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Wednesday 22 September 2010

Authors Graham Greene, Somerset Maugham and Compton Mackenzie all worked for British spy organisation MI6, according to a new book on the organisation, the Guardian reports.

Keith Jeffery launched his history of MI6 yesterday with tales of James Bond-like antics. The Guardian retells the tale of a Dutch MI6 agent who “was put ashore on a beach near the casino at Schevening, The Hague, in evening dress, smelling of alcohol and wearing a specially designed rubber oversuit to keep him dry while landing.” He, of course, completed the mission shaken not stirred.

Amid the derring do, Jeffery is keen to point out that most spies were simply “‘ordinary men and women’ providing information on train or ship movements.” Press interest, however, continues to be on the more Bond-like adventures particularly the espionage of Wilfrid “Biffy” Dunderdale. A longtime friend of Bond author Ian Fleming, Dunderdale was MI6’s man in Paris and was known as “a man of great charm and savoir faire” with a “penchant for pretty women and fast cars”.

But Jeffery is keen to point out that he found no evidence of the famous “licenced to kill” status attributed to spies in the Bond books and films. Jeffrey’s unglamorous truth of spying is that much of it was done on a shoestring in an atmosphere that Jill Lawless from Associated Press characterised as “James Bond, with bureaucracy and cramped office space”.

The book will be published in Britain as MI6 and in the US as The Secret History of MI6 with no news on the Australian release or title.

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22 September 2010

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While Australia’s first female prime minister begins her first post-election parliament, a new book in the US looks at how close (and how far) America was from its first female president.

Rebecca Traister’s Big Girls Don’t Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women looks at how both Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin put gender back on the political agenda in the 2008 election. The book ranges from Palin’s rhetorical wrestling of the debate away from Clinton (Palin’s early address argued “Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America. But it turns out the women of America aren’t finished yet, and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all!”) to the misogynistic implications of Clinton nutcrackers.

A Slate review points out that “Even the traumatic fight between younger and older feminists about Hillary… Traister considers the ‘most rejuvenating thing to happen to the feminist conversation in many, many decades.’” The review goes on to place the book in the contemporary feminist debate of “what the movement lost by becoming less communal and more concerned with personal empowerment”.

In an interview with Salon, Traister talks about how she personally came to support Clinton, because only Clinton was “redefining how we view women and our expectations for them in public and political life”.

Despite writing her next book on Palin, Traister is less positive about the former Alaskan governor. She sees the demonising of Palin in the media as “the fault of Republicans who thought they could bring her in as a toy, a young attractive Hillary replacement.” And as for the political future of Palin she jokes that when the next presidential race comes around in 2012 “she’ll run for president, or emperor, or master of the universe, or whatever position is available”.

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22 September 2010

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With her first book Into the Woods, Anna Krien explores the battleground of Tasmania’s forests beyond the stereotypes of greenies vs loggers. She looks at the politics and economics of the forestry industry and asks why is Tasmania still a “poor state” after years of logging?

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22 September 2010

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