction/Éspionage unsung spy novelist,whose works are probably not wide-
    read outside Europe(as that of late Ian Fleming); perhaps due to his nationality,or the overtly explicit
    sexual content of his works...I guess he has more raging hormones than that of a teenager!

o   Feb. 1, 2013 at 9:50 a.m.
o   <="">

o   Herman
o   San Francisco

    I predict his Lockerbie book WILL be available in English.

    If it's any good, more translations will follow.

o   Feb. 1, 2013 at 9:50 a.m.
o   Recommended2
o   <="">

o   kmmalek
o   Weston, MA

    Time to order another batch of Malko's adventures via
    As a Lebanese American, I found "La Liste Hariri" both engaging and poignant, when I read a couple of
    years back. I always assumed de Villiers had gotten the list via the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
    What a fascinating man; I wish him many more productive years.

o   Feb. 1, 2013 at 9:50 a.m.
o   <="">

o   murph
o   reno nevada

    After years of reading - and re-reading - LeCarre and others, I am now off to the library to seek out de
    Villiers! Thanks to Robert F. Worth for providing an introduction to the best source of intelligence info I
    have ever heard of!

o   Feb. 1, 2013 at 9:50 a.m.
o   <="">

o   Sherrie N
o   Weymouth, MA

    Intriguing. Now to find his books here in Boston. Has he tackled what happened to the "former Nazis"
    who so easily vanished in the post WWII chaos? Where might they and their followers have worked
    and/or still be working today? They were as indoctrinated (i.e. brainwashed to use the vernacular) as any
    in the Muslim Brotherhood, or do their beliefs come too close to de Villiers' own world view for him to
    expose them, even now?

o   Feb. 1, 2013 at 9:50 a.m.
o   Recommended2
o   <="">
o   Ahmed Limam
o   Paris, France

    Apart from "The Spy Who Came In From the Cold" Le Carré's novels are repetitive and, let's face it,
    boooooring. And as for pulse-racing thrills, well, watch paint grow, at least you know what to expect.

    I grew up reading the SAS books. Then I lost interest because of the formulaic nature of the writing, and
    last year I went back to Mauritania, where I partly grew up, after a 15-year absence. Mauritania sits just
    next door to Mali and as luck would have it Gérard de Villiers had just published a book set in Mauritania,
    "Bienvenue à Nouakchott." (He rarely visits twice the same place, and has never been in the Sahara's
    largest city)

    I read it on the flight there and loved it. Not only did it bring back memories of my teenage/young adult
    years when I would read then by the pound (and in secret, my parents didn't recommend reading sexually
    explicit books), but I found the research quite good. It was insightful, he definitely had been there (I later
    met people who had met him when he was there doing his research) and pretty authentic. I found myself
    nodding my head several times, "so true" at some comments or plot aspects that showed how good he was
    at identifying the quirks of a country he had never been to before.

o   Feb. 1, 2013 at 8:13 a.m.
o   Recommended4
o   <="">

o   Barbara
o   Los Angeles
o   Verified

    at first I thought that was his hair.

o   Feb. 1, 2013 at 6:58 a.m.
o    Recommended12
o    <="">

o    bse
o    Vermont

     Another depressing paean to violent, women-demeanig authors. Truly depressing is the idea that all those
     intelligence services, including our own, are similarly debased and view the world that way. No wonder
     the planet is in such terrible turmoil. When will the grownups, both men and women, get to be in charge
     instead of the sandbox playing/macho boys?!

o    Jan. 31, 2013 at 4:04 p.m.
o    Recommended63
o    <="">


    frankly 32
    by the sea

     bse, well, old biddies may take exception -- as is their raison d'etre -- but the points here worth
     remembering are two:
     first, he gets the info journalists don't come close to; and second, to reinforce your point -- these macho
     bully boys are playing football with our world

     But can we at least agree to judge methods by results not the correctness we might be enamored with at
     the moment.

    Feb. 1, 2013 at 9:50 a.m.
    <="">

    SimAlex
    Los Angeles CA

     "When will the grownups, both men and women, get to be in charge instead of the sandbox
     playing/macho boys?!"

     Some of the best 'sandbox playing macho boys' have been women. So there's that.


    Feb. 1, 2013 at 10:56 a.m.
    Recommended1
    <="">

    PY
    NY


    Feb. 1, 2013 at 12:11 p.m.
    <="">
o    Patrick
o    California

     Very enjoyable read from someone who knows French and France. I saw all these paperbacks on the back
     shelves of a man I greatly admire. He had saved them. And now I am going to start reading them right
     now...thank you for this article.

o    Jan. 31, 2013 at 3:43 p.m.
o    Recommended10
o    <="">

    JeffB
    Wickenburg Az

     err, that would be the Russian fur hat, one of the most iconic symbols of the old USSR/Russia. I think for
     many (of us) who grew up in the "Red is evil/Red,white, blue is good" Reagan/cold war/spy games era,
     this is probably more recognizable, but unless the guy just likes furry hats, it is good symbolism for a spy
     novel author.

