The TV Spies Bookshelf: An Annotated Directory of Non-Fiction Sources
By Wesley Britton
An important inspiration and invaluable resource for my SPY TELEVISION (Praeger, 2004) was the number of non-fiction books published since the 1980s on specific television series. Since its publication, of course, a few new titles have appeared as well as more general studies of the genre. Here, I provide an annotated bibliography for readers. In addition, some non-spy specific books might be of special interest and useful for fans, so I added them here to assist aficionados and future researchers. From time to time, I also mention websites and videos based on TV spy series I think are worth "Honorable Mentions." (Helpful information is also included in "Novelizing TV Spies: Paperback Adventures Never Broadcast," another file posted at this website.)
I will provide updates when information crosses my desk. Please advise me of anything I omitted by writing--
Beiderman, Danny. The Incredible World of Spy-Fi: Wild and Crazy Spy Gadgets, Props and Artifacts, From TV and the Movies. San Francisco: Chronicle Books,
2004. Enjoyable coffee-table editions showcasing Beiderman's extensive collection of items. Gives background on shows and films including anecdotes not published elsewhere.
Britton, Wesley. Spy Television. Westport, CT: Praeger Pub. 2004. The most comprehensive history in print. Begins with influences from Old Time Radio on early shows of the 1950s, provides full chapters on major series of the 1960s, and traces changes through series debuting in 2001 including Alias, 24, and The Agency. (New material was included in Beyond Bond: Spies in Film and Fiction, Praeger, 2005.)
Buxton, David. From THE AVENGERS to Miami Vice: Form and Ideology in Television Series. Manchester: Manchester UP. 1990. Buxton's scholarly study is especially useful when tracing ideological dimensions in such shows as DANGER MAN, THE AVENGERS, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, and The MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. Page 8 has a list of spy trappings broken down into binary opposites for those seeking AN ACADEMIC analysis of the genre. For those into theory and doctoral dissertations on TV spies, this is worth a quick lookover. Not for the general reader.
Kackman, Michael. Citizen Spy: Television, Espionage, and Cold War Culture. University of Minnesota Press. 2005. The publisher's description reads: "Looking at secret agents on television in the 1950s and 1960s, Kackman explores how Americans see themselves in times of political and cultural crisis. From parodies such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Get Smart to the more complicated situations of I Spy and Mission: Impossible, Kackman situates espionage television within the culture of the times."
Lisanti, Tom and Louis Paul. Film Fatales: Women in Espionage Films and Television, 1962-1973. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Co. 2001. At first glance, one might think this is an elaborate pin-up book of beautiful actresses who starred in both major and obscure spy films. A careful reading reveals many details about television episodes and Euro-films not readily available in other sources. Indispensable.
Miller, Toby. Spy Screen: Espionage on Film and TV from the 1930s to the 1960s. Oxford, NY: Oxford UP. 2003. While largely a textual
and cultural study for students of film, general readers should find
passages of interest in between long sections designed for theorists and scholars. Miller adds some interesting notes on fandoms for The
Avengers, the subject of an earlier Miller study. (See review below.) Miller spends little time with Danger Man and The Prisoner, but devotes considerable page space to The Man From U.N.C.L.E., although with no new information. This one is better for
those interested in important films like Gilda, The 39 Steps, The Third Man and cultural benchmarks like Honey West and Modesty Blaise. For library shelves.
Cassar, Jon. 24: Behind the Scenes. Foreword by Keifer Sutherland. Insight Editions; Pap/DVD edition (October 24, 2006). Photographer, Director, and Co -Executive Producer of 24 Cassar provides a photographic retrospective of the first 5 seasons of the show. Candid shots on the set and on locations are organized into sections including "Making `24'" and "Production Design and Celebrity Guests." Along with the anecdotal text, a bonus DVD includes commentary by cast and crew. A high quality addition for collectors.
Dilullo, Tara. 24: The Official Companion Seasons 1 and 2. Client Distribution Services, Sept. 30, 2006. This photo-fest is organized along the same lines as the show, that is each page has a time-line with the plot, characters, and trivia. Considered a useful reference for the first two seasons despite its short length, 136 pages.
