Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Until and unless, an author achieves financial success with his or her writing—a second job is a necessity. Man may not live by bread alone but a few meals a day keep the stomach from growling. Some writers work as editors or teachers, we have an ex marine biologist in the group, several Carina authors are technical geniuses, I sang for my supper. But is there anyone here who ever considered spying? Would you be willing to Infiltrate the International Spy Museum and test your nerve, memory and gut instinct with hands-on exhibits, video and audio displays and touch-screen computers? Potential recruits are taught to use surveillance, photography, audio-capture equipment and disguise.
In the heart of Washington, D.C.’s Chinatown, a building filled with intrigue, treachery and terror draws enthusiastic fans, fascinated by the game of espionage, into a world of conspiracy. Can a novice learn to pick a lock? Bug an office, set up a listening post, and hack into a computer?
The father of our country, George Washington, authorized a spy network in New York in 1777. A letter exhibited at the museum illustrates his skill in the art of deception. In 1861, Abraham Lincoln hired Alan Pinkerton to organize our secret service. The all-seeing eye, Pinkerton’s symbol, led to the tag Private Eye, popular in genre novels, and noir films.
The museum’s artifacts include cameras that can be hidden in a cigarette pack, a wristwatch or a buttonhole in a coat. Cigarette guns, lipstick guns, a ring gun and a single shot device hidden inside a tube of skin cream seem like toys but all were carried by agents and are displayed at the museum. Russia’s KGB examined the exploits of Ian Fleming’s Agent 007 James Bond and our intelligence agencies studied and were inspired by his Aston Martin DBS that sported innovations such as a machine gun, bulletproof shield and dashboard radar screen.
James Fenimore Cooper wrote a novel, The Spy, in 1821; Joseph Conrad penned The Secret Agent in 1907. Alfred Hitchcock frightened the film-going public with The Man Who Knew too Much featuring Peter Lorre as the evil antagonist and North by Northwest with Cary Grant portraying a man mistaken for a spy.
Graham Greene’s The Third Man brought Orson Welles to the screen in 1949 with a part said to be modeled on the Cambridge spy, Kim Philby. The chase through Vienna’s sewers remains a classic. John Le Carre’s novels introduced George Smiley and we avidly read Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum and Frederick Forsyth; authors of books that send a chill up our spines and sell in the millions.
Television introduced Mission Impossible, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Avengers with Diana Rigg and Patrick McNee, and I Spy with Robert Culp and Bill Cosby to the then small screen—before Cosby became America’s much loved doctor and father. These shows led to spoofs like Get Smart, written by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry starring Don Adams as Agent 86, Maxwell Smart. More recent send-ups of the genre include the Austin Powers and Spy Kids motion pictures.
How about it writers? Do you have an itch for espionage? Can you use your book as a cover? Ouch!