Queerer Than We Can Suppose

Recently, Early Bird Books released a list of 15 Nonfiction Spy Books More Thrilling Than John le Carré, (it’s a good list, too) along with the observation that “when it comes to spy stories, the truth is often stranger—and more compelling—than fiction.”

It puts in mind the J.B.S. Haldane quote:

My own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.

Haldane was referring to science and future frontiers.

But the world of intelligence really is a different sort of frontier, one where, just like Vegas, what happens there, tends to stay there.

Even in this day of all-inclusive Internet and the decloaking of the true nature of public figures everywhere (here and here, for example), there are many places where intelligence and counter-intelligence professionals around the world talk about their work…and it even seems normal, after the frank in-the-buff revelations of the TV and entertainment world.

Only, in a profession that defines itself by its clandestine nature, those who really know the truth have been conditioned to not speak about it.  The real spies are unknown and invisible and prefer it that way.  Getting one of them to talk about their work–even the declassified stuff, and even just from the corner of their mouth–is next to impossible.

We think we know the spy world and can guess the rest.  I believe what we think we know is just a glimpse of a bigger picture from the corner of our eyes and that glimpse is blurred and out of focus, too.

Next time you watch or read a spy thriller that seems just too over-the-top to be believed…think about Haldane, and reconsider.