For several decades, overviews of TV shows tended to be fond looks into the past by authors who focused on only one or two series. Once The X-Files opened the publishing market for both official and unsanctioned books on a series still on the air, the genre changed.
Alias is a case in point. Contributors to the show helped shape "insiders" episode guides with behind-the-scenes glimpses into various seasons. At the same time, a new generation of TV fan writers cranked out books on multiple series covering everything from West Wing and Star Trek to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and even Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Authors of such books also looked to sources like Alias magazine and put together some of the titles listed here.
Ruditis, Paul and J. J. Abrams. Authorized Personnel Only (Alias). Simon Spotlight Entertainment. (2005). Closely related to the Simon Spotlight series of novels, this purported "nonfiction" paperback claims to give secrets about the agents, operations, and biographies of participants in the show.
Clapham, Mark and Lance Parkin. Secret Identities: The Unofficial and Unauthorized Guide to Alias. Virgin Books. (2003). Early entry in the Alias cash-in cash cow.
Stafford, Nikki and Robyn Burnett. Uncovering Alias: An Unofficial Guide to the Show. ECW Press. (2004). Fans of Buffy, Angel, and Lost offer an overview of the first 3 seasons.
Vaz, Mark. Alias Declassified: The Official Companion. Hyperion Books. (2005). Sanctioned reference guide for the first 3 seasons.
Weisman, Kevin, ed. Alias Assumed: Sex, Lies and SD6. Independent Publishers Group, Smart Pop series. (2005). Actor Kevin Weisman, who played Marshall J. Flinkman on Alias, can't really be called the editor of this collection of essays as his introduction spells out his wonder at reading all the essays given to him. A tongue-in-cheek read, not to be taken seriously.
The best Avengers website, THE AVENGERS Forever, is far more reliable than any of the print sources listed here. In fact, it contains a "Bloopers" list for a number of the sources listed below. The site’s address is:
Another useful source is the official Patrick Macnee website administered by his son, Rupert, at:
Also of special interest is the25 minute documentary, "Avenging THE AVENGERS," originally produced by England's Channel 4 for their program "Without Walls" in 1992. Contender released it in 2000 as part of the boxed set "The Monochrome Collection" with an extra 15 minutes that had been deleted from the broadcast versions. It's a wonderful documentary, and copies pop up from time to time on E-Bay. No Avengers fan should be without it.
Carraze, Alain and Jean-Luc Putheaud. THE AVENGERS Companion. London: Titan Books. 1987. This offbeat exploration of THE AVENGERS is interesting, but not indispensable. The theme is a discussion of the series as an icon of popular culture. It includes surprisingly long episode summaries of shows long and easily available on video and DVD. It's a book for its photos, not its content.
Cornell, Paul, Martin Day, and Keith Topping. THE AVENGERS Dossier: The Definitive, Unauthorized Guide. London: Virgin Pub. 1998. This late entry into Avengers analysis has met with mixed response from experts and critics. Definitive? No, not hardly. Still, this quirky episode guide has its strong suits, including corrections of previously published errors regarding production and episode events. These writers were too preoccupied with the occurrences of champagne, bondage, and kinky elements to be considered “definitive.”
Lumley, Joanna. Stare Back and Smile. New York: Viking. 1989. Lumley was the leggy "Purdey" in the 1977 "New Avengers," and her autobiography contains more in print about that series than any other source beyond Dave Rogers THE AVENGERS ANEW. In one interview, Patrick Macnee admitted there were things he didn't know about the show until he read Lumley's memoirs. Hopefully, most of her important points are referred to in SPY TELEVISION.
