Sleuths, Spies & Sorcerers: Andrew Marr's Paperback Heroes

Video clips are automatically supplied by broadcasters and distributors. is not responsible for the clip's contents.

Series 1 - Episode 3 Spies



The last in Andrew Marr’s fun, informative series sees him tackle spy fiction, and you can tell he’s enjoying himself. He wants to “crack the codes” (geddit) behind our favourite spy tales, by authors such as Frederick Forsyth, John le Carré and of course Ian Fleming.

But what’s most interesting is the way British spy writers have had a hand in shaping their own subject. As former MI5 director-general turned author Stella Rimington recounts, it was William Le Queux’s early 20th-century stories of hypothetical German invasion that led to the creation of the British Secret Service in 1909.

There’s also a nice aside on the working-class spy, and a meditative look at how the trade will change in a world dominated by data.


The broadcaster explores the espionage genre, arguing that the British examples of it allows readers to engage with big questions about the human condition. The conventions of writing about spies are gleaned from Frederick Forsyth, William Boyd, Gerald Seymour, Charles Cumming and former MI5 director general Stella Rimington, and Andrew travels to Berlin in the footsteps of John le Carre, whose experience of witnessing the Wall being erected in 1961 inspired him to write The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. Last in the series.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Andrew Marr
Director Matthew Thomas
Executive Producer Michael Poole
Producer Matthew Thomas
Series Producer Sebastian Barfield
Documentary Arts