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Think Like A Spy - Review

12th June 2024

Edward Biddulph casts his eye over the new book by intelligence professional Julian Fisher

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Does James Bond think like a spy? The question was at the forefront of my mind as I read Julian Fisher’s fascinating volume that reveals the tricks of the spy trade and applies them to the world outside espionage. The answer is, perhaps surprisingly, a definite ‘yes’; not necessarily because 007 is an archetypal spy – in many respects, he is far from it – but because the methods he uses in the course of his duties, whether in print or on the big screen, often rather closely match the techniques employed by real spies to achieve their goals. And it is these techniques that Julian Fisher is convinced can be used by all of us in everyday life to achieve our own goals.

Forget all that Q Branch-inspired tech. Much of what a spy does is target potential assets, cultivate their friendship, build trust, and identify the key to their motivation to persuade those assets, often at great risk to their lives, to part with information and betray their country.  

It turns out that the same skills are rather useful in everyday life. ‘Where do you see yourself in five years’ may be a cliched job interview question, but it certainly makes us think about our aspirations. The answer might be changing careers, making a success of a YouTube or podcast brand, writing a novel and having it published, or learning the guitar and playing your first gig. Whatever the life-goal, it could well be achieved with the application of tradecraft.

So, what do you need to do? Gather intelligence on the sectors, the industries, and the cultural spheres you want to move into. Just as a spy needs local contacts and insiders, you need to identify people (more intelligence gathering!) who can guide and mentor you or offer some other service and be your ‘goal-ally’. Approaching them and persuading them to give up their time and expertise or help promote your work will not be easy, though, so you will need to use the same methods that a spy might use to cultivate an asset and get them on-side.

You will need to identify the values, places, backgrounds and so on that you might have in common with your potential ally. Establish a rapport, show interest in the potential ally, and create a level of reciprocity (buying the potential ally coffee or lunch goes a long way!). Control your environment by reconnoitring meeting places in advance to identify the best tables or the best times to meet so that you will not be disturbed. Learn the subtle techniques of interrogation to ask the right questions at the right time. Establish what motivates your potential ally – for example, a desire to ‘give back’ to society – and act on it. And always have an escape plan; if the pitch to your potential ally does not come off, what is your fall-back plan?  

In true espionage tradition, you will also need to create your cover. In this case, ‘cover’ might be adapting your personality or even physical appearance so that you are more likely to attract and engage a potential ally. Developing appropriate knowledge and experiences will also be vital.

In an over-crowded market, Julian Fisher has created a self-help book that stands out. The advice drawn from the many years that the author has worked in the world of security and espionage, underscored by profound experiences from his childhood, is powerful, exciting, and heartfelt. This must be the first self-help book that reads like a thriller and will have you turning the pages long into the night.

But what about James Bond? It seems that he already has learnt some of the lessons in Julian Fisher’s book. In 'Licence To Kill', for example, Bond establishes a plausible cover and makes key allies (Lupe Lamora, for example) to achieve his goal of getting close to Franz Sanchez. In 'Thunderball' , Bond acts on Domino Derval’s motivation (hatred of Largo) to persuade her to take a Geiger counter onto Largo’s yacht. In 'The Spy Who Loved Me', he acquired sufficient specialist information on tropical fish to impress Stromberg. In my mind, there’s no doubt that James Bond thinks like a spy!

Release Date: 30 May 2024
Publisher: Hatchett
Format: Paperback
Pages: 336
Price: £16.99
Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.8 x 23.2 cm
ISBN-1: 0349440603
ISBN-13: 978-0349440606
Order Now (Amazon UK)

About The Author
Edward Biddulph is the author of Double-O Dining: A James Bond Cookbook, and the James Bond Food website, jamesbondfood.com

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The opinions expressed in this review are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of MI6-HQ.com or its owners.

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