The Dark Game: True Spy Stories

The Dark Game: True Spy Stories

by Paul B. Janeckzo

From clothesline codes to surveillance satellites and cyber espionage, Paul B. Janeczko uncovers two centuries’ worth of true spy stories in U.S. history.

Ever since George Washington used them to help topple the British, spies and their networks have helped and hurt America at key moments in history. In this fascinating collection, Paul B. Janeczko


From clothesline codes to surveillance satellites and cyber espionage, Paul B. Janeczko uncovers two centuries’ worth of true spy stories in U.S. history.

Ever since George Washington used them to help topple the British, spies and their networks have helped and hurt America at key moments in history. In this fascinating collection, Paul B. Janeczko probes such stories as that of Elizabeth Van Lew, an aristocrat whose hatred of slavery drove her to be one of the most successful spies in the Civil War; the "Choctaw code talkers," Native Americans who were instrumental in sending secret messages during World War I; the staggering engineering behind a Cold War tunnel into East Berlin to tap Soviet phones (only to be compromised by a Soviet mole); and many more famous and less-known examples. Colorful personalities, daring missions, the feats of the loyal, and the damage of traitors are interspersed with a look at the technological advances that continue to change the rules of gathering intelligence.

Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Hilary Crew
This succinct history of spying, as it affects the United States, ranges from the Culper spy ring during the American Revolution to spying operations in the First and Second World War and up to and beyond the Cold War. Methods of spying are discussed in the context of technological advances and range from invisible ink and examples of various codes to cyberspying operations, such as GhostNet, and the use of satellites. Many of the spies included are also found in other books on spying or in books covering women's roles in war, for example, Elizabeth Van Lew, Rose O'Neale Greenhow, Mata Hari, and Virginia Hall. Janeczko, however, provides solid details along with fascinating snippets in an easy-to-follow text in which he tells stories about his subjects and the way they were trained. Especially interesting is an in-depth chapter of espionage in the First World War that covers the use of Choctaw to confuse Germans in the field, Germany's covert intelligence operations in the United States, and President Wilson's reluctance to engage in espionage. Post—World War II intelligence operations include the Berlin tunnel operation, Gary Powers and the U-2 spy planes, and the spying operations of Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen. While much of this information can be found in other books (for example, Janet Wyman Coleman's Secrets, Lies, Gizmos and Spies: A History of Spies and Espionage [Abrams, 2006/VOYA October 2006]), Janeczko provides background details and places the role of spying more particularly within the context of American history and politics. Reviewer: Hilary Crew
Children's Literature - Heidi Hauser Green
Award-winning poet Paul Janeczko turns his attention to espionage in this thrilling expose. Although he describes this book as "a history of spying as it affected the United States from the Revolutionary War through the Cold War and into the end of the twentieth century," it is better described as a series of captivating profiles and insights that explains elements of history neglected by typical school curricula. Janeczko's skills as a storyteller shine in his accounts of George Washington's establishment of an intelligence community and Benjamin Franklin's efforts on behalf of the rebel cause. Readers will be captivated by his accounts of a female spy known only as number 355 during the Revolutionary War, and Union supporter Elizabeth Van Lew during the Civil War. They will be intrigued by descriptions of the U-2 spy plane, the Zimmerman telegram, the Choctaw Code Talkers, and the Berlin spy tunnel. Modern agents of espionage (Aldrich Ames in the CIA; Robert Hansen in the FBI) and issues (cyberspying) are also addressed. Even readers who have never been interested particularly in espionage will be drawn in by Janeczko's clear, suspenseful accounts. A worthwhile addition to middle school, high school and public library collections, the book includes a glossary, index, and detailed sources notes. Reviewer: Heidi Hauser Green
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—Since the Revolutionary War, espionage has created fascinating scenarios involving some quite unlikely participants. From Benedict Arnold and Mata Hari to the lesser-known Elizabeth Van Lew and Juan Pujol, Janeczko delves into their stories with delicious detail, drawing readers into a world of intrigue and danger. Did you ever wonder why invisible ink works? How a code breaker deciphers a message? Or whether dentistry could affect a secret agent's success? The answers to these questions and more can be found here. Each chapter covers a historical era and chronicles the maturation of spying, while primary-source photographs are interspersed throughout, lending an authentic feel to each section. A complete bibliography and source notes appear at the end. Janeczko manages to stay true to history while still keeping a lively tone.—Kelly McGorray, Glenbard South High School, Glen Ellyn, IL
Kirkus Reviews
In this follow-up to Top Secret: A Handbook of Codes, Ciphers, and Secret Writing (2004), Janeczko delves further into clandestine matters with an entertaining collection of spy stories that span from the American Revolution through the Cold War. The author touches upon all aspects of spy work—counter-intelligence, double agents, espionage, gadgets, sabotage, secret codes, surveillance and training. Some of the stories have been told in greater detail elsewhere for young readers, such as George Washington's effective employment of spies to collect military intelligence, Elizabeth Van Lew's work on behalf of the Union and hot-air balloon surveillance in the Civil War. Two of the most interesting stories are about the Choctaw code talkers of World War I, not as well-known as their World War II Navajo counterparts, and the remarkably complex Anglo-American operation to tunnel into East Berlin. Interesting as the stories are, the book would be more effective if the six self-contained chapters had been tied together into a centralized narrative. Still, it's a wealth of information in an engaging package that should find an enthusiastic audience, particularly among middle schoolers. (source notes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 11 & up)

Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)
1200L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 15 Years

Meet the Author

Paul B. Janeczko is a multitalented poet, anthologist, and writer. His award-winning poetry anthologies include A POKE IN THE I, A KICK IN THE HEAD, and A FOOT IN THE MOUTH. He also wrote WORLDS AFIRE and TOP SECRET: A HANDBOOK OF CODES, CIPHERS, AND SECRET WRITING. He lives in Maine.

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