Macnee, Patrick and Dave Rogers. THE AVENGERS and Me. New York: TB Books. 1997. While other books by Macnee’s partner, Dave Rogers (see below) are more detailed in terms of story lines and production credits, John Steed himself is extremely enlightening in descriptions of what most readers will find interesting in behind the scenes glimpses. After the book’s publication, Macnee admitted he was somewhat reserved in his comments about his co-stars because they told him their memories were quite different from his, and he did not wish to tread into areas that could lead to possible lawsuits. Still, this is a very human, very candid look at The Avengers by the one actor who was there in all its incarnations. (In 1989, Macnee published another memoir, BLIND IN ONE EAR, which only briefly mentions THE AVENGERS. Clearly, Macnee had intended to be free to write a book specifically on his years as John Steed.)
Miller, Toby. THE AVENGERS. British Film Institute. 1998. I confess the folks at THE AVENGERS Forever website think very little of this study. However, I found it a fascinating academic overview of the series with information I didn't see in other sources. It's now a hard book to find, but worth tracking down if you are looking for books that are thoughtful and something more than production and episode summaries.
Rogers, Dave. The Complete Avengers. New York: St. Martins. 1989. For decades now, under many covers and in many ways, Dave Rogers has told and retold the story of THE AVENGERS from little privately published magazines to over-size episode summaries. The 1987 Complete Avengers is the most extensive collection released in the U.S. (In the UK, he went one step further and later issued The Ultimate Avengers in 1995.) While not 100% reliable, the Rogers' books are works of love, contain many great photos, and belong on any fans bookshelf.
As most of the details regarding Get Smart in my chapter on that series came from two books, I will discuss them together here. In addition, fans of this show were delighted by the 2002 "TV-land" documentary which confirmed many points well-known in the print media and is a very good hour of insights and memories.
Green, Joey. The Get Smart Handbook. Collier Books of Canada. 1993.
McCrohan, Donna. The Life and Times of Maxwell Smart. New York: St. Martins. 1988.
When Joey Green's The Get Smart Handbook appeared in 1993, reviewers claimed it was superior to Donna McCrohan’s 1988 The Life and Times of Maxwell Smart for a number of reasons, although both books were noted for obvious overlapping. Green includes many quotes from show participants not in McCrohan’s book, and he adds considerable humor in the early sections and a spy quiz at the end of his text. Other clever inserts include responses from world leaders from Jimmy Carter to Colin Powell explaining how they would destroy KAOS. Green’s Handbook does contain some factual errors, and fans note he missed listing some KAOS agents and gadgets. As his book has been out of print for some time, The Get Smart Handbook has become something of a minor collector’s item, a hot commodity on E-Bay auctions.
Still, McCrohan‘s account goes beyond detailing the cast, production, and analysis of Get Smart. She too provides a wealth of information about television and popular culture in the 1960s. She lists numerous examples of jokes, and one interesting section compares the television gadgets with real-world technological devices. it's a matter of taste as to which book a fan will find most readable. I know one GS fan who describes the McCrohan work as "the Get Smart dissertation."
Cushman, Marc and Linda J. LaRosa. I Spy: A History and Episode Guide, 1965-1968. Jefferson, NC: Mcfareland and Co. 2007. For the full story behind this new title, see "Uncovering I Spy: An Interview with Marc Cushman, Author of the First Full-length History of a Classic Series" posted at this website.
Leonard, Sheldon. And the Show Goes On: Broadway and Hollywood. New York: Limelight Editions. 1995. This autobiography from an important contributor to American entertainment discusses a long career featuring many, many projects. So I SPY is but one TV series briefly mentioned in these reminisces. However, while Leonard claimed that his remembrances were 90% accurate, some of his memories fall short of that percentage. For example, his claim I Spy would be unique by using location footage makes little sense considering the number of ‘50s series filmed in Europe, including those produced by British studios. If he meant non-European locations, as in the Far East, he would have been closer to fact. In one passage of his memoir, Leonard described a garden pub scene shot in England and how an unnamed actor was getting more and more drunk with each re-shoot. There is no evidence any I Spy scene was ever shot in England. The few English actors who appeared on the show, including Maurice Evans, Peter Lawford, and Boris Karloff, had no scenes similar to the setting Leonard recalled. Because of the number of projects in which Leonard was involved, the anecdote possibly occurred on another film or television set. In one TV Guide interview, Leonard claimed Robert Culp didn’t write any scripts until the second season. Again, this is far from correct--Culp's first script was, in fact, the first aired episode of the series. So readers need use caution when reading this entertaining memoir.
