The Academe Blog

The blog of Academe Magazine. Opinions published here do not necessarily represent the policies of the AAUP.

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 46-48.

 

Sinclair, Upton.  World’s End.  New York: Viking, 1940.

Now known primarily for his muckraking fiction and journalism, in particular for his novel The Jungle, Upton Sinclair also produced a series of eleven espionage novels featuring an operative named Lanny Budd.  What is most unusual about the series is that Sinclair sought to chronicle systematically the political history of the Western democracies from the build-up to the First World War to the beginnings of the Cold War and that he chose to do so not through a political operator but through an intelligence operative.  This decision is rooted in Sinclair’s view of international politics as a covert as well as overt contest between democratic and totalitarian ideologies.  In his view, the titanic conflict between fascism and communism in mid-century served only to confuse the issue for democratic peoples, who felt compelled to support one totalitarian system over the other when neither was at all compatible with democratic institutions.

World’s End is the first novel in the series and remains the most available title from the series.  Born in 1900, Lanny Budd is only thirteen at the beginning of the novel.  His idealism is stirred by the terrible conflict raging in Europe and by Wilson’s decision to enter it in order to put an end to such conflicts.  Lanny Budd’s first public role is as a secretary to an aide to President Wilson, and in this role, he informally learns the basics of clandestinely gathering intelligence.

 

Thomas, Ross.  The Cold-War Swap.  New York: Morrow, 1966.

Representing a cross between the work of Eric Ambler and hardboiled American crime novelist Jim Thompson, Ross Thomas work’ is never dull.  He combines a very literate awareness of form with a very colloquial immediacy in style.  Because of his masterful handling of pacing, his plots sometimes seem more straightforward and less intricate than they actually are.  Yet, critics have often noted his skill with characterizations and emphasized that his plots are driven by issues of character.  A careful craftsman, Tomas never wrote a truly bad book and yet was fairly prolific, producing 19 novels under his own name and five under the pseudonym Oliver Bleeck between 1966 and 1992.  Not all of Thomas’ novels can be classified as espionage novels, but most of them include elements associated with the genre.

The Cold-War Swap was Thomas’ first novel and his first to feature his recurring characters, Mac McCorkle and Michael Padillo.  McCorkle operates a bar in West Berlin, and Padillo, his partner in the business, uses it as a cover for his real profession as an American intelligence operative.  In The Cold-War Swap, the Soviets have agreed to release two American operatives whom they have captured, but only in exchange for Padillo.  An auspicious debut, the novel won an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America.

 

Trevanian.  The Eiger Sanction.  New York: Crown, 1972.

Trevanian is the pseudonym of Rodney Whitaker, who was a professor of film and drama at the University of Texas and for years carefully protected his real identity.  Although he has written books in other genres, Trevanian is best known for his several novels featuring Jonathan Hemlock.  The first of these, The Eiger Sanction was adapted to a critically and commercially successful film starring Clint Eastwood.

Jonathan Hemlock teaches art history and has accumulated a very substantial collection of paintings, which he has purchased with the proceeds from the assassinations that he carries out for the CII, an American intelligence agency.  In addition to being a very professional killer, Hemlock is also a skilled mountain climber, and this skill comes in handy in the Eiger Sanction, when he attempts to climb the north face of the Eiger with three other men.  One of his fellow climbers is his assigned target, but he has no way of knowing which one.  So the only way he can be absolutely certain that he has fulfilled the contract is to kill all three of them.  By this point the reader has no sympathy left for Hemlock’s target, for the novel has opened with his gruesome murder of another CII agent.  And Trevanian so tautly sustains the tension in the story that it somewhat mitigates the reader’s concern that some several completely innocent men are ultimately going to be killed.

_________________________

Previous Posts in This Series:

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 1-3: http://academeblog.org/2014/05/30/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-1-3/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 4-5: http://academeblog.org/2014/05/31/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-4-5/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 6-7: http://academeblog.org/2014/06/01/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-6-7/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 8-10: http://academeblog.org/2014/06/04/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-8-10/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 11-13: http://academeblog.org/2014/06/06/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-11-13/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 14-16: http://academeblog.org/2014/06/11/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-14-16/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 17-19: http://academeblog.org/2014/06/18/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-17-19/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 20-22: http://academeblog.org/2014/06/25/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-20-22/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 23-25: http://academeblog.org/2014/07/07/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-23-25/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 26-29: http://academeblog.org/2014/07/11/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-26-29/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 30-32: http://academeblog.org/2014/07/23/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-30-32/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 33: http://academeblog.org/2014/07/29/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-33/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 34-36: http://academeblog.org/2014/08/10/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-34-36/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 37-39: http://academeblog.org/2014/08/15/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-37-39/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 40-42: http://academeblog.org/2014/08/21/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-40-42/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 43-45: http://academeblog.org/2014/08/23/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-43-45/

 

About martinkich

I am a Professor of English at Wright State University, where I have been a faculty member for almost 25 years. I serve as the president of the WSU chapter of AAUP, which now includes two bargaining units, as the vice-president of the Ohio Conference of AAUP, and as a member of the executive committee of AAUP's Collective Bargaining Congress. As co-chair of the Ohio Conference's Communication Committee, I began to do much more overtly political writing during the campaign to repeal Ohio's Senate Bill 5, which would have eliminated the right of faculty to be unionized.

8 comments on “National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 46-48.

  1. martinkich
    August 26, 2014

    Reblogged this on Stuff for a Slow Day.

  2. Pingback: National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 49-50. | The Academe Blog

  3. Pingback: America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 1-2 | The Academe Blog

  4. Pingback: America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 3-5. | The Academe Blog

  5. Pingback: America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 6-8. | The Academe Blog

  6. Pingback: America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 9-11. | The Academe Blog

  7. Pingback: America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 12-14. | The Academe Blog

  8. Pingback: America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 15-17. | The Academe Blog

Your comments are welcome. They must be relevant to the topic at hand and must not contain advertisements, degrade others, or violate laws or considerations of privacy. We encourage the use of your real name, but do not prohibit pseudonyms as long as you don't impersonate a real person.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Information

This entry was posted on August 26, 2014 by in faculty.
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,958 other followers

%d bloggers like this: