Long a fan of spy TV shows, I've wished for a thick, chewy reference book like this one for years. I received it from Amazon a few days ago, and while I'm only halfway through reading it, I felt compelled to go ahead and write a review. First, the good: this is clearly a labor of love for author Wesley Britton, and fulfills its purpose as a compendium of almost every spy show produced for the English-speaking television market. Whether you're looking for write-ups on the top successes in the field (Avengers, Mission: Impossible) or hoping to find more obscure failures (Gemini Man, A Man Called Sloane), you won't be disappointed. The range is quite admirable too, encompassing the obvious, as well as kiddie shows, comedies, mini-series, and the tangentially-related. So far, the only glaring omission I've noticed is "Kim Possible."
Another aspect I particularly enjoy about the book is that it generously cross-references actors and production folks who worked on other spy shows (as well as the Bond movies). For instance, it's fun to see "Avengers" writer Brian Clemens' name popping up in so many of the spy shows of the mid-century. Yet another useful feature of the book is Britton's letting readers know if a show is available on DVD or some other format, or if it has been hopelessly lost like a severely compromised agent behind the Iron Curtain.
On to the bad, or rather, the sad. Some seriously sloppy editing severely mars this book's readability. Early on, spelling mistakes such as "Britains" for "Britons" (amusing when you consider the author's name), and "morays" for "mores" made me wary of the "facts" contained in the book. My radar pinged when I saw "Themes" listed twice as the production company for the classic series "Callan." Had I not encountered the earlier mistakes, I would have glossed over it. However, a quick internet check confirmed that it was "Thames" Television who produced the show. Other mistakes I've noticed have been harmless or amusing, like "bomb" spelled "bom" (in the "Get Smart!" entry), "Naval" spelled "Navel" (the "JAG" entry). But others are a serious kick in the gut of scholarship, like misspelling Don Adams' name "Addams" once, Barbara Feldon's name "Felton" once, and the most personally irritating to me, consistently misspelling "It Takes a Thief" character Alexander Mundy's name as "Munday." In fact, I had planned to buy this book for a friend of mine who loves '60s spy teevee more than I do for his birthday this year. I won't now, because I know that that one spelling error will send him into fits of pique. One shouldn't knowingly send one's friends into fits of pique. My more important point is that when you can see the glaring mistakes, it makes you deeply distrustful of the information you don't come to the book already knowing. Spies, and their chroniclers, should know this!
My only other minor quibble with this book is that some entries, particularly those of mini-series, tend to get bogged down in unnecessarily long plot break-downs. Also, some obscure shows have listings than are probably longer than they deserve. I might suggest for future editions that the author divide the book into two sections, the first listing the major spy shows -- the ground-breakers and wild successes like "I Spy," "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.," "Wild, Wild West," "Get Smart," "The Prisoner," etc. up front. Go into more detail with these shows, and provide more photos. They deserve it, and readers want it. The back section would then contain all the lesser lights, perhaps giving some quick critical analysis that might help readers decide whether a show is worth seeking out in some form. And, FIX THOSE MISTAKES!
All in all, five stars for effort -- and the sheer love of the material shown by the author -- but two stars for editing, resulting in a 3.5 rating from me. Worth owning if you love the genre, but reader beware!