Saturday 25 July 2009

Radio 4 looks at the spy world

There's a new programme on BBC Radio 4 (which should be available to listen online for a week thereafter on the BBC's iPlayer facility) looking at the history of the intelligence service MI:6 and particularly its portrayal in fiction and popular culture, from Smiley to Bond.

This web article highlights how the public's imagination and knowledge of the secret service has been fed by fiction as much as lurid newspaper headlines, and looks at how this fictional side to MI:6 has developed from the 'spy scares' of the 19th Century through to the pre-First World War concerns about German spies crossing the coast to the post-war popularity of Bond and Le Carré.

Sir Colin McColl, MI:6 chief between 1989 and 1994, writes about the literary depiction of the espionage world: "I mean there were two feelings I think in the service over the years. There were those who were furious with John Le Carre because he depicts everybody as such disagreeable characters and they are always plotting against each other and so on… So people got rather cross about that. But I thought it was terrific because, again, it carried the name that had been provided by Bond and John Buchan and everybody else, it gave us another couple of generations of being in some way special."

Sounds like a fascinating radio series. I'm sure we can expect an appearance from 'Harry Palmer' in one of the three shows.

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