Frederick Hitz' book The Great Game is about espionage, both in its reality and in our cultural myths about it. The book opens with a quote from Rudyard Kipling.
From time to time, God causes men to be born - and thou art one of them - who have a lust to go abroad at the risk of their lives and discover news - today it may be of far-off things, tomorrow of some hidden mountain, and the next day of some near-by men who have done a foolishness against the State. These souls are very few; and of these few, not more than ten are of the best . . . We of the Game are beyond protection. If we die, we die. Our names are blotted from the book . . . when everyone is dead the Great Game is finished. Not before.
Beyond the cold, sometimes dull, realities of spycraft, The Great Game is about our cultural perceptions and conceptions of spies and spying, and of the merits of intelligence-gathering, and the literature and stories which we have produced to reflect these understandings. Apparently, when Hitz began to write the book, he considered (and even planned) to pen another book dissecting the problems within America's intelligence community. Certainly as the former inspector general of the CIA (among many other roles), he would have had the experience and insight to justify such a book. Apparently, his literary agent can be thanked for dissuading him, and for refocusing his energies, because the resulting book - which contrasts fiction with fact and culls the literary spies of Kipling, le Carre, Maugham, Greene and more for comparisons by which to examine the realities of actual intelligence operations.
That's actually what makes this book so interesting: far from being a laundry list litany of problems, Hitz explores the mechanisms and machinations of spy agencies - from recruitment, training, and operational techniques to betrayal and counter-espionage - by comparing and contrasting fictional spies and their real world counterparts. What we see are the ironic traits which lead to both success and failure - for example, the behavior of both CIA traitor Aldrich Ames and Soviet turncoat Colonel Oleg Penkovsky, which was often sloppy in terms of maintaining cover for their deceptions, which are likewise reflected in fictional characters. Of course, Hitz - who teaches a freshman seminar at Princeton in which spy fiction is compared to real operations - concludes that "real espionage cases are more bizarre . . . than the fictional accounts." Truth, as they say, is stranger than fiction.