(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Say “spies” or “espionage” and many will instinctively think about James Bond, microfilm chock full of important military technology, and secretive government agencies locked in a battle for global supremacy. Such thinking isn’t completely wrong, but it’s very much out of date, as Adam Penenberg and Marc Barry reveal in Spooked: Espionage In Corporate America.

The real spies now are exposed in the pages of Spooked and while they are obsessed with technology, secrecy, and global domination they no longer work for governments. Instead, they are likely to be on the payrolls (under hard-to- trace aliases, of course) of companies such as Motorola, GE, Hewlett-Packard and GTE. They are combining new techniques such as satellites, computers, and the internet with traditional practices such as wire-tapping and humint (human intelligence, whether intentional informants or unwitting dupes). Their goals are to obtain and deny information—first to find out what the competition is planning and second to keep their competitors from doing the same.

The stakes could hardly be higher. Being first to the market with a hot new product or technology can literally make or break many companies, even long-established market leaders. Companies which may seem hum-drum and dull, such as those producing frozen pizzas, may actually be locked in desperate struggles. Read the chapter about the intrigues involved with DiGiorno’s pizza to see what a modern-day food fight is really like—and how business spying plays an important role in even the most “ordinary” industry.

Such surprises fill the pages of Spooked. This is not a definitive history of modern corporate espionage but a fast-paced, well-detailed account of modern-day clandestine activities. The cast of characters ranges from teenage computer hackers to former members of the international intelligence community, including the United States’ CIA and its French counterpart. At times Spooked may read more like a spy novel than a factual account, but these are real stories with real consequences, not just for the companies themselves but for all consumers and citizens.