One important contribution of I SPY was the casting of Bill Cosby as an African-American lead, so it's worth noting two studies that discuss the role of black actors in television. Detailed discussions on Bill Cosby in I SPY and Greg Morris in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE are in Donald Bogle's excellent 2001 Prime Time Blues (New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux). Indispensable observations on both these series is also in J. Fred Macdonald's 1983 Blacks and White TV: Afro-Americans in Television since 1948 (Chicago: Nelson-Hall).
LA FEMME NIKITA
The wonderful DVD boxed sets of LFN include commentary tracks on the first and last episodes of each season.
Edwards, Ted. La Femme Nikita X-posed. The Unauthorized Biography of Peta Wilson and Her On Screen Character. Rocklin, California: Prima Books. 1998. Relying only on rumor, it's my understanding that Edwards(pen name for researcher Ed Gross) isn't highly regarded by other authors in the field. I understand why. This book, which covers the creation of the television series, its first season, and three episodes into the second, relies primarily on online sources which are sandwiched together. It also contains a loopy section called "Idiot's Guide to Section One" which seems like padding to justify putting out a book for a series which was still in its early stages. Such material seems wildly inappropriate for a series noted for its lack of humor. For diehards only.
THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.
Anderson, Robert. The U.N.C.L.E. Tribute Book. Las Vegas: Pioneer. 1993. Experts on MFU complain about this book as many feel it's a plagiarized collection of articles and information collected from private fanzines which aren’t credited by Anderson. Of course, those who never saw the original publications can't find some of this information anywhere else. It's worthy of a place on fan bookshelves although Jon Heitland's study is the first place to go for information on this underappreciated series.
Heitland, Jon. The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: The Behind the Scenes Story of a Television Classic. London: Titan Books. 1988. Gratefully, this excellent book is still in print and readily available. In my opinion, it's a book for more than those seeking the story of THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.--it contains a banquet of background on TV production of the period and the thought processes in network decision making. Indispensable.
Pacquette, Brian and Paul Howley. The Toys From U.N.C.L.E.: a Memorabilia and Collectors Guide. (self-published) 1990. This price guide features over 140 pages of photos and information on almost everything released in the USA about The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Although the pricing information is obviously outdated, the descriptions, photos, and information is still useful for collectors. For example, I was startled to learn the bubblegum cards were one thing, but the wrappers they came in are even more collectible. Just looking over these pages is a tour of how spy shows permeated popular culture in the 1960s.
Peel, John and Glenn A. Magee. The U.N.C.L.E. Files Magazines." Canoga Park, CA: New Media Books. 1985. During the 1980s, John Peel and various collaborators issued magazine-sized episode guides for not only MFU, but nearly every other classic spy series of the 1960s as well as the James Bond films released up to that time. For U.N.C.L.E., Peel also issued several "Technical Manuals" which were good for photographs but built on imagination of the authors, not the original plans of the series' creators. Each of the guides for individual seasons included episode summaries--a staple of all such publications--as well as opinionated introductions which, of course, are debatable regarding the expressed points of view. Word has it some of these were knocked out over a weekend's worth of work. Nonetheless, these Files were a valuable service for fans in the days before video and DVD releases and can still be found quite cheaply wherever used books are sold. They're fun reading and neat little souvenirs of the "spy renaissance" of the 1980s.
Walker, Cynthia. “The Gun as Star and the U.N.C.L.E. Special.” Bang Bang, Shoot Shoot: Essays on Guns in Popular Culture. Murray Pomerance and John Sakeris, eds. Needham Heights, Mass.: Simon and Schuster. 1999. Pps. 187-97. If you're into guns through the prism of scholarly theory, this is the book for you. In the case of Walker's article, U.N.C.L.E. fans will gain insights into the merchandising of the show, responses of viewers and the government to the unique "U.N.C.L.E. Special," and other aspects of the show. This is a book for libraries, but I imagine there are readers who'd enjoy the book who aren’t just into MFU.
