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The Greatest Spy Writers of the 20th Century

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The Greatest Spy Writers of the 20th Century turn out to have had just as exciting lives--well, almost, and sometimes even more so--as the characters they wrote about.  This book gave biographies of what the writer considered the three greatest spy writers of the 20th century:  Ian Fleming, John Buchan and John Le Carre.  He also provided critiques of writing and followed the stories on to the big screen.   There was also an interesting introduction that traces the history of spy stories.  

So if you love spy stories delve into the lives of some of the greatest writers of the genre and take another look at what makes the stories of these three so much fun to read.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest opinion.
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Are you a reader of spy fiction? Do you ever wonder how the best authors of this genre got their ideas? Here is a title that brings readers into the world of three of the best authors in the field, Buchan, Fleming and Le Carre.

The author clearly shows his love of spy fiction. He begins his introduction with his own introduction of books like Huntingtower and The 39 Steps by John Buchan. He fell in love with these novels starting at age nine when his grandfather gave him a Buchan book. Carradice returned the favor when, many years later, he gifted his grandfather a Le Carre title.

Spy novels are just a bit over 100 years old. With many authors to think about including Graham Greene and Eric Ambelr, among others, Carradice chose the three noted above. He feels that they are the best of the best.

Start with the excellent introduction and keep going. This book offers a very entertaining read and one that is filled with information. The author is a big fan of his subject.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Pen & Sword for this title. All opinions are my own.

#TheGreatestSpyWritersofthe20thCentury #NetGalley
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My thanks to both NetGalley and the publisher Pen & Sword Books for an advanced copy of this new look at three grandmasters of spy literature, their works, lives and the shadows they created for other writers to join them in. 

Spy stories are a relative new genre, something that surprised me as I outside of science fiction stories, tales of secret agents were my favorite books to read. Like the author my grandfather was a huge reader and he would pass on everything to me. He likes mysteries, science fiction and thrillers. So when he would come by I would get a bag full of Frederick Forsyth, Michael Gilbert, Helen McGinnis, with Nick Carter books, and other spy stories that were more pulpy, punchy and pistol packing than espionage. Through my Grandfather I met John le Carré. My Dad introduced me to Bond, watching the movies first, than a graphic novel collection of newspaper strips, and finally the books with the proviso, these aren't like the movies, but I think your like them. John Buchan I probably found myself, first reading a selection in Graham Greene Spy's Bedside Book, (not the book my teen mind thought it would be) and finding a hardcover collection of Buchan at a library bag sale. All books that I loved, for different reasons. The exact same reasons I would think author and historian Phil Carradice enjoys them so much, so much so that Carradice has written a book on it. The Greatest Spy Writers of the 20th Century: Buchan, Fleming and Le Carré is a study of these three writers and their influence on literature in the 20th century.

John Buchan was not the first spy writer, but Buchan captured not just a time but a style, one of excitement and realism in writing, that gave the reader a feeling not only of being there, with the characters but a sense that unlike other fictional stories, what was happening could really happen. That all of us are one bad day from dodging bad guys, policemen, with the fate of the world on our shoulders. Ian Fleming was a person who overcompensated in his writing, the best shoes, clothes, gambling, the best places, the finest ladies, which coming from a time of austerity after the War gave readers a charge, and a feeling few other writers could give readers, Though living the life of Ian Fleming, killed Fleming at a very young age. John le Carré was a son of Britain, who died an Irish man, mad at the country that could be so easily fooled into giving away all its potential, a rage that showed in his later books at not just the system, but how the system had corrupted everything. These three men made spy literature, boy's adventure, gadgets and bad guys, and the plodding straight ahead search for truth. There stories still surprise, and shock, sometimes in more ways than one, but will be read well after walls have fallen, and counties rise and fall. 

A really fantastic look at three authors who might not have created spy stories, but left their mark not only in book form but in visual media also. Carradice does a very good job in describing the early life of these men, and what influenced their writing, and their thinking. Oddly all of them liked mountains and sking, which I found fascinating. The influence of intelligence work is looked at Buchan had some, Fleming and le Carré made it their occupations for a time, but changed them in many ways. Carradice looks at the movies, Bond especially and also discusses other writers of the period Greene, Maugham, and Eric Ambler. I very enjoyable look at the grandmasters of the genre. 

