Ernest Volkman


Volkman, Ernest.

1. Espionage: The Greatest Spy Operations of the 20th Century. New York: Wiley, 1995. 1996. [pb]

McGinnis, Cryptolog, Summer 1996, finds this book "interesting because it details numerous espionage cases in a believable manner." The stories begin at the end of World War I and continue until 1968. The stories "give insight into the world of spying."

Other reviewers are less positive. Warren, Surveillant 4.4/5, finds that the book "contains more or less the usual suspects in any anthology of spy stories." There is no bibliography, and Volkman develops "no new information and provides no new insights." For Kruh, Cryptologia 21.2, "Volkman is an excellent writer with a sense of drama.... Unfortunately, he does not provide citations for his sources, which makes[s] it difficult to determine the origin of some questionable assertions."

Nautical Brass Bibliography, biblio.htm, is even harsher in its judgment: "There are so many blatant errors regarding operation and construction of the Enigma machine,... that the veracity of the rest of this book is highly suspect."

2. Spies: The Secret Agents Who Changed the Course of History. New York: Wiley, 1994.

Surveillant 3.6 describes this as a "collection of short biographies of 50 secret agents and the officers who ran them." According to McGinnis, Cryptolog, Summer 1996, the author seeks "to show how spies have changed the course of history." Kruh, Cryptologia 19.1, finds this an "informative and exciting book," with each of the 46 vignettes featuring "a gripping account of a remarkable spy."


Volkman, Ernest. Warriors of the Night. New York: Morrow, 1985.

Clark comment: This book ranges widely, geographically and substantively, across a spectrum of intelligence episodes. Volkman's style is a quick in-and-out attack and on to another topic. This probably reflects his background as a magazine writer, where the need for sustained thematic continuity is absent. According to Richelson, IJI&C 1.1, this book misinforms and does "little to provide a sound understanding of the nature of U.S. intelligence operations.... [M]ost of the book is a replay of oft-told tales -- usually told better and in more detail by the original authors." The book includes "errors of omission and commission."

The NameBase reviewer says that "Volkman's writing is not taken seriously by most scholars of U.S. intelligence. For one thing, his choice of wording is frequently exaggerated, in the style of an essayist writing from an elevated perspective. This probably makes it more interesting for readers who know little about the topic, but proves annoying for those who realize that major issues can be swept aside with merely a flippant phrase."


Volkman, Ernest, and Blaine Baggett. Secret Intelligence: The Inside Story of America's Espionage Empire. New York: Doubleday, 1989. London: W.H. Allen, 1989. [pb]

Clark comment: Volkman and Baggett have produced an episodic pastiche lightly covering American intelligence from World War I to the later 1980s. The strobe-light nature of the presentation is illustrated by a 17-page chapter on Desert One in a 229-page book. The subject matter is dealt with in four chronological parts: 1917-1945, 1946-1960, 1961-1973, and 1974-1988. Look elsewhere for a starting point if you have a serious interest in learning about American intelligence history.

Sexton dismisses the book as a "sensationalist account" that is of "limited value." For Kross, IJI&C 4.1, Secret Intelligence is "filled with interesting information and historical truth but lacks the detailed analysis so vital in any authoritative study." The book lacks a coherent theme, skipping from one vignette to another. The NameBase reviewer comments that "the teaser on the dust cover, 'The Inside Story of America's Espionage Empire,' shouldn't be taken seriously.... [F]olks who read only an occasional book will probably enjoy this one.... It may not be comprehensive, but it's painless, informative, and well-written."


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