Shortlist year: 2015

Shortlist category: Australian history

Published by: Allen & Unwin

For the first time, ASIO has opened its archives. With unrestricted access to the records, David Horner tells the real story of Australia's domestic intelligence organisation, from shaky beginnings to the expulsion of Ivan Skripov in 1963.

This authoritative and ground-breaking account overturns many myths about ASIO, offering new insights into broader Australian politics and society in the fraught years of the Cold War.

About the author

David Horner

David Horner AM is Professor of Australian Defence History in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University.

A graduate of the Royal Military College, Duntroon, he served as an infantry platoon commander in South Vietnam.

He is the author or editor of thirty two books on military command, operations, defence policy and intelligence. In 2004 he was appointed Official Historian of Australian Peacekeeping, Humanitarian and Post-Cold War Operations, and is an author of two volumes in that series.

Judges' comments

This finely researched first volume of its official history, explains in detail why and how ASIO was formed. It also illuminates what was arguably ASIO's greatest accomplishment—the defection of the Soviet diplomat and KGB agent Vladimir Petrov and his wife Evdokia in April 1954.

Throughout his fascinating narrative, Horner details many activities of our nation's spy catchers that have never been published. Well written and clearly constructed, the book is primarily about the people who staffed ASIO. They were, Horner states, 'normal, honourable, everyday Australians'. But as the book demonstrates, those men and women who worked, often obsessionally, to protect our national (and sometimes international) security, were far from being 'normal' or 'everyday'.