National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 11-13.

Gilman, Dorothy.  The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax.  New York: Doubleday, 1970.

Under her full name, Dorothy Gilman Butters wrote a dozen well-received novels for young adults from 1949 to 1963.  Then, in her mid-forties, she shifted gears considerably, developing a series of adult suspense stories around the quiet adventures of an unlikely intelligence operative.  Published under the name Dorothy Gilman, the novels in the series feature Mrs. Emily Pollifax.  In her mid-sixties, the recent widow looked toward an uneventful future and decided to apply for a position with the C.I.A.  Because she is able to blend inconspicuously into almost any setting, she actually makes a very effective operative.  Almost no one suspects that the polite and kindly, if somewhat curious, little old lady is a spy.  As several critics have pointed out, Gilman has, in effect, synthesized the conventions of the espionage genre with those of the “cozy” mystery.

Reflecting the great popularity of the series as a whole, The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax has been through almost two dozen printings.  In this novel, Mrs. Pollifax is asked to deliver an American passport and money to a woman whose mysterious disappearance from the British consulate in Turkey has been reported in the media.  As soon as she arrives in Turkey, Mrs. Pollifax seems to attract agents and double-agents, all of whom seem to know more about the woman in question than she does, but to assume that the opposite is true.

 

Grady, James Thomas.  Six Days of the Condor.  New York: Norton, 1975.

The author of ten subsequent novels about the often convoluted machinations of the political class in Washington, Grady remains best known for his first novel, Six Days of the Condor, and its sequel, Shadow of the Condor (1976).  Indeed, the highly regarded film adaptation of Six Days of the Condor, trimmed for the screen to Three Days of the Condor, imprinted it on the popular consciousness.  Directed by Sidney Pollack and starring Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, Cliff Robertson, and Max von Sydow, the film the mid-1970s skepticism about the morality of government in general and about the intelligence services in particular.

The novel’s protagonist is Ronald Malcolm, a C.I.A. researcher who works in an inconspicuous office with a group of seemingly innocuous colleagues.  So his shock is understandable when one afternoon he returns from lunch to the office and finds everyone shot to pieces.  Ironically, Malcolm’s primary responsibility with the agency has been to read spy novels to see if any of the novelists has profited from leaks from within the agency.  Now he must try to read the motives and to gauge the reliability of everyone who is pursuing him, either to kill him or to insure his safety, while he tries to reconstruct what led up to the massacre of his colleagues.

 

Granger, Bill.  The November Man.  New York: Fawcett, 1979.

An award-winning journalist based in the Chicago area, Granger produced a dozen mainstream novels under his own name and several installments in a mystery-suspense series under the name Joe Gash.  For one of the latter novels, Public Murders, he has won an Edgar Award.  But he is best known for the “November Man” series of espionage novels, named for the first novel in the series.

The protagonist in this series is named Devereaux, but his code name is “November.” Well into middle-age, Devereaux has become quite jaded and sees the politics in everything that the intelligence bureaucrats try to justify to the public, and even to the politicians, on ideological grounds.  Yet, because his cynicism has not yet dulled his clear-sightedness and his sharp instincts for the truth, Devereaux is a highly valued operative.  He works for the “R section,” a very secretive government agency that, in effect, spies on the C.I.A.

In The November Man, Devereaux becomes aware of a plot by members of the Irish Republican Army to murder a relative of the Queen of England.  The C.I.A. has uncovered the plot, but its leadership is weighing the pros and cons of intervening and of letting the plot go forward.  So, to prevent the assassination without blowing his cover, Devereaux has to devise a way to make the C.I.A. intercede.

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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/

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

 

33 thoughts on “National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 11-13.

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