Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Movie Spy's Bookshelf: A Selective Bibliography


By Wesley Britton

This annotated directory is intended to help general readers and researchers find the best full-length books with material related to espionage-oriented films. There's one major difference between the "TV Spy's Bookshelf" also posted at this site and this list. Books geared towards TV spies are a rather small family. Film studies are a bottomless pit from biographies, autobiographies, genre studies, to collections of reviews by noted critics. books on James Bond alone make for lengthy reading. So this list is "selective" in several ways:

1. Only books I've read or know enough about to intelligently comment on are included.
2. Few encyclopedias or reference works that talk about or list films in general are listed. If a work doesn't have considerable information about spy films, whether about one actor, director, character, etc., I didn't include it here.

This list is organic. So expect updates and expansions as time goes on. Please let me know of books you think should be included here. Write me at:


Amis, Kingsley. The James Bond Dossier. New York: New American Library. 1965. A classic study of the Fleming books, Amis has little to say about the films as the series was only 3 entries strong at the time of publication. Still, contains invaluable insights into who Bond was in the early '60s and his place in social consciousness.

Barson, Michael and Steven Heller. Red Scared: The Commie Menace In Propaganda and Popular Culture. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. 2001. This overview of anti-Communist propaganda during the '50s is a detailed, annotated survey of pamphlets, comic books, TV and radio shows, as well as movies of the period. Very useful resource about the era.

Biederman, 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 picture show of Biederman's collection. Has more TV related material, but discusses Austin Powers and B-movies of the '60s.

Black, Jeremy. The Politics of James Bond: From Fleming’s Novels to the Big Screen. Westport, CT: Praeger Pub. 2001. As the title implies, Black looks at both the books and films featuring 007 showing how they reflected political climates from 1953 to the publication date. For those interested in contexts and public responses to the films, not what went into their creation.

Britton, Wesley. Beyond Bond: Spies in Fiction and Film. Westport, CT: Praeger Pub. 2005. Discusses spy films in the context of their release, comparing espionage movies with historical incidents and spy literature through succeeding decades.

Britton, Wesley. Onscreen and Undercover: The Ultimate Book of Movie Espionage. Westport, CT.: Praeger Pub. 2006. History of the genre from silent releases through the publication date. Chapters are devoted to specific trends as in battling Nazis, the Cold War, exploitation films, and the roles of women.

Caine, Michael. What's It All About? An Autobiography of Michael Caine. Stokes Films Ltd. 1992. Detailed memories of the creation of the original "Harry Palmer" films as well as Caine's insights into other spy films he worked on including The Black Windmill and The Holcroft Covenant. Readable and enlightening. (See the "Spy-ography" of Caine posted at this website.)

D'Abo, Maryam and John Cork. Bond Girls Are Forever: The Women of James Bond. New York: Harry N. Abrams Pub. 2003. In 2002, D'Abo, who'd played Kara in The Living Daylights, hosted the notable television documentary with this title and co-wrote the companion volume for it. It was the first official Bond book to be authored by a James Bond actress. Includes short biographies of a number of Bond girls with their thoughts on how their 007 roles affected their careers.

Donovan, Paul. Roger Moore: A Biography. London: W. H. Allen. 1983. Most in-depth biography of the third theatrical James Bond. At the time of publication, Moore was still the reigning 007 (Octopussy came out in '83, A View to A Kill had yet to be scripted), so the book could use an update.

Giblin, Gary. James Bond's London: A Reference Guide to the Birthplace of 007 and His Creator. Dunllen, NJ: Daleon Enterprises. 2001. Photos and history of 007 in London pointing to locations used in both the books and films. A sequel, James Bond's England, is reportedly in the works.

Higham, Charles and Joel Greenberg. Hollywood in the Forties. New York: Paperback Library. 1968. Contains one chapter on spy films from the decade which is useful but not comprehensive. (Higham also wrote Errol Flynn: The Untold Story. New York: Doubleday. 1980. It contains much interesting but completely unreliable material about the actor's real-life role as a Nazi spy.)

Kiel, Richard. Making It Big in the Movies: The Autobiography of Richard "Jaws" Kiel. Kew Gardens: Reynolds and Hearn Ltd. 2002. Autobiography of "Jaws" from the Bond films. Besides discussing this role, Kiel talks about working in TV and movies in a very personable style.

Langman, Larry and David Ebner. Encyclopedia of American Spy Films. New York: Garland Pub. 1990. Alongside Mavis and Britton, an indispensable reference book. Offers different insights from Mavis for many films.

Leab, Daniel G. I was a Communist for the FBI: The Unhappy Life of Matt Cvedic. University Park: Pennsylvania Univ. Press. 2000. Detailed exploration about the life and uses by the media of the career of FBI informant, Matt Cvedic. Most thorough analysis and history of the film, I Was A Communist for the FBI, in print. Includes brief discussions of related Hollywood projects.

Lindner, Christoph. The James Bond Phenomenon: A Critical Reader.
Manchester: Manchester UP. 2003. Perhaps the most useful book on James Bond beyond coffee-table looks into the movies. A collection of essays by a number of authors, this one is indispensable reading.

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.

