National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 37-39.

Phillips, David Atlee.  The Carlos Contract.  New York: Macmillan, 1978.

David Atlee Phillips served with the C.I.A. for a quarter of a century, from 1950 to 1975.  From 1973 to 1975, he was head of the agency’s Western Hemisphere Division.  In 1977, his memoir, The Night Watch: Twenty-Five Years of Peculiar Service, was published.  Meant as a counter to the widespread criticism of American intelligence operations, the memoir was regarded, for the most part, as an apologist’s attempt to justify the agency’s methods and to excuse its excesses by emphasizing its aims.

His first novel, The Carlos Contract, was much more favorably received.  Drawing on the notoriety of the elusive and mysterious terrorist known as “Carlos the Jackal,” the novel’s premise is that he has begun to assassinate C.I.A. station chiefs in a very deliberate and systematic manner—in effect, daring the agency to attempt to stop him.  Without compromising the readability of the novel, Phillips interjects a great deal of detail about the ways in which intelligence is gathered and analyzed. Even a sub-text echoing Phillips’ argument in The Night Watch does not seriously mar his generally skillful structuring, pacing, and telling of the story.

 

Poe, Edgar Allan.  “The Purloined Letter” (1843) and “The Gold Bug” (1845).

Poe has been declared the inventor of the mystery-detective story. Although the same claim cannot be made in terms of the spy story, in several of his stories, he certainly anticipates some of the conventions of the spy novel.

In “The Purloined Letter,” Poe’s detective, C. Auguste Dupin, is asked to retrieve a letter that will compromise the Queen if its contents are made public. To prevent her from being blackmailed, the police have searched the quarters and person of a Minster D—who seems the most likely suspect, but they have not turned up the letter. Dupin analyzes Minister D—‘s character and very quickly finds the letter, hidden in plain sight.  Interestingly, Dupin substitutes an inane forgery for the letter, reasoning that Minister D— will now overplay his hand and reveal his treachery, causing his own ruin because he does not realize that he no longer has the real letter to use as a political lever.

Although “The Gold Bug” does not have the same sort of political interest, the main character, named Legrand, locates a buried treasure by demonstrating a knowledge of cryptology.

 

Poyer, Joseph John.  The Chinese Agenda.  New York: Doubleday, 1972.

For about a decade and a half, Joseph John Poyer worked as a technical writer and editor.  Since 1977, he has produced a large volume of nonfiction and fiction.  His nonfiction has included nine books and more than 200 articles on technical military topics.  About half of his ten novels can be categorized as espionage novels.

The Chinese Agenda attracted a good deal of attention because it is one of the very few novels to treat intelligence operations in communist China.  Near China’s northern border with the Soviet Union, in the forbidding Tien Shan Mountains, is a secret Chinese installation where they are developing a weapon that will alter the international balance of power.  This situation is of such concern that the Soviets and Americans jointly send a covert team to destroy the facility.  Because of the terrain that the team must cross, Poyer in effect synthesizes some of the features of the mainstream action-adventure novel with the conventions of the espionage genre.

 

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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/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 11-13: https://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: https://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: https://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: https://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: https://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: https://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: https://academeblog.org/2014/07/23/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-30-32/

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

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

 

25 thoughts on “National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 37-39.

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