Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Ten top classic spy novels

Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones is professor of American history emeritus and an honorary fellow in History at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. He is an authority on American intelligence history, having written two American intelligence history surveys and studies of the CIA and FBI. He has also written books on women and American foreign policy, America and the Vietnam War, and American labor history.

For the Guardian, he named his top ten classic--"'classics' in being of some antiquity, and because, in addition to being of literary merit, they tell us something of their era"--spy novels, including:
The Quiet American by Graham Greene (1955)

Greene dismissed his own spy fiction as "entertainment". He wanted us to admire The Power and the Glory not The Quiet American. Be that as it may, The Quiet American had insight into the frailties of the early 1950s CIA and the untenability of US intervention in Vietnam. Alden Pyle, its protagonist, is a recognisable prototype of the Ivy League "best and brightest" who got America stuck in a Southeast Asian quagmire. Pyle jousts with his worldly and tolerant British counterpart over the delectable Phuong. Enter the US economic attaché "who keeps his friends because he uses the right deodorants".
Read about another novel on the list.

The Quiet American is among Tom Rachman's top ten journalist's tales, John Mullan's ten best journalists in literature, Charles Glass's five best books on Americans abroad, Robert McCrum's books to inspire busy public figures, Malcolm Pryce's top ten expatriate tales, Catherine Sampson's top ten Asian crime fiction, and Pauline Melville's top 10 revolutionary tales.

--Marshal Zeringue