Spies and Spy Literature Pre-World War II
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1887 onwards) – SHERLOCK HOLMES series, is still one of the world’s most popular and influential fictional detectives. The eccentric, arrogant, and ingenious Sherlock Holmes and his trusted friend, Dr. Watson, are read and revered to this day. Several of the beginning stories are early examples of the spy genre.
Robert Erskine Childers – The Riddle of The Sands (1903). ARTHUR DAVIES (CHARLES CARRUTHERS) – Known as one of the best spy novels ever written, this story was about two Englishmen who encounter suspicious German naval activity in the North Seas, and enter a world of suspense and intrigue. Eventually, the two men discover that the Kaiser Wilhelm has planned to secretly invade and conquer Britain, and they are the only ones who can prevent it.
Joseph Conrad – Secret Agent (1907) is set in early twentieth-century London and inspired by an actual attempt to blow up the Greenwich Observatory. The title character, ADOLF VERLOC, is obviously no James Bond. In fact, he and his circle of misfit saboteurs are not spies but terrorists, driven less by political ideals than by their unruly emotions and irrational hatreds.
Rudyard Kipling – Kim (1901) was based on The Great Game (espionage and politics between Europe and Asia) and centered in Afghanistan. Kim, is a rousing adventure novel of a young man of many allegiances. KIMBALL O’HARA grows up an orphan in the walled city of Lahore, India. He is deeply devoted to an old Tibetan lama, but involved in a secret mission for the British. Kim struggles to weave the strands of his life into a single pattern.
Baroness Orcy – The Scarlet Pimpernel (1905) recounted the undercover exploits of an English aristrocrat’s attempts to rescue French aristocrats during the French Revolution. In the year 1792, SIR PERCY AND LADY MARGUERITE BLAKENEY are the darlings of British society. He is known as one of the wealthiest men in England and a dimwit; she is French, a stunning former actress, and “the cleverest woman in Europe”- and they find themselves at the center of a deadly political intrigue.
James Fenimore Cooper – The Spy (1821) is set in the period of the American War of Independence. The household of Mr. Wharton and his daughters is visited by the three main protagonists of the story: the mysterious MR. HARPER, an American loyalist; CAPTAIN HENRY WHARTON, the son of the house and an officer in the British Army; and MR. HARVEY BIRCH, suspected of being a British spy.
The story explores the differing loyalties of these men as they are reflected in the differing loyalties of the household they visit with the father trying to remain neutral, his daughter Sarah a supporter of the British and his other daughter Frances supporting the American rebels.
The Last of the Mohicans (1826) – is the most popular of James Fenimore Cooper’s five Leatherstocking Tales. With its death-defying chases and teeth-clenching suspense, this American classic established many archetypes of American frontier fiction. It is an engrossing “Western” by America’s first great novelist, astory of survival and treachery, love and deliverance.
William Le Queux (1911) Revelations of the Secret Service - – He was one of the first creators of the spy story and the most widely read spy-fiction writer. Britain's highest-selling author during the pre–World War I years. In 'Revelations of the Secret Service' he comments "Women are more successful as spies than men. That is why so many are employed by both Russia and France." But his hero, HUGH MORRICE, has the skill and charm to work with or through the wily and the innocent ladies he encounters on travels throughout Europe.
Gaston Leroux – a French author wrote one of the earliest French spy thrillers - Rouletabille chez Krupp starring his fictional detective JOSEPH ROULETABILLE – who also appeared in The Mystery of the Yellow Room, and Le Mystère de la chambre jaune
John Buchan is the father of the modern spy thriller – His best-known works are the RICHARD HANNAY novels – The Thirty-Nine Steps(1915); Greenmantle (1916); Mr. Standfast (1919); and The Three Hostages (1924).
John Buchan's novel The Thirty-Nine Steps is the prototype of the modern thriller novel. In it, Buchan introduced Richard Hannay, the prototype of the resourceful, intelligent, and tenacious hero of the modern thriller.
E. Philips Oppenheim – The Double Traitor (1915) FRANCIS NORGATE. An amazing espionage story of the diplomatic events leading up the European War. The plot is full of twists and cliff-hangers with some romance included into the story. This plot has held up over the years.
(Other novels by E. Phillips Oppenheim)
General Besserley's Puzzle Box (1935) – Perhaps Oppenheim's most enduring creation is the character of GENERAL BESSERLEY, the protagonist of this novel, and a another one titled General Besserley's New Puzzle Box (1939) (one of his last works).
Spies, spying, and espionage will always have a devoted following and will probably intrigue us forever.
Goodman was born in England and moved to the United States in 1982. He was educated at Brighton College Sussex, and the Institute of Chartered
Accountants in England and Wales, and is the former Chairman and CEO of
a major US Beverage Alcohol producer, importer and distributor. Ellis M. Goodman is the author of a number of magazine articles on the
US Beverage Alcohol Industry, and the business book, Corona: The Inside
Story of America's #1 Imported Beer.He serves on a number of civil, educational, and cultural boards in Chicago;
and, in 1996, was invested as a Commander of the British Empire by HM
Majesty Queen Elizabeth for services to British exports. He and his wife,
Gillian, live in Glencoe, Illinois.