(Note: As of this writing, Cynthia Walker is negotiating with an academic press to publish her doctoral dissertation, "A Dialogic Model of Creativity in Mass Communication." Her 2001 study proposed a new dialogic/collaborative model of mass communication using THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. as a case study. For those interested in a copy of Cindy's work now, contact the dissertation hotline at 800-521-0600 ext 7044. The operator will need to know the title's order number which is 30828000. The operator will also go over the various formats that are available as well as pricing.)
(See notes about I SPY above).
Beatie, Bruce. “The Myth of the hero: From Mission: Impossible to Magdalenian Caves.” In, Browne, Ray B., and Marshall W. Fishwick, editors. The Hero in Transition. Kentucky: Bowling Green University Popular Press. 1983. Pps. 46-9. This academic article compares MI's plotlines to ancient legends. I discuss this in SPY TV, but fellow researchers may find points here of special interest.
White, Patrick J. The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier. New York: Avon. 1991. Patrick White’s study is widely felt to be one of the best books on television published to date, and this reputation is well deserved. Of all the Secret Agent shows of the ‘60s, MI’s history, production, and evolution was certainly the most complex. White’s explanation of the process is exactly what any interested reader could ask for. Extremely indispensable.
Any fan of this thoughtful series cannot afford to not own the excellent boxed sets of the show on DVD and the special features it contains. The show inspired the longest running fan club, "The Prisoner Appreciation Society," which has published an ongoing magazine, "Six of One," for decades. Serious fans should consult their website:
Carraze, Alain and Helene Oswald. The Prisoner: A Televisionary Masterpiece. New York: Barnes and Noble by arrangement with Virgin Pub. 1995. Unlike their unusual book on THE AVENGERS (see above), the authors of this overview created, in my opinion, the best book out there on THE PRISONER. It includes a discussion with the main creator of the show, Patrick McGoohan, episode summaries and analysis, and one of the better discussions on how the show, SECRET AGENT, connected with THE PRISONER. Indispensable.
Langley, Roger. Patrick Mcgoohan--Danger Man or The Prisoner? (Tomahawk Books, scheduled for 2007). According to the publisher's website, this "is the definitive tribute to one of Britain’s brightest stars, affirming his cult status as a guiding light
in international film, television and theatre . . . Lavishly illustrated with never before seen images," they claim this biography "explains the enigma that is McGOOHAN!"
Rakof, Ian. Inside The Prisoner: Radical Television and Film in the 1960s. London: Somerset, Butler and Tanner LTD for B.T. Bates Ford Ltd. 1998. For my money, this is one of the oddest books related to spy TV. It's surprising it's one of the easiest books to find in local bookstores. This book is more about Rakof himself than THE PRISONER as the former tape editor only helped cut two episodes, “The General” and “It’s your Funeral,” before writing one episode, “Living in Harmony.” Over two-thirds of this book is about Rakof’s life and non-Prisoner projects making the title of this autobiography somewhat disingenuous. Still, he is indeed insightful regarding the post-production process of THE PRISONER. The book contains many abbreviated interviews with those who participated in the production. Useful for researchers, but few general readers will find this required reading.
If you're a fan of Leslie Charteris's Simon Templar, you already know about The Saint Club, a long-established British society honoring the books, films, radio dramas, and television series featuring THE SAINT. If not, they have a handy website where you can find quick and reliable help from the Honorary Secretary of the Club, Ian Dickerson. For more information, see "`A SAINT I AIN'T': Q&A WITH IAN DICKERSON of The Saint Club" posted at this website.
