If you want to write a spy novel, you have to read in that genre and learn from the “best”. Unfortunately, there is a lot of dispute over who the “best” really are. I pulled up one such list recently from Gayle Lynds’ blog http://gaylelynds.com/novels/masquerade/. This was put together by Peter Cannon of Publishers Weekly. Gayle Lynds is understandably proud that one of her books is featured on this list.
These lists are probably greeted with heated discussion and much disagreement. Areas of disagreement could be the definition of what a Spy Novel is, the definition of what “best” means, the personal preferences of the list maker, the age of the person who made the list, and even personal agendas are also possible. This list does seem like a good starting point for a novice like me. I am sure there is something valuable to learn about the craft of writing in this genre from each of them. THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD was the book that started me on this journey, so this is probably a very good list. There are still a few works on here that I haven’t read yet.
In addition to the classics, I am trying to read the current best selling authors as well.
The only downside of this journey is that it is so enjoyable that it crowds out time for writing. I have to find a way to deal with this “difficult” problem. I don’t feel this is a problem unique to me. I would be anxious to hear of any solutions that worked for other authors. The balance between learning and doing is challenging.
The list is shown below:
- John le Carre, THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD (1963)
- Robert Ludlum, THE BOURNE IDENTITY (1980)
- Frederick Forsyth, THE DAY OF THE JACKAL (1971)
- Ian Fleming, THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1962)
- Graham Greene, THE QUIET AMERICAN (1955)
- Len Deighton, THE IPCRESS FILE (1962)
- Ken Follett, THE EYE OF THE NEEDLE
- Gayle Lynds, MASQUERADE (1996)
- Joseph Finder, THE MOSCOW CLUB (1991)
- Helen MacInnes, ABOVE SUSPICION (1939)
- John Buchan, THE 39 STEPS (1915)
- Norman Mailer, HARLOT’S GHOST (1991)
- Daniel Silva, THE UNLIKELY SPY (1996)
- Erskine Childers, THE RIDDLE OF THE SANDS (1903)
- Colin MacKinnon, MORNING SPY, EVENING SPY (2006)