Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The top ten 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:
Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett (1929)

"We had another drink". One has escaped in a single bound the Wee Free manse that spawned John Buchan. One enters instead the amoral realm of a master of the short sentence not to mention short words like "moll". Hammett was the pioneer of the "hardboiled" detective novel. Earlier, until he left in disgust at their labour espionage work and became a communist, he worked for the Pinkerton detective agency. Red Harvest is a spy's repentance. Hammett's Continental Op (a thinly disguised Pinkerton operative) arrives in Personville, aka Poisonville, a town in the American West. Mining capitalist Elihu Wilsson owns it in every respect until his revolutionary workers go on strike. Wilsson introduces professional strikebreakers and one murder follows another, 20 of them committed by the Op himself.
Read about the other books on the list.

Red Harvest is one of 88 books that shaped America.

--Marshal Zeringue