Fred Burton knows the ins and outs of counterterrorism and investigative work. For about two decades, he lived it. And, he says, it was living that life that got him hooked on reading about it.
When I was a special agent in the 1980s, I used a black diplomatic passport and flew aboard Pan Am Clipper Class flights and U.S. Air Force Special Air Missions from Andrews Air Force Base. I could never sleep on a plane. I (like a lot of other special agents) read spy novels many times as I zigzagged around the globe on the hunt for the people behind various plane crashes, bombings, hostage-takings and hijackings. They kept my mind busy.
These days, Burton hosts Stratfor's popular "Pen and Sword" podcast. He still gets to bask in the fast-paced, exciting, and sometimes dangerous world — but from a cozy chair. Between reading and conversing with authors such as Annie Jacobsen, Kate Winkler Dawson, Brad Thor, Jack Carr, and Mark Greaney, Burton continues his own work as chief security officer at Stratfor, an advisor on public safety for many other organizations and writing best-sellers about his career.
Sometimes, stuffed inside my Ghurka carry-on bag, right next to my spy books, was a sealed, bright orange diplomatic pouch, containing classified documents or evidence from an attack. I never quite understood why the diplomatic pouch was bright orange? I would have made it black.
If you're interested in reading the books that kept Fred Burton awake and alert on many a clandestine flight, he shared some of his favorites below.