National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 8-10.

Cooper, James Fenimore.  The Spy.  1821.

James Fenimore Cooper produced novels that became prototypes for several genres of popular fiction.  In fact, his significance as an influence in this regard has a great deal to do with the resurgence in broader critical interest in his work.

The Spy is the first notable American novel to treat the subject of espionage.  Set  during the Revolutionary War, the novel focuses on a peddler named Harvey Birch whose home territory is Westchester County, New York, a middle ground between regions with pronounced Revolutionary and Tory sympathies.  Birch establishes a persona as someone who will do anything for money, and the British soon offer him employment as a spy.  Spying for the British becomes the perfect cover for his true commitment to spying for the Continental Army.  Birch is operating under personal orders from George Washington, who is one of the few people who know his true loyalties.  Ironically, Birch’s ruse is so effective that the Continental Army and irregular militia known as the “Skinners” are soon hunting him down for being a British spy.

Among all of the melodramatic turns in Birch’s adventures and a rather formulaic romantic sub-plot, Cooper convincingly conveys Birch’s self-reliance, his quiet cleverness, and his cool-headedness.  Beyond these archetypically American characteristics, Cooper emphasizes Birch’s willingness to expose himself to great hazard simply for the cause of liberty.

 

Furst, Alan.  Night Soldiers.  Boston: Houghton Miflin, 1988.

Furst has written a dozen novels, for the most part set in Europe and fitting into the “thriller” category.  Although most of his books range far beyond his personal experience, his painstaking research and his seamless incorporation of that research into his narratives have given the novels a great immediacy and credibility.

In Night Soldiers, Furst’s protagonist is a young Bulgarian named Khristo Stoianev who is recruited into the Soviet NKVD, and in Moscow, he is specially trained to operate effectively in other countries.  Ironically, during this period, he develops lasting bonds with other trainees from all corners of Europe, and these personal loyalties ultimately prove stronger than his commitment to the Soviet state and to communism.

Stoianev ‘s first posting is to Madrid during the Spanish Civil War, where he is exposed to the many ways in which excesses can be rationalized as serving ideology.  During World War II, he is stationed in Switzerland, where he is engaged in producing anti-fascist propaganda in the tenuously neutral center of a continent dominated by fascists and their propaganda.  By the Cold War era, he has become a pragmatist who can coolly measure and appreciate the strengths and weaknesses in the American and Soviet systems and in their approaches to espionage.  He reaches a point of moral equilibrium not often attained in espionage fiction.

 

Garfield, Brian Francis Wynne.  Hopscotch.  New York: Evans, 1975.

Under four pseudonyms, Garfield has produced at least 40 Westerns.  Under his own name and several pseudonyms, he has produced four works of mainstream fiction and four books of nonfiction, as well as 22 mystery-suspense novels. He may be best known for Death Wish, a novel about a businessman who becomes a roving vigilante,which became the basis for a series of notorious films starring Charles Bronson.

Among Garfield mystery-suspense novels are several that can be classified as espionage novels.  The best of these may be Hopscotch, which received an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America.  The novel focuses on Miles Kendig, a C.I.A. operative who bitterly resents having been forced into retirement.  To demonstrate his continuing abilities as an operative, he creates turmoil throughout the international intelligence community by threatening to reveal secrets that will cause great embarrassment for the governments ostensibly served but actually compromised by their various intelligence agencies.  Having made the agencies look more frankly at themselves and at each other, Kendig knows that they will eventually all come looking for him.  So he has the foresight to have worked out in advance a convincing staging of his own death.

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Previous Posts in This Series:

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 1-3: https://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: https://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: https://academeblog.org/2014/06/01/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-6-7/

 

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