    Feb. 1, 2013 at 12:11 p.m.
    Recommended1
    <="">

o    silty
o    sunnyvale, ca

     But you didn't answer the uppermost question: what is that on de Villiers head in the photograph? A crazy
     wig? Some kind of a furry hat?

o    Jan. 31, 2013 at 3:43 p.m.
o    Recommended12
o    <="">


    nilootero
    Pacific Palisades

     But is that a boating or pajama jacket?

    Feb. 1, 2013 at 12:11 p.m.
    <="">

    outofblue
    France

     It is called a chapka. Russian wear this in winter to keep their head warm. nothing extraordinary in that.
     and it's really warm

    Feb. 1, 2013 at 12:11 p.m.
    <="">

    Paul
    Plattsburgh

     I believe that's his natural hair.

    Feb. 1, 2013 at 12:11 p.m.
    Recommended1
    <="">

o    Jim Rosenthal
o    Annapolis, MD

     You can teach an idiot French, with regard to our intelligence services reading M. Villiers, but he or she
     will just be a bilingual idiot. It's no use.

     Of course, they did find and whack Osama bin Laden, so maybe it's not hopeless after all.

o    Jan. 31, 2013 at 3:42 p.m.
o    Recommended1
o    <="">

o    Shreekar
o    Boston

     what an awesome character!
     I hope someone translates these books into Anglaice.

o    Jan. 31, 2013 at 3:42 p.m.
o    Recommended10
o    <="">

o    PAC
o    New Jersey

     Great article, and yet another reason to learn French. How I wish these books were translated.

o    Jan. 31, 2013 at 3:42 p.m.
o    Recommended9
o    <="">

    VR
    Annapolis, MD

     After this publicity, they will be - very soon.

     It's now just after 7 a.m. in Europe. You can be sure that some publisher will start making phone calls in
     about 2 hours from now (unless a contact from the NYT tipped them off yesterday). Translators (even
     pretty good translators) don't cost much and are always hungry for contracts.
    Feb. 1, 2013 at 9:50 a.m.
    Recommended1
    <="">

o    Giskander
o    Grosse Pointe, Mich.

     With that Ruski hat, he's a dead give-away as the spy who came out of the cold.

o    Jan. 31, 2013 at 3:42 p.m.
o    Recommended6
o    <="">

    Josh Stewart
    New Port Richey, FL

     They're not translated? That's awful.

    Feb. 1, 2013 at 12:11 p.m.
    Recommended1
    <="">
o   Carl Ian Schwartz
o   Paterson, New Jersey

    This is a genre of writing that is actually a subcategory of science fiction--without the futuristic trappings.
    While I'm fluent in French, these books should be released in English!

o   Jan. 31, 2013 at 2:49 p.m.
o   Recommended7
o   <="">

o   Tommy O
o   Minneapolis

    I don't know how good his books are, but that hat is awesome!

o   Jan. 31, 2013 at 2:49 p.m.
o   Recommended10
o   <="">

o   Producer
o   New York, NY

    Are any of these books available in English?

o   Jan. 31, 2013 at 2:49 p.m.
o   Recommended3
o    <="">

    Harry Reynolds
    Scarsdale, New York

     The only book of which I know that I assume was translated into English was entitled The Imperial Shah,
     an informal biography of the Shah of Iran. Published in the 1970's by I think Little Brown and ran about
     three hundred or so pages. Should be available in a used copy.

    Feb. 1, 2013 at 10:56 a.m.
    Recommended1
    <="">

o    richiscool
o    Denver

     Nice fur hat. How many animals were tortured so you could look cool?

o    Jan. 31, 2013 at 2:48 p.m.
o    Recommended8
o    <="">

    Andrei Foldes
    Forest Hills
     How many animals were tortured so you could have dinner?

    Jan. 31, 2013 at 3:43 p.m.
    Recommended40
    <="">

    SimAlex
    Los Angeles CA

     @richiscool -- how many child laborers made your iPad?

    Feb. 1, 2013 at 12:11 p.m.
    Recommended2
    <="">

o    ric4rus0
o    Cooperstown, NY

     I started reading his books as a young teenager, growing up in Paris. My parents would always indulge me
     at the airport, when we would travel, as the newsstands would always have a fine selection of Malko's
     adventures for me to pass the time with. What a wonderful article, for me to discover all these years later,
     that Gerard de Villiers, whom I always thought was a nom de plume for some Parisian newspaperman,
     was actually the real-est of deals! Merci!

o    Jan. 31, 2013 at 2:48 p.m.
o    Recommended15
o    <="">

o    Pumamoon
o    washington dc

     All I can say is that's some hairdo.
     Oh, it's his hat.

o    Jan. 31, 2013 at 2:48 p.m.
o    Recommended9
o    <="">

    Stephane
    Paris, France

     The Chapka seems real enough, it even bears the trace of the red star medallion that was pinned on the
     front of the hat. Do you see it ?

    Feb. 1, 2013 at 12:11 p.m.
    <="">

o    Luder
o    France
     Interesting article--and for once, for once, a piece on a writer in the magazine doesn't seem to be, like last
     week's article on George Saunders, a fluffy piece of promotional copy timed to coincide with a publisher's
     major release. (English-language publishers' foolish and self-defeating reluctance to publish work in
     translation is, of course, another problem.)

o    Jan. 31, 2013 at 2:48 p.m.
o    Recommended8
o    <="">

o    Sal Ruibal
o    DC

     Who is the new Cubby Broccoli, or someone as talented, who could bring these books to the cinema or an
     HBO series?

o    Jan. 31, 2013 at 2:48 p.m.
o    Recommended1
o    <="">

    TheFaj
    Calgary, AB

     Luc Besson.

    Feb. 1, 2013 at 11:23 a.m.
    <="">
o   craig geary
o   redlands fl

    Fifty Shades of Espionage.

    Good time to be in the 47% and have time to read.


o   Jan. 31, 2013 at 2:48 p.m.
o   Recommended8
o   <="">

o   LH
o   Jerusalem, Israel

    Interesting to learn about this writer - but the slick comparison with John le Carre is off base. Popular he
    may be, or bestselling, but le Carre is not a "pop" writer and way over the low level of Tom Clancy; le
    Carre's prose is intelligent. And he's often ahead of the news as well.

o   Jan. 31, 2013 at 11:01 a.m.
o   Recommended61
o   <="">

    Jim
    Here

     ...The article explicitly differentiates le Carre from "pop" writers.

    Feb. 1, 2013 at 9:50 a.m.
    <="">

    VR
    Annapolis, MD

     Le Carré was a good writer, but he's written nothing worth reading in the last 30 years. He wrote a small
     handful of ground-breaking, first-rate books, but since 1980 he's been selling on his old reputation.

    Feb. 1, 2013 at 9:50 a.m.
    Recommended1
    <="">

    jennifer
    maryland


    Feb. 1, 2013 at 12:11 p.m.
    <="">

o    Jean Gordini
o    Lyon, France

     Now, I will see his book as something certainly a bit more worth than pure pulp. Maybe I'll even buy a few
     of them.

o    Jan. 30, 2013 at 3:25 p.m.
o    Recommended3
o    <="">

o    DougP
o    West Coast

     Fantastic article. Only question is do I want to read start with the first book or the incredibly interesting
     ones highlighted here?

o    Jan. 30, 2013 at 2:24 p.m.
o    Recommended14
o    <="">

    Kat
    San Francisco
     I'm so disappointed to see that none of his books have been translated into English yet. They may be pulp
     fiction but, the politics are fascinating! Five novels a year at 83! What an inspiration!

    Jan. 31, 2013 at 10:16 a.m.
    Recommended30
    <="">

    craig geary
    redlands fl

     Miami-Dade Library has zilch.

    Jan. 31, 2013 at 2:48 p.m.
    Recommended3
    <="">

o    Ramon Espinosa
o    Los Angeles Ca

     Your article is the very best I have ever read on Spy stories from a 83 year old guy is impressive i'm 82 and
     running on all 8 cylinders + I appreciate his disciplined mind. Thank you for the article write about him
     every time he puts out a Novella.

o    Jan. 30, 2013 at 2:24 p.m.
o    Recommended21
o    <="">
o    Tim
o    sausalito, ca

     Remarkable - perhaps our CIA should be given translations as a 12-36 month outlook. Seems he published
     the unfolding story of Mali in October last year. A good excuse to brush up on my French...

o    Jan. 30, 2013 at 2:24 p.m.
o    Recommended26


    William P
    New York, NY

     I'm sure that many are fluent in French. But I know a lot of people Fluent in French who aren't quite
     subtle enough to find their way through the wilderness of mirrors that is intelligence conspiracy. What the
     CIA needs are not language lessons necessarily, but cultural and historical lessons.

    Jan. 31, 2013 at 3:23 p.m.
    Recommended9

    seeing with open eyes
    usa

     The US should hire him and get rid of the entire CIA - great way to cut our deficit!

    Jan. 31, 2013 at 3:42 p.m.
    Recommended11

    ZoetMB
    New York

     VOD: I doubt it. Our CIA and FBI don't trust people who can speak foreign languages.

    Jan. 31, 2013 at 3:42 p.m.
    Recommended15

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