The Bookworm Sez: Put your spy kills to work in real life

You were always a first-rate Hide & Seek player.


You knew all the places where nobody could ever find you. Once you were safe, you were swift in getting back Home and when it was your turn to seek, it was almost too easy. As you’ll see in the new book “Survive Like a Spy” by Jason Hanson (c.2018, TarcherPerigee, $26, 256 pages), those old skills might serve you well today.

It’s a weird world out there. By many accounts, it gets weirder every day and you want to make sure you’re not in its cross-hairs so, hey, you’ve got this. Television and novels, that’s how real spies roll, right?

Not so much. If you’re a big consumer of espionage tales, says former CIA officer Jason Hanson, what you’ve seen or read has very little in common with genuine spy cases; in fact, there’s a lot you don’t know.

Real CIA agents, for instance, have much more patience than do TV characters. It can take months, even years, to cultivate a relationship with someone enough for two-way trust. The best agents are obsessively-observant, educated, risk-taking quick-thinkers who are cautious; they’re smart enough to know the value of thorough research, can handle their own egos, and they listen to their instincts.

So what does all this have to do with you?

Using the tactics that spies use can make you and your family safer in today’s world, says Hanson. You never know when you might be nefariously followed, encounter someone who’s dangerous, or need a place to wait out a situation safely. You might need to stash small valuables someday. You should never be caught unprepared; instead, be aware of your surroundings at all times. Teach your family to practice the “zero, five, and twenty-five technique.” Know when you’re being mentally manipulated. Know what to do if you’re kidnapped. Get super-savvy about online dangers. And finally, pack your suitcase with survival in mind when traveling.

Says Hanson, “… life is full of wonderful things and being prepared gives you the peace of mind to enjoy” them.

Chances are, you may never, ever need to know about furtively passing secrets in a dark alley to a man wearing a trench coat. You may never need to worry about being held hostage, either, but reading this book can still make you feel safer.

But before we get any further, there’s this: “Survive Like a Spy” isn’t playing. Author Jason Hanson is serious in his information, first offering tales of real cases as told by authentic agents who lived them, then giving you a run-down on how those stories translate for your world. Hanson even offers free websites to help hone your skills, pack a survival kit, or get more information. That’s useful, whether you court danger IRL, or you just like to imagine that you could.

Surely, “Survive Like a Spy” will appeal to fans of espionage thrillers but there’s also serious business here that expands its audience. If the idea of living a double life excites you, then it’s a book to seek.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Email her at