I enjoyed this book a lot, and knowing that Carradice's grandfather had an hand in getting young Carradice interested in spy stories, is one of the my favorite parts of the book. Recommended for literature students, people new to spies stories, and for fans that want to know more. Very well done, and quite enjoyable.
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Although not always brilliantly written (author, Phil Carradice is overfond of using the exclamation mark!), this is an interesting look at the lives and careers of arguably the three greatest authors of espionage novels of the last century. The three chosen are John Buchan, the man behind Richard Hannay and The 39 Steps,007 creator, Ian Fleming and John Le Carre, author of Tinker, Tailor, Solder Spy and the creator of George Smiley.
Some might disagree with these choices, perhaps preferring (for example) Frederick Forsyth, or Graham Greene, but Carradice discusses these and other spy authors too and fully justifies his choices. All three men had interesting lives and all at least dabbled in real-life intelligence work themselves. None were perfect: Buchan was notably anti-Semitic, even for the time, while Fleming's writing is littered with racial and sexual stereotypes galore. Le Carre,, the most recent writer, gets off more easily in this respect. Contrary to what Carradice seems to think, Le Carre's opposition to Brexit was only really unusual because he was otherwise so conservative. 
A good discussion of the authors and the genre which also includes a useful summary of the various film and TV adaptations of the authors' works.
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An ideal study guide for students

There have been numerous volumes about these prolific authors of the spy genre, but most have been lengthy, in-depth profiles which have somewhat proved to be inaccurate. However, Phil Carradice’s short guide into whom undoubtedly must be considered the three 20th century masters of the spy-fiction genre, is a nice compact companion to the their life and works which provides their readers with a further insight to the writers behind their favourite spy books. Sadly, all three authors are no longer with us, but they each leave behind a legacy which we all continue to enjoy in both page and screen (one day, someone will decide to bring Buchan’s Greenmantle to either the large or small screen screen).

The style of presenting these biographical insights alongside a short introduction to the birth of the ‘spy’ novel, is light-hearted and non-biased, as other equally-popular authors, such as Somerset Maugham, Eric Ambler, Graham Greene, Len Deighton and Frederick Forsyth who ran level-pegging with Buchan, Fleming and Le Carre in their heyday respectively, are not just given insightful glances but analysed alongside these three greats so providing the reader with a reference point to seek out their respective works.

In conclusion, the author of this particular work has produced a nice easy-to-read guide on these writers, which as a teacher of English literature, I would highly-recommend to be used as a study guide in schools and universities before delving into study their classic works. In light of this, when the book is published, I will be ordering several copies for my own study groups.

My thanks and gratitude to Netgalley for allowing me to preview this book for the publisher and I wish Mr Carradice all the best in this venture.
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I am a big fan of spy thrillers and would like to one day dive into the more classical spy thrillers by authors profiled in this great work. The author has done a great job of providing a “who’s who” of these great authors. This book should serve as a great reference source for espionage aficionados.
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An excellent starting point for those new to spy novels.

The author notes in his introduction that this slim volume will cause dissent amongst fans of spy novels.  The omission of writers such as Eric Ambler, Len Deighton and Robert Harris will no doubt cause diehard fans to whinge and whine.  But this is quite a personal take on three authors whose works arguably set the tone for all that came after, and as a fan of all three, I don't disagree.

The first half of the book is essentially three potted biographies of John Buchan, Ian Fleming and John le Carre (The Triumvirate as he calls them). I'm not a great reader of biographies, so I can't say if these add anything to what has gone before, but they certainly do paint a clear and distinct picture of how three men came to sit down and write spy books.  There are regular asides and reflections to add context to their contributions to the genre.

The remainder of the book is devoted to a wider look at spy novels, and devotees will be glad to know that Deighton et al get honourable mentions.  It's a nice broad commentary of how The Triumvirate influenced those who came after.

I'd thoroughly enjoyed the book and would definitely recommend it old fans and new, of espionage novels.
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