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August 26, 2008

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HP

Orson Welles wrote a fine adaptation of The Man Who Was Thursday for the Mercury Theater of the Air (mp3 at link).

Welles, IMO, plays up the absurdity and surrealism of Chesterton's novel and downplays the allegory and apologetics, which is all to the good as far as I'm concerned. By compressing all the action down to an hour, the story plays out as dreamlike and even psychedelic.

For other audio, there's quite a bit of WWII/Early Cold War spy OTR. Lots of good individual episodes of Suspense and Escape, especially WWII stuff, but I don't have access to my collection at the moment.

The one series that sticks in my mind is "I Was a Communist for the FBI," but the few episodes I've heard are of interest primarily for camp value, like Rocky and Bullwinkle without the talking animals. (Although that impression might've had something to do with the presence of Paul Frees as a communist cell leader.)

Scott Leslie

Good list here. A few that probably veer into the 'thriller' realm but that I still find readable and intelligent:
- Henry Porter "A Spy's Life" and "Remembrance Day"
- David Ignatius' "Body of Lies" (which I *think* has been recently made into a movie)

I can't identify one of his novels that is strictly a "spy" story, but I deeply enjoy all of Phillip Kerr's work. His "Berlin Trilogy (March Violets, The Pale Criminal, A German Requiem) is all set in post-WWII Berlin and often reminds me of Le Carre, at least for setting.

You probably already know the story through other means, but Robert Harris' "Enigma" is a good read. Again, possibly too 'thrillerish.'

dan visel

You might try Graham Greene & Hugh Greene's The Spy's Bedside Book, a very enjoyable anthology of the best of British spy fiction from the early 1960s (I think?). Hugh was Graham's lesser-known brother.

John M.

Only one spy novel written by a woman that isn't a Clancy-esque thriller that I am familiar with:

Leslie Silbert - The Intelligencer

A little far afield of your suggestions, but as close as I can get. Concurrent timelines, Christopher Marlowe c. 1593 and a PI in New York that works for a firm that does cut-out work for the intel community. A bit sprawling and more Da Vinci Code than Smiley's People. Sorry, best I got.

btw, as an adjustment to my previous statement, Littell's The Company is good literature, Powers approaches greatness.

Last Call by Tim Powers has elements of intelligence activity, but I border on off-topic with that one. I go even a little further off by recommending The Anubis Gates.

His last novel Three Days to Never has much more concrete ties, with one of the main characters being an intelligence officer with Mossad. Some interesting tradecraft in that book. Not your classic spy novel like Declare, but an intriguing look at the operations and mindset of the Israeli intelligence apparatus-- this is not the primary focus of the story, however. Nonetheless, it's a worthwhile read.

Ed Webb

Based on the NYT review of the new movie, "Traitor," that might be a somewhat-Le Carréesque take on contemporary intelligence and security games.

The comparative paucity of female authors in this genre is puzzling, particularly when you consider how many very fine female crime and detective fiction writers there are. Any thoughts as to why?

Steven Kaye

Not Cold War, but I enjoyed Sand Blind, by Julian Rathbone.

Female authors: the one who comes to mind is Helen MacInnes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helen_MacInnes).

There's also this article (WSJ, included on one author's website): http://www.gaylelynds.com/infiltrate.html

Bryan Alexander

Once again, a swarm of fine comments. Many thanks, my contributing friends!

Great call with the Welles, @HP. Would love to hear what you find when you get back to your collection. Maybe we should poke the Pod podcasters, too.

All new to me, @Scott Leslie, and good. Is that the same Kerr who wrote Philosophical Investigation?

Nice one, @dan visel.

Great range, @John M. I've read every Powers except 3 Days.

I wonder if the lack of female authors is because of the emphasis on action, @Ed Webb, or perhaps the preponderance of male characters in the field. Check out the Nolan article Steve Kaye references.

Any MacInnes titles to recc, @Steven Kaye?

Maybe we should do a movie list next, @Ed Webb.

Time to post the revised page -

Scott Leslie

Yes, that is the same Kerr. I just never understood why he doesn't get more credit as a good writer. I also very much enjoyed his novel about Isaac Newton, Dark Matter.

Bryan Alexander

I'll definitely re-Kerr-ize.

Ed Webb

Recalled last night, during a discussion with my 8 year old about spy and mystery fiction, that Agatha Christie wrote "Passenger to Frankfurt" - her only espionage novel, to the best of my knowledge. I'll dig it out and let you know whether you should add it to your list.

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RidleyFoxFan

This story is post 9/11 and has some nostalgic elements of the Cold War, called Pandora's Succession. For now the first three chapters are available as a podcast at http://www.pandorabook1.com.

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