It’s a rare thing, but every now and then I come across a podcast that is simply unputdownable. Typically, it’s something to do with a beauteous chemical reaction that issues from an absolute doozy of a story told in a concise and expert way.
That’s what we’re dealing with when it comes to Imposters: The Spy.
Host and journalist Alex French brings the listener right along with him as he endeavors to get to the bottom of this dizzying tale. Through him we meet larger than life characters, like Simmons himself, whose sheer forcefulness dares us to doubt him and his wild tales of a past in the secret service.
On the opposing side, we have a cohort of (true) retired agents who fume and rage at Simmons’ very public, lucrative and influential position as the CIA’s unofficial spokesman.
It’s like listening in on a tense spat in the players’ lounge of a golf club. Older white men puff themselves up and vociferously deny each others claims to high rank and repute. It’s glorious.
Outside of this window onto some very colorful wildlife, this podcast also teaches us something about credibility. How it can be won and kept (clue: make lots of powerful friends), how difficult it can be to challenge once it is established.
At the same time, we learn something about the trust we place in people — and how we often take the impressive stories of (presumed) authority figures at face value. Particularly when they purport to be from a world that is simply unknowable for most of us.
Having the discipline of brevity is something that seems to be lost on many podcasters. Alex French knows that less is more, and this short but perfectly formed 6-parter packs a bigger punch than its more meandering rivals.