WW II Spy Novels discussion

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Random Chats > Your 'BIG FOUR' WWII spy novelists

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message 1: by Feliks, Moderator (last edited Oct 16, 2014 10:33PM) (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 466 comments Mod
Newcomer to the group (David) phased his preferences this way and I thought I'd follow suit.

Let's see. I'll go with this arrangement:

#1 Ken Follett
#2 Jack Higgins
#3
#4


message 2: by Feliks, Moderator (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 466 comments Mod
bump!


message 3: by Steven (last edited Apr 08, 2017 04:49PM) (new)

Steven (stevenwsjohnson) Ugh .. tough because much WW2 fiction may not specifically be espionage-driven but will invariably include elements of the sneaky and duplicitous.

1. Alan Furst - undisputed champion. Dark Star, Night Soldiers etc are masterpieces.
2. Philip Kerr - some may see his Bernie Gunther series as a simple series of smart arse private eye first person tales, but try A Man Without Breath for a highly nuanced tale of the lengths Soviet Russia was prepared to go to misinform the world at a very strategic level.
3. John Lawton - fantastically involved tales of a well connected upper class and senior copper, Frederick Troy, son of a Fleet Street media baron and White Russian emigre and brother to a Labour backbencher cum Government Minister. Lawton is a social commentator extraordinaire and weaves a number of very complex espionage-driven stories that sit over and above his protagonist's immediate personal and professional challenges.
4. David Downing. His Zoo Station series constantly deals with the Germany-based challenges the Nazis faced dealing with internal opposition and influence. Lots of emotional stuff too. A great series.

I have a plethora of great writers at 5 but none of whom takes the Cinque D'Or. Also please forgive me if I add more this little sub-genre because having quaffed a glass or two of fine Margaret River chardonnay it is quite possible some past classics have escaped me.


message 4: by Jerry (new)

Jerry (banjo1) | 42 comments My "The Great Liars" about the events leading up to Pearl Harbor and the vast espionage and propaganda network the English had in the U.S. was named a Best Book of 2014 by Publishers Weekly.


message 5: by Feliks, Moderator (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 466 comments Mod
I'm still mulling over my answer...good stuff, you guys..


message 6: by Doubledf99.99 (new)

Doubledf99.99 | 175 comments I agree with Alan Furst have been a huge fan for years..


Nooilforpacifists (nooil4pacifists) | 16 comments Steve -- I agree with your recommendation of Furst, but I think "Kingdom of Shadows" is better than "Dark Star".


message 8: by David (new)

David Lowther (goodreadscomlowtherdavid37) | 31 comments I'm in totally in agreement with your top 4 but I'm not sure about the order. My favourite Furst novel is Spies of the Balkans. I do hope he continues writing. Just read David Downing's Jack of Spies, set in 1913/14. This shows that Downing has a long way to go before he can match the excellence of his 'station' series. I agree with the choice of John Lawton but I feel that he never quite matched the quality of Blackout in his later novels. As for Bernie Gunther, well he's untouchable as far as I'm concerned. Will Kerr write further tales of the champion cynic? Who knows. Finally I would like to put a word in for Allan Massie whose 'Bordeaux' stories which contain strong elements of espionage as well as being thrilling stories of France under Nazi occupation.


message 9: by Ralph (new)

Ralph Buddle | 4 comments Steve wrote: "Ugh .. tough because much WW2 fiction may not specifically be espionage-driven but will invariably include elements of the sneaky and duplicitous.

1. Alan Furst - undisputed champion. Dark Star, ..."


You've nailed it. There is not 5, although the pre-war guys all deserve mention: Ambler, Koestler, Greene to name 3...


message 10: by Feliks, Moderator (last edited Jan 11, 2016 11:14AM) (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 466 comments Mod
I still don't have a good answer. These names you're all mentioning are a little bit too recent for me to have encountered.

I'll have to stick with Higgins, Follett, and I suppose Alistair MaClean for the present. I should sift through my bookshelves again to see who I'm overlooking...maybe Graham Greene..


message 11: by Ralph (last edited Jan 11, 2016 11:49AM) (new)

Ralph Buddle | 4 comments I'd say there was is a key difference: Higgins and Follet are page-turners whereas the 4 Steve mentions are more in the literary category - basically Le Carre set in WW2. The additional ones I mentioned were writing before WW2 and were pioneers of the spy genre, but all more spy than war, so I may have strayed from your OP.

More in keeping to your line, I'd definitely add Len Deighton for "Bomber" alone - in fact he could be Steve's number 5 too. Just.


message 12: by Feliks, Moderator (last edited Jan 11, 2016 12:10PM) (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 466 comments Mod
Agreed (with all your remarks).

Which Koestler? 'Darkness at Noon'? That Koestler?

Ambler rocked pre-war; wish he'd written more WWII...


message 13: by Cphe (new)

Cphe I've never read Alan Furst.

Can someone please tell me if the novels require reading in order or can they be read as standalone.?

I bought The Polish Officer and Dark Star early last year as those two looked (to me) as the books that would appeal to me.

Thank you for your reply in advance.


message 14: by Ralph (new)

Ralph Buddle | 4 comments Feliks wrote: "Agreed (with all your remarks).

Which Koestler? 'Darkness at Noon'? That Koestler?

Ambler rocked pre-war; wish he'd written more WWII..."


That's the one!


message 15: by Ralph (new)

Ralph Buddle | 4 comments Cphe wrote: "I've never read Alan Furst.

Can someone please tell me if the novels require reading in order or can they be read as standalone.?

I bought The Polish Officer and Dark Star early last year as thos..."


Nigh soldiers is the first Furst (hehehe) but you don't really have to read them in order. You DO have to read them slowly though, like a good wine. Enjoy!


message 16: by Cphe (new)

Cphe Thanks for the input Ralph - I'm enjoying Night Soldiers


message 17: by Steven (new)

Steven (stevenwsjohnson) Thanks guys, for some reason I didn't see any of your responses until recently so have just caught up. I appreciate the comments. Since writing the above that I'd like to make an honourable mention of Luke McAllin The Man From Berlin (Gregor Reinhardt, #1) by Luke McCallin . The Man from Berlin is the first of three. This first novel is based on a German military intelligence officer and policeman set in Sarajevo investigating the murder of a German officer and local starlet. Not strictly only an espionage novel, it deals in the realpolitik of working in an region with a rampant fascist group (Ustase) complicating matters. Vwry well-researched. His next two, set in 1945 then post-war Berlin, are equally compelling.


message 18: by Steven (last edited Apr 08, 2017 04:53PM) (new)

Steven (stevenwsjohnson) Agree with all that David. Sadly, I think Furst has become a bit derivative of himself in his latest two outings.

I was painting some rooms in my house and listened to an audiobook of his Dark Voyages novel. Having read the book many years ago, it was a real delight to hear it, and well-narrated it was.

There was also mini-series made of the Spies of Warsaw, which was quite well-done and worth looking up.


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