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September 08, 2006



It's a list, so of course there will be omissions, but I question any attempt at categorizing the best spy novels that doesn't include Ross Thomas, Trevanian, Charles McCarry and Robert Littell.

Steve Allan

Totally agree with you on Goldman's Marathon Man. I love that book.


Missing out Robert Littell is a sin, as is David Morrell and putting in one of Flemings weakest books plain silly -

Some good books but some serious errors


 Elaine Flinn

Trevanian for sure. And so pleased to see Gayle on the list!

Steven Axelrod

There are several striking omissions in this list, and several anomalies. The Bourne Identity and The Day of The Jackal are about assassins, not spies. Writers as diverse as Alan Furst, Eric Ambler and Ian Fleming didn't make the cut. I include Fleming because The Spy Who Loved me involves no spying - Bond foils some American thugs trying to burn down a motel for the insurance money. But far more irritating is the absence of LeCarre's best books -- the Smiley novels and A Perfect Spy. The worst omission though, are the brilliant, and compulsively readable trilogies by Len Deighton:
Game Set and Match; and Hook Line and Sinker (Full titles of the six novels: Berlin Game, Mexico Set, London Match; Spy Line, Spy Hook, Spy Sinker)For anyone interested in the cold war, these books are essential. He wrote another lesser trilogy to follow the first two: Faith Hope and Charity. There also a tenth book, Winter, that details the antecedents of various characters. They deserve the extra scrutiny -- they are fascinating, infuriating, amusing people, and the ultimate theme of the books -- beytrayal in every form, remains and will always remain pointedly relevant.
Great stuff. These books should be on the top of the list, not left off of it.


If the list is going to include assassins and not strictly spies, then I would vote Barry Eisler on the list.

Ali, I love what you said about Ian Fleming. I whole-heartedly agree.

I like Gayle Lynds on the list, too. :-)


In my opinion, the all time best book to movie adaptation was THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR from James Grady's Six Days of The Condor. Grady has a new book called MAD DOGS that "launches from the CIA's secret insane asylum for unhinged agents. Five former CIA agents, dependent on meds, are forced to break out when somebody murders their psychiatrist." I just got it and can practically see the movie as I read it.


Doesn't anyone remember William Haggard ?

Chris nnadi

This novel is the best I ever read. I recommend this novel to all the police detective.

Chris Nnadi, Enugu state, Nsukka, Nigeria

The day of the Jackal is a master piece. It is a novel that will keep you all night untill your boss starts knocking on your door. Read it. Watch the film. It's a must read and watch.

Chris Nnadi, Enugu state, Nsukka, Nigeria

The day of the Jackal is a master piece. It is a novel that will keep you all night untill your boss starts knocking on your door. Read it. Watch the film. It's a must read and watch.


Many years ago, I read a trilogy about a spy or political hit man, or something like that. The only thing I remember is that the main character drank Bacardi Cocktails as HIS drink. I cant remember the author or the titles, though I would love to find them and see if there were more written about this character. Any thoughts????

Fred Becker

A great list and additions; Brian Freemantle belongs on the list for his Charlie Muffin series.


@dancgrl: you wouldn't be talking about Barry Eisler's "Rain" novels would you? (Professional hitman John Rain)

Either way - it's a great series.


What about Robert Littel's The Company? Nelson DeMille's The Charm School?

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In an interview with Charlie Rose, Alan Furst rated W. Somerset Maugham' novel "Ashenden or: the British Agent" as the all time best spy novel.
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David J. Montgomery is a writer and critic specializing in books and publishing. He is an emeritus columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and The Daily Beast, and has also written for USA Today, the Washington Post, and other fine publications. A former professor of History, he lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and two daughters.

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