Staff Choice

Staff Choice

July 11, 2004|By Annie Linskey

International Spy Museum Handbook of Practical Spying. Introduction by Peter Earnest, text by Jack Barth. National Geographic. 191 pages. $14.95.

Former spies and those who aspire to the trade can equally enjoy this pint-sized guide to espionage. Learn helpful tricks to improve the memory, befriend a possible target, extract useful information during an interrogation and (best of all) know how to avoid giving up too much information under hostile questioning. A favorite tidbit is in the "disguise" chapter: A spy pretending to have a limp should place a marble in his shoe. This will remind him to keep his cover -- even when he thinks nobody is watching. In addition, mini history lessons and anecdotes from the real spy world are distributed throughout.

Peter Earnest, former spymaster and the current director of D.C.'s Spy Museum, advises aspiring agents to put the outlined hints to work. "Espionage is mastered, like baseball and poker, by doing it, not by reading about it," he writes.

The book does try to debunk popular misconceptions about spy work (you want to blend in, not stand out, Mr. Bond), but hey, if it weren't for the myths, would we really be that interested in the first place?

Our only real complaint: The book isn't eatable.

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