The Reading Room

Spycatcher 3

Lt. Col. Oreste Pinto’s Spycatcher Books….

Here’s an intriguing book given to me by my brother, Spycatcher 3, written by Lt. Col. Oreste Pinto (1889-1961) a remarkable Dutch counter intelligence officer, once described by President Eisenhower as ‘ the world’s greatest living expert on security’. Pinto, whose first books Spy-catcher and Friend or Foe? inspired the BBC television series Spycatcher starring Bernard Archard which ran from 1959 to 1961 and was based on Pinto’s real-life exploits as an intelligence officer during the World War Two.

Pinto specialised in interrogation and was incredibly successful at exposing enemy agents posing as refugees fleeing to England and each of the televised episodes of Spycatcher showed Pinto’s character interrogating suspects using the real-life Pinto’s favoured technique of psychology over brute force. Reading Pinto’s book makes one realise the enormity of the situation he and the government faced with refugees coming into the United Kingdom from so many countries and backgrounds. Pinto recalls how one ship docking in Glasgow from Canada had brought eight hundred refugees including French, Belgian, Dutch and Polish as well as Spanish Communists who had fled to France following Franco’s victory in the Spanish Civil War. Each of these had to be interviewed, searched and their belongings examined before being issued with landing cards. That was but one ship.

Spycatcher 3 was the last book in the series, published by Four Square Books in 1960, one year before the author’s death and as one might suspect, it is a lesson in humility: ‘Anyone who has seen the Spy-Catcher television series to date, so brilliantly presented by the BBC may have received the impression that Allied Counter-Intelligence during the Second World War consisted of one man. Me!’

For anyone interested in the world of espionage and specifically during the Second World War then these books are a must-have. Pinto was ahead of his time, his approach and moral opposition to forceful interrogation reaped rewards. He led a remarkable life during the War and despite long-term poor health we must be grateful that he managed to commit his memoirs to paper in these three volumes.

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