Barer, Beryl. The Saint in Print, Radio, Film, and Television, 1928-1992. Jefferson NC and London: Macfarland and Co. 1993. Because of the long history of The Saint--beginning with the first books in the 1920s--Barer's book is chockfull of history on literature, film, and every other incarnation in which Simon Templar appeared. For fans of the Roger Moore series and subsequent "sequels" to it, Barer provides rich detail regarding the production, the response of Leslie Charteris to the various series, and a complete episode guide to all the different programs. Well-written, this book deserves awards for its content and readability. (An interview with Barer, ""The Saint" in Fact and Fiction: An Interview with Historian and Novelist Burl Barer" is posted at this website.)
Donovan, Paul. Roger Moore: A Biography. London: W. H. Allen. 1983. While it's now hard to find, Donovan's biography of Sir Roger Moore is a very readable edition for those interested in both the TV Saint and 007. While it only covers the years up to its publication date, this book is detailed and personable, and worthy to be in any fan's archives.
THE WILD WILD WEST
(See my interview with Robert Conrad also posted at this website.)
Cangey, R. M. Inside The Wild Wild West. Foreword by Robert Conrad. Cypress, CA: Cangey Press. 1996. Fans of WWW mourned the death of Richard Cangey in November 2003 as he had long been a favorite of devotees to the series. The stuntman and stand-in for Robert Conrad published his memoirs in 1996 which, as a whole, is a fascinating revelation into the life of a stuntman in Hollywood. His memories of his work on WWW are both personal and insightful. While not indispensable, I enjoyed the book and recommend it for readers interested in Cangey's topics.
Kesler, Susan E. The Wild Wild West: The Series. Downey, CA: Arnett Press. 1988. I hereby freely admit 75% of the information I used in SPY TV regarding the production history of WWW came from Kesler's study. The heart of Kesler’s overview is a detailed episode-by-episode chronological synopsis of the series, including critical responses to each episode, some flattering, some not. She also provides all needed behind-the-scenes information. I asked Robert Conrad what he thought of the book, and I can tell you the star of WWW thinks highly of it, even if he disagrees with some of the sentiments expressed by producers of the show.
During its heyday, THE X-FILES popularity resulted in so many unauthorized books that its creator, Chris Carter, took a number of writers to court to block the exploitation of his property. The number and variety of these books is so great I see no purpose in cataloguing them all here. So here are three titles I think are representative of the trends in these publications.
Edwards, Ted. The X-Files Confidential: The Unauthorized X-Philes Compendium. Boston: Little, Brown and Co. 1997. Despite my uncomplimentary thoughts on Edward's book on LA FEMME NIKITA (see above), I think this coffee-table effort was one of the best overviews of the series up to the copyright year. Covering the first five seasons, Edwards has much to offer about the creation of the show. The episode guide is especially interesting as various production team members comment on each program with a variety of perspectives. As many knockoffs on THE X-FILES appeared while the show was still ongoing, one can't take away points for such projects being incomplete. Compliments should go to books that focus on the creative process and the behind-the-scenes workers that contributed to the show's success. While outdated, this book represents the devotion of a true fan--one who did his homework and pulled all the notes together into a readable flow.
Genge, N. E. The Unofficial X-Files Companion, Part 2. Minneapolis, Minn.: Audioscope. 1995. (audiobook) An odd offshoot of the X-FILES phenomena were books that weren't looks inside the show, but were instead speculations about how events in the show reflected, or might reflect, possibilities in science. If an episode featured a voodoo-stricken zombie, then what is the history of creating these creatures? Genge also tossed in such details as the distinctions between all the various types of aliens then shown in the series. "Companion" is an apt descriptor as these books added to the scope of the show rather than explaining what was going on in the real world.
Meisler, Anthony. Resist or Serve: The Official Guide to the X-Files. New York: Harper Collins. 1999. For my money, the "official" guides weren't all that revealing. I found them annoying as they messed around with different typesets, spent a lot of time on the likes and loves of secondary and guest characters, and bogged down in information only the truly devoted would want. I thought I was a fan, but, for once, found a limit to my interest. I must leave it to real diehards to appreciate these books and I know they're out there. But there's fewer of them as time goes by.
For related resources on spies on TV, see