Ian Sanders – Station M

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Personnel File of Spy Fan and Cold War Podcast Host Ian Sanders –

If you are a fan of Cold War History do check out Ian's Podcast at Cold War Conversations. It's Spybrary Approved.

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Cold War Conversations Ian Sanders on spy books
Ian Sanders, Producer and Host of the Cold War Conversations Podcast

  1. My favourite spy author is….

Len Deighton
Len Deighton

Not a unique choice by any means, but Len Deighton and his Game, Set and Match Trilogy are real gems.  Others have already waxed lyrical about Len, but what I find fascinating is that he’s not a one trick pony. Len also wrote incredible non-spy novels and his books Bomber and Winter (which provides the backstory to some of the characters in G,S & M) brilliantly showcase his varied talent

  1.  My favourite spy novel is

Riddle of the Sands Spy Story
Ian's favourite spy book

The Riddle of The Sands ”. Arguably the first true spy novel. Set prior to WW1, around a potential German invasion of the UK. It’s mainly set on a small sailing yacht, off Northern Germany. It won’t be to everyone’s taste and features significant amounts of sailing detail, so muchg so you can almost taste the salt in the air. It is a book of its time, but also rattling good spy yarn.

3. My favourite non-fiction spy book is?

This is difficult because non-fiction is my primary reading matter.

I’m going for “Traitors Among Us” by Col Stuart Herrington, a top counterintelligence officer for the US army during the Cold War. In this book, he describes in detail two cases in the 1970s and 80s that featured US citizens who traded secrets for money. Clyde Conrad and James Hall. Hall actually worked with one of the guests I interviewed on Cold War Conversations.  Herrington’s book is a detailed account of counterintelligence with all the sort of detail spy fans will love.

4. What spy book are you currently reading?

Abel Vin Arthey

I’m currently reading Abel by Vin Arthey which is a biography of Rudolf Abel the Soviet spy who featured in the Steven Spielberg “Bridge of Spies” film about the Gary Powers/Abel exchange. Mark Rylance played Abel’s role in the film.

Lesser know is that Abel or his real name Willie Fisher was a UK citizen born in Newcastle upon Tyne in the UK.

5. And what was the one before that?

Charlotte Philby Edith and Kim

With the Cold War Conversations podcast, I end up reading a lot of review copies prior to interviewing the author. The last spy book I read was “Edith & Kim” by Charlotte Philby. 

Charlotte and I had been in contact for about three years trying to arrange an interview for Cold War Conversations, but we were looking for one of her books with a direct Cold War link and this certainly fitted the bill! 

“Edith and Kim” draws on the Secret Intelligence Files on Edith Tudor Hart, who recruited Kim Philby, along with the private archive letters of Philby. It’s fiction but works in factual episodes among fiction. It’s an evocative and beautifully tense novel that tells, the little-known story of the woman behind the Third Man.

I was also able to speak to Charlotte about what it was like having Kim Philby as her grandfather, including details of visits to see him in Moscow during the Cold War. It’s one of the amazing benefits of having a podcast where you get to speak to people you’d never normally have any right to meet at all!

6. Which spy book could you not finish and why?

I’ve not read a full Le Carre or a Mick Herron. Le Carre, I struggle with the language, but to be fair to Mick I’ve not tried his books yet. 

7. Which spy book are you ashamed to admit you have not read?

See 6.

8. What is your favourite spy movie and why?

The Lives of Others” – an amazing film with haunting soundtrack that depicts reasonably accurately what the Stasi were up to in East Germany. I also very much enjoy “Three Days of the Condor” too.

9. What is your favourite spy tv series and why?

“The Americans” – the story of “illegals” fascinated me. How they manage to live their double lives. Spybrary has a great interview with Jack Barsky who was a KGB illegal for 10 years in the US.   

Jack Barsky
Part 1 of the Jack Barsky interview on Spybrary Spy Podcast

10. Do you have a favourite song, track or piece of music from a spy movie or TV series.

I find “The Lives of Others” theme very powerful and haunting. Mind you “Atomic Blonde” has a banging soundtrack!

11. Spybrary is hosting a spy dinner in your honor, you can invite anyone living or dead, a real-life spy, an author, a spy character, an actor from a spy movie/tv show – which 6 guests are you inviting?

Ian Sanders Cold War dinner guests

Markus Wolf Stasi Head of Foreign Intelligence (did we find all his agents?), Len Deighton for the author (I’d love to chat about the development of the Berlin trilogy), Ulrich Mühe, the Stasi officer in Lives of Others for the actor (he was a border guard in East Germany as well as an actor too), Soviet leader Nikita Khrushev (what was the Cuban missile crisis like from the Soviet side), Ronald Reagan (what was his real reasoning for his engagement with the Soviets) and Kim Philby (were there any regrets?) 

12. And what music would you play during the dinner?

The Atomic Blonde soundtrack 

13/14. Which spy book or author do you feel is the most underrated?

The Cleaner by Elisabeth Herrmann. Have you ever heard of it?

Judith Kepler is an industrial cleaner. Got some serious stains?, she’s your woman. However, one job results in her questioning her past and regenerating some uncomfortable memories.

A great spy story, with a strong female lead. The story keeps you guessing with the threads of Stasi, W German intelligence and cold war politics intertwining to provide with a very entertaining and stimulating read.

Originally written in German, it’s the first part of a trilogy, but I’ve yet to find the other two translated.

15. Which non-espionage author would you like to see writing a spy novel?

Elly Griffiths. I’ve always enjoyed her Ruth Galloway mysteries set in Norfolk. I would love to hear her take on a homegrown spy ring…

16. Which spy character do you resemble in real life and why? (talking traits rather than looks.)

Eric Morecombe in “The Intelligence Men”…

Want more Ian Sanders? Listen to his Dead Drop 5 Special on the Spybrary Spy Podcast/

Dead Drop 5 on the Spybrary Spy Podcast
Dead Drop 5 on the Spybrary Spy Podcast
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