Another popular book on a spying theme for older children is Eric Walters' Camp X. This is World War II historical fiction for the middle school set. What I find most appealing about it is that its setting is the real life training school for spies, located in the small town of Whitby, Ontario Canada.
Rather than attempt to review it myself, here is a great review from Canadian Review of Materials, the online journal of the Manitoba Library Association, published by the University of Manitoba.
(In case this link doesn't work, just copy and paste it in the address bar.)
The real life spy master Sir William Stephenson even has a small role in the book! The reason this book is a fave of mine is that I love historical fiction and any attempt to bring Canadian heroes to the attention of young, impressionable minds is a great thing.
So who was William Stephenson? The answer to this question has filled several books and countless web pages, so I will attempt to fill you in as briefly as possible!
Formerly a Canadian hero from World War One, later a businessman, Stephenson made his fortune from his invention which could transmit photographs by wireless, (a forerunner of the present day fax machine). His trips into Germany in the 1930's alerted him to Europe's danger from Hitler and he made a point of warning Winston Churchill, (then only a British member of Parliament) of his misgivings. Churchill rewarded him later when he became Prime Minister by making him responsible for wartime intelligence in North America. Stephenson became one of the main leaders of the organization that would later morph into the CIA. As head of Camp X, he oversaw around 2,000 trainees in covert operations from Britain, Canada, and the U.S. graduate from 1941 to 1945. Once of these graduates was Ian Fleming (the author of the James Bond series of books). Fleming is quoted as saying: "James Bond is a highly romanticized version of a true spy. The real thing is ... William Stephenson."
Ian Fleming in his study with a copy of For Your Eyes Only (April 1960). (Photo by Evening Standard / Getty Images)
Now, before I go on with the obvious and get into all that marvelous Bond stuff...I need to mention some other favourite fictional spies.
Firstly, in the television realm there were several spy shows which came out in the Cold War era. I was too young to remember I SPY, but my older sisters fondly remember it. And I mention it only because one of its stars is one of my fave comedians/actors -- Bill Cosby! It came out in 1965 and lasted 3 seasons in each of which Cosby won an Emmy award as best dramatic actor! This series made American television history as the first time an African-American had co-starred in a series. His co-star was Robert Culp.
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. This series starred Robert Vaughn and the British heartthrob David McCallum. He must have been my first crush...and I was too young for that! He had the most astounding character name Ilya Kuryakin. I used to love to say it. It sounded so foreign and mysterious! The show lasted from 1964-1968, but I must have watched it in re-runs because we didn't have a TV until around 1965 and the CBC network didn't pick up all the American shows when they first came out anyway. (That's all I had folks -- one channel!)
I watched this one in re-runs too. Who can forget Sam Steed and Emma Peel as The Avengers?
It was a very classy show with a witty sparkle. Dianna Rigg went on to even greater fame but not before being one of the Bond girls.
And now, for my most favourite television show, possibly of all time...Get Smart! No, not the movie, although of any working actors today Steve Carrell does come the closest to imitating Don Adams's madcap humour. With Barbara Feldon, Don Adams and a slew of other zany characters, Get Smart! was a spoof of spy films and shows, that you really have to see to appreciate.
I found another wonderful video on Youtube, with some great clips from the show to the tune of "Secret Agent Man". I like the Get Smart theme too, but as I was going to use the other song anyway, I am attempting some multitasking here. Unfortunately I can't embed it on my blog, so please click here to see it: Get Smart Tribute
Here is one last television show that I fondly remember from the 1970s. It was about a group of friends who had fought together for the Resistance in World War II and are reunited years later to fight crime in the scenic French Riveria. They each had a code name of an animal, hence the title The Zoo Gang. It was based on a book by Paul Gallico. Besides the awesome cast of Brian Keith, Lilli Palmer, John Mills, and Barry Morse, it was further distinguished by having its theme music written and performed by Paul McCartney (and Wings).
John LeCarré was another author of spy novels, many of which were made into movies. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold was written in 1963 and was made into a movie with the great Richard Burton and Claire Bloom in 1965. I love both of these actors, but Burton really does give one of the best performances of his life in this film.
The Saint starring Roger Moore. (later of James Bond fame).
I did however, see the movie version of this starring Val Kilmer and Elisabeth Shue. Although it didn't get rated very highly on IMDb.com (perhaps from people who prefer the original series), I really enjoyed watching it -- more than once! The hero hides his identity by taking the name of different Christian saints, and he is a master of disguise, so he always eludes his enemies.
True Lies (1994) with Arnold Swartzeneger! I know! I can hardly believe it myself! Especially when I tell you that Tom Arnold is absolutely hilarious in the movie! And I mustn't forget Jamie Lee Curtis. Her transformation from dowdy, boring wife, mother and 9 to 5 secretary to sexy call-girl spy maven is nothing short of miraculous! In short, this movie has it all...comedy, romance, mystery, and more action than you would believe could fit in one movie! It's a roller coaster ride of thrills and fun! I have watched this movie many times, and it just doesn't get old!
Well, I've avoided it long enough...it's time to mention all those James Bond movies, because who can talk about spies without mentioning Bond...James Bond. Can you admit to being a bit "shaken" or "not stirred" by at least one of his personas? (Don't forget to vote in the poll at the side of the page for your favourite Bond actor).
What I'd like to mention about Bond movies are the theme songs! Haven't there been some great ones? Here are some of my faves!
Sheena Easton singing For Your Eyes Only:
Carly Simon sings "Nobody Does it Better"
from The Spy Who Loved Me
And since I do like Paul McCartney,
here's his "Live and Let Die"
Now, perhaps it's because the '70s was my era that I picked all 3 songs from Roger Moore films. So here's a tribute
to Sean Connery's films:
And just for a little screen trivia, do you know in which Bond film the lovely Dianna Rigg (of The Avengers fame) appeared?
I'm not necessarily a fan of this actor, but for interest sake alone, this movie is worth watching.
I wasn't too crazy about Timothy Dalton as Bond, and while Daniel Craig was very good in his first Bond film, the second film was so bad, I found it unwatchable. Not the fault of Craig's acting though. I'd put it down to a bad script.
So who might be the next James Bond, if indeed they continue the franchise?
Well, I have a little secret. Right now he is acting in a spy series on the BBC called Spooks in Britain and MI-5 in North America. Well, he's not really a secret, at least to his fans, but very few people on this side of the pond seem to have heard of him.
Here is Richard Armitage as Lucas North, a modern day spy who came in from the cold.
In case that doesn't convince you, here is a video of him in Season 7 of Spooks to the tune of From Russia With Love made by fanvidder extraordinaire Spikesbint.
Please click on the title part of the video to watch in full screen on Youtube. This video cannot be displayed properly on this Blog and you shouldn't miss a millimeter of it!