Lycett, Andrew. Ian Fleming: The Man Behind James Bond. Atlanta: Turner Pub. Inc. 1995. Outstanding and lengthy biography of Fleming. Has much content on how 007 came to be filmed and the conflict between Fleming and apparent S.P.E.C.T.R.E. creator, Kevin McClory.

McGilligan, Patrick. Fritz Lang: The Nature of the Beast. New York: St. Martins. 1997. Outstanding biography of the director with considerable background into Lang's spy films from Doktor Mabuse to Cloak and Dagger. (See "Spy-ography of Fritz Lang" posted at this website.)

Mavis, Paul. Espionage Filmography: United States Releases, 1898-1999. Jefferson City: McFarland. 2001. This one is the Big Khona, in terms of American films and British-made movies released in the States. Contains complete cast lists and very good plot summaries. A hefty tome, it's indispensable and the center of any spy library. (Compare with Langman above.)

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. For example, the first chapter contains historical notes not
frequently discussed in other sources, including concepts about early spy
novels. Miller has fresh insights into the Bond films, especially Live and Let Die, although his history of imperialism seems to stretch the page count and not add to the obvious--Bond represented the British Empire. Miller adds some interesting notes on fandoms for The Avengers, the subject of an earlier Miller study. (See review at my "TV
Spies Bookshelf" file at this website.) 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

Mulay, James et al, editors. Spies and Sleuths: Mystery, Spy, and Suspense Films on Video Cassette. Evanston, ILL: Cinebooks. 1998. An invaluable guide on movies from detective dramas to spy films, this reference book has obvious limitations. Much has happened since 1998 and the editor's scope was limited to films then available on VHS. Perhaps 1/3 of the listed movies are spy-oriented, but for those included, there's a complete cast list and better synopses than in most reference books or the IMDB. If you can pick up a used copy, it's a keeper.

Pearson, John. The Life of Ian Fleming. New York: Macgraw-Hill. 1966. While this biography has been superceded (see Lycet, Andrew above), It still contains insights into how Fleming's character came to television and film.

Pfeiffer, Lee and Dave Worrall. The Essential Bond: An Authorized Guide to the World of 007. Boxtree Publishers, England; Harper Collins, USA. First printed
in 1998; Many different printings. 2002 edition titled The Essential James Bond: An Authorized Guide to the World of 007. Two words point to the strengths of this work-in-progress--"Essential" and "authorized." Straightforward writing with insights from the participants who've created the film series. Of course, newer editions are where to start--indispensable for any movie fan's bookshelf.

Pfeiffer, Lee and Philip Lisa. Incredible World of 007, The. Boxtree Publishers, England: Citadel Press, U.S. First printed in 1991; updated
edition printed 1995. The Lee Pfeiffer books benefit from his extensive knowledge of the Bond universe, the collaborators he's worked with, and the support of EON Productions who've granted him access to photo stocks and personal interviews not available to other authors. As noted above, later printings include discussions of films not in earlier editions. This one has been superceded by his The Essential Bond, but it's still an attractive photo-fest with anecdotes and opinion.

Rubenstein, Leonard. The Great Spy Films: A Pictorial History. Secaucus: The Citadel Press, 1979. One of the most readable and insightful studies of the genre. Rubenstein groups some 50 spy films into various categories and provides plot synopsis's and contexts to demonstrate themes and characteristics of sub-genres. Indispensable.

Shaw, Tony. British Cinema and the Cold War: The State, propaganda, and Consensus. New York: St. Martins. 2001. Detailed exploration of British-made films (and the influence of Hollywood) throughout the Cold War. Focuses on censorship and the role of the British government in shaping the course of many productions.

Solomon, ED et al. Men in Black: The Script and the Story Behind the Film. New York: New Market Press. 1997. For those who are interested in this delightful film.

Spoto, Donald. The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock. New York: Ballentine Books. 1983. Contains many insights into Hitchcock spy films, including some never made. Key resource for anyone interested in this director.

Strada, Michael and Harold Troper. Friend or Foe: Russians in American Film and Foreign Policy (1933-1991). Lanhan, MD: Scarecrow Press. 1997. Extremely useful overview of films during the years indicated that dealt with Russian characters, themes, and duels with Western governments and spy agencies.

Truffaut, Francois with the collaboration of Helen G. Scott. Hitchcock. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1967. A collection of interviews with the venerable director, there are many quotations from Hitchcock regarding his feelings about espionage and the creative process behind his spy-oriented films.

Wark, Wesley, ed. Spy Fiction, Spy Films, and Real Intelligence. London:
Frank Cass and Co. Ltd. 1991. This Collection of essays by various authors
was first published in the Journal of Intelligence and National Security (1990). It's one of the most insightful books on espionage fiction from an academic standpoint I've ever encountered. There's considerable detail regarding literature and history, but movies are usually included only in short passing references. David R. Booth's article on the history of spy films serves as an adequate introduction to the topic, but is a mere survey
of selective titles and not on the same level as other offerings in the

Wood, Robin. Hitchcock's Films Revisited. New York: Columbia UP. 1989. Feminist critique of the Hitchcock legacy including his spy films.

Youngkin, Stephen, James Bigwood, and Raymond Cabana, Jr. The Films of Peter Lorre. Citadel Press, NJ, 1982. Contains important background on the spy films that featured Peter Lorre from the "Mr. Moto" films, Lorre's work with Hitchcock, and his final years.

For related articles and resources, see

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