Atkins, J. (1984) The British Spy Novel

atkins_coverJohn Atkins (1984) The British Spy Novel, London, John Calder

Fiction about spies and spying – a genre of which British writers have generally been the most successful exponents – is a phenomenon which truly began in the twentieth century. Although Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities could qualify as spy fiction, it is really with The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers that the genre really begins. Since then it has been dominated by writers of varying quality such as John Buchan, Ian Fleming, John Le Carré and Len Deighton.
In this gripping account, John Atkins examines the subject matter of spy fiction and the authors behind it, many of whom worked directly for the British Secret Service. Often life turns out to more incredible than fiction and this is especially true of a form of literature which must feel authentic and credible to the reader. The British Spy Novel should remain a standard guide to one of the most fascinating and popular categories of modern writing for years to come. [Publisher’s Description]

Has in depth discussions about Childers / Riddle of the Sands,  Kipling / Kim, Le Queux and Oppenheim. Unfortunately the part chronologivval / part thematic approach makes the overall thread of the book problematical.