How the book relates to reality


Having read The Spy, you may be thinking, 'I could do with a sandwich.' If so, this page won't help you. If, on the other hand, you're thinking, 'I wonder if any of that's true', then read on ...

Cover of The Spy Who Came in from the Bin


I’ve taken some liberties with Berlin, making it more like it was when I was there in 2015-17 than when this book is set, in around 2003.

Specifically, Tempelhof was still a working airport then, Curious Fox bookshop didn’t exist, and neither did The Cosmonaut on Mariannen Strasse, which Victor Ash didn’t get round to painting till 2007.

Photo of The Cosmonaut by Victor Ash


The CIA has not, as far as I know, ever accidentally recruited a British freelance illustrator, wiped his brain and, under the influence of totally bogus theories about the existence of natural disruptors, tried to use him to bring down the German government. 

I say ‘as far as I know’ because it’s exactly the sort of thing they love to do – as you’ll soon find out if you read anything about them. I recommend the excellent Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, by Tim Wiener.

Wiener’s book will tell you that there was no Plack Report neatly proving that 98.1% of the CIA’s interventions were useless or counterproductive. But there have been several internal assessments which concluded basically the same thing: that the CIA should stop fucking up other countries and instead just find out what’s going on in the world. The Agency was memorably described by a State Department official as ‘a forty-billion-dollar pile of crap’ and its own former director called it ‘a bunch of dysfunctional jerks’.

Apart from the natural disruptors, every time a character in my book mentions the CIA doing something terrible, there’s proof for it in Legacy of Ashes.

I've got a more detailed webpage where you can look everything up. As you’ll see, the CIA really did hire the mafia to poison Fidel Castro’s ice cream.

In the end, all I’m saying is that a world that includes the CIA is a) not quite the world most of us generally imagine we're living in, and b) fundamentally absurd.

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