Canadian Intelligence Eh!

Writing the great Canadian spy novel, from a SIGINT perspective

Writing a good fiction should probably require some experience to inform a good plot. This is especially true for spy fiction.

Episode 215 – What are the challenges in writing a spy novel as a former spy?

Many think we are capable of writing the great American (or, in my case, Canadian) novel. Some are, most aren’t. What does it take to do so? And what makes a good spy thriller? Does it help to have worked in intelligence? A conversation with an ex-SIGINTER and author.

About my guest

Rhiannon Beaubien is a writer of both fiction and nonfiction. Her first fiction release was Alone Among Spies. A sequel to that thrilling adventure, The Wrong Kind of Spy continues the action in Cold War West Berlin. Her desire to write spy fiction was inspired by her time at Canada’s signals intelligence agency. She is the co-author of the successful book series, The Great Mental Models. Covering models from physics to systems, this series explains how you can use fundamental knowledge in non-intuitive situations to improve your thinking and, ultimately, your outcomes. Volume 1: General Thinking Concepts, was a Wall Street Journal bestseller.  Rhiannon also creates a variety of written content for businesses and not-for-profits.

HOME Rhiannon Beaubien: books, biography, latest update


In a world of multiple voices and opinions it can be very hard to know where to turn.  One choice is to look to those who actually worked in counter-terrorism in the national security world. In these half-hour podcasts, 30-year Canadian intelligence veteran Phil Gurski is joined by a fascinating array of individuals with something meaningful to say about these issues as they provide insight into what they mean and what we need to do about them. 

About Phil Gurski

Phil worked as a senior strategic analyst at CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) from 2001-2015, specializing in violent Islamist-inspired homegrown terrorism and radicalisation. From 1983 to 2001 he was employed as a senior multilingual analyst at Communications Security Establishment (CSE – Canada’s signals intelligence agency), specialising in the Middle East. He also served as senior special advisor in the National Security Directorate at Public Safety Canada from 2013, focusing on community outreach and training on radicalisation to violence, until his retirement from the civil service in May 2015, and as consultant for the Ontario Provincial Police’s Anti-Terrorism Section (PATS) from May to October 2015.

He was the Director of Security and Intelligence at the SecDev Group from June 2018 to July 2019 and the Director of the National Security Programme at the University of Ottawa’s Professional Development Institute from 2020-2022. Mr. Gurski has presented on violent Islamist-inspired and other forms of terrorism and radicalisation across Canada and around the world.

He writes at

He is the author of The Threat from Within: Recognizing Al Qaeda-inspired Radicalization and Terrorism in the West (Rowman and Littlefield 2015) Western Foreign Fighters: The Threat to Homeland and International Security (Rowman and Littlefield 2017), The Lesser Jihads: Taking the Islamist fight to the world (Rowman and Littlefield 2017), An end to the ‘War on Terrorism When Religion Kills: How Extremist Justify Violence Through Faith (Lynne Rienner 2019) and The Peaceable Kingdom? A history of terrorism in Canada from Confederation to the present (self-published: 2021, republished by Double Dagger in 2022). He regularly blogs and podcasts (Canadian Intelligence Eh!), and tweets (@borealissaves) on terrorism and intelligence matters.

He was an associate fellow at the International Centre for Counter Terrorism (ICCT) in the Netherlands and is currently a digital fellow at the Montreal Institute for Genocide Studies at Concordia University. He is also a visiting fellow at the International Security and Risk Management programme at the University of South Wales

Mr. Gurski is a regular commentator on terrorism and intelligence for a wide variety of Canadian and international media.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.