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message 1: by Jelenie, Group founder (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:32PM) (new)

Jelenie (fivethousandbooks) | 1 comments Mod
My addiction to espionage novels started when I read "The Spy Who Came in From the Cold" by John Le Carre more than 5 years ago. It was a tight gripping novel and I was hooked.

What was yours?

message 2: by Ken (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:36PM) (new)

Ken | 1 comments Ludlum's books a long time ago.

message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

For me, it was reading both Clear and Present Danger by Clancy and The Bourne Identity in 8th grade.

message 4: by Chris (last edited Feb 27, 2008 09:47AM) (new)

Chris Corbett (flynnfann) | 1 comments My 1st was Red Storm rising, Clancy. The obsession grew from there!

More recently, I'm reading Vince Flynn, Andrew Britton, Andy McNab, Joel Rosenberg and Gordon Kent, smong others...

message 5: by Dfordoom (new)

Dfordoom | 16 comments For me it was also The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. Then I discovered Len Deighton. I think I slightly prefer Deighton to Le Carre.

message 6: by John (new)

John (godeep89) | 3 comments
I am definitely a fan of Ian Fleming Bond novels. I am about halfway through with them and there's only one that I didn't really care for. There's just something compelling to me about reading about the old fantastical spy who relies more on his wits than his gadgets (which is where Ian Fleming's Bond diverges from the movie Bond).

I also really enjoyed the Bourne series. I was disappointed that the movies did not quite capture Ludlum's story and all of its details. Again, I was compelled by how Bourne (Kane?) used his intellect and intuition to escape, evade, and capture. It was a little over-the-top in Bourne Ultimatum, but I enjoyed all three nonetheless.

message 7: by Edmund (new)

Edmund Deighton's 'The Ipcress File' was my first but I've been a big fan of John le Carre for more years than I care to remember.

message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

I think that Deighton and Le Carre are two of the best from the 20th Century. Deighton's books were an acquired taste for me. I'm glad I didn't give up on him, because I have immensely enjoyed the Palmer and Samson series. Le Carre was able to switch gears in the early 90's with The Secret Pilgrim, and most of books since then have been top-notch. Didn't care for Absolute Friends so much though, and I've yet to read The Mission Song.

message 9: by T.H.E. (new)

T.H.E. Hill (VoicesUnderBerlin) | 3 comments My first spy novel was "Dr. No" a LONG time ago. That was quickly followed by everything that Fleming wrote.

message 10: by Tien (new)

Tien (tiensblurb) Bourne Identity - R. Ludlum
& not so long ago either, so I'm pretty new at reading spy novels (well, I've only read this one & the sequel so far) but I surprisingly enjoyed it so I may pick up one again soon-ish :)

message 11: by Rob (new)

Rob | 2 comments Mine was another Ludlum book also, The Matarese Circle. Then I devoured his books one after the other. There were some duds, but generally I enjoyed his espionage novels.

message 12: by Scott (new)

Scott E | 6 comments Mine was also Robert Ludlum...the Parsifal Mosaic. I read the The Aquitaine Progression quickly after that, and then The Bourne Identity. At that point I expanded my espionage horizons...but am anxious to get back to more Ludlum.

message 13: by Robert (last edited Dec 29, 2010 09:16AM) (new)

Robert Hendry | 8 comments My affection for the genre started when I was about five years old by word of mouth from my mama of all people. She was a doctor's wife and had trained as a nurse. In 1938 she and dad went out to Egypt where he was MO to 1st Royal Tanks. They had to stay in a private boarding house or "pension", pronounced pONsion.

There was a German refugeee from the Nazi regime there who hated Hitler. He also had health problems and that is where the problem arose. My mother had trained as a dietetian, and what he ate would have done his condition no good at all. It did not make sense to her, and so she listened to what he said and there were other inconsistencies. Finally she went to see the Director of Military Intelligence to Middle East Forces, assuming they would arrest the guy.

Afficitionadoes of spy novels will know that CI work does not go along those lines. Mum discovered the hard way, as she found that she had just volunteered to work for the DMI-MEF as she was best placed to keep the guy under tabs.

On one occasion she came close to getting knifed, which she did not tell me until I was a lot older, and it frightened me when she did tell me, as having your mum knifed several years before you are born is not a good idea. Her response when the guy picked up a knife was that there was a tureen of boiling hot soup and that if he wanted to try it, then she would get him before he got her.

I have written three novels of my own, and I would have loved to slot that episode in to one of them, but it just would not fit, but it must have been a superb stand-off. She was just over five foot tall, and the guy was a big Aryan character, but knowing her, her would have got the boiling liquid in his face if he had made a move.

The authorities moved on 3 September 1939 cutting short a promising espionage career in Cairo. My mother's comment was "If the Abwehr wanted to have a spy with medical problems they ought to have hired a German nurse to advise them."

I suppose that The Riddle in the Sands came a short while after that, as it was a book a youngster could read. I have read some great espionage novels over the years, but I still think my most exciting moment was hearing about "the spy who ate the wrong meal".

message 14: by Helen (new)

Helen (helenmarylesshankman) What a terrific story!

message 15: by Malia (new)

Malia (pixieshot) | 4 comments I believe it was Brotherhood of the Rose by David Morrell. My brother and father had both read it and like most 8 year olds, I was curious. I was hooked at page one and the best part was being able to discuss the book with my family.

message 16: by Helen (new)

Helen Hanson (helenhanson) @Robert - it sounds like a scene from a Ken Follett novel!

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy . . .

message 17: by Helen (last edited Jan 12, 2011 08:26AM) (new)

Helen (helenmarylesshankman) I think my first one was The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. I must have been nine, and someone left it lying around the house. I didn't understand it fully, but I could really feel the fear and the bleakness. When I reread it last year, it blew me away.

message 19: by Steve (last edited Apr 03, 2011 11:48AM) (new)

Steve Anderson | 15 comments The Tears of Autumn is a fantastic book, Eric. I'm sure mine was The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. I was just old enough to appreciate the disillusionment seeping through it and was hooked. I'll have to read it again.

The Losing Role

message 20: by Robert (new)

Robert Hendry | 8 comments From Robert,

Thanks Helen ! The story about my introduction to the espionage world, viz my mother and the spy with the wrong diet, was typical of her, as she rescued a teen girl who was being hassled by some yobs when she was 77. She never bothered to tell us, and it was only a few day later when I was helping her with some shopping and a girl came up to us in the street and gave her a hug that I found out! I was horrified at the risk she had run, but wow!

I would have loved to use "the wrong diet" in one of my novels, but there was no way it would have fitted. There is, however a trace of her hand. She told me of the problems with the early antibiotics, some of the worst being the "Mycin" derivatives. They were common in the 1950s and had potentially severe side effects.

One of the worst was Synthomycetin (introduced 1947), which caused a few deaths. Mum was allergic to Mycin antibiotics and when I was prescribed one, she was very wary as it was known to affect close family members similarly. After the second tablet, she picked up the warning signs, so I was switched to penicillin with injections every six hours instead of tablets. I "loved it" but at least I was OK!

When my character, Lidiya Petrova, was injured in "The Admiral's Woman" deep in the Ai Petri mountains, the antibiotic the unit had available is Synthomycetin, which was standard in the Red Army into the 1980s, so I introduced the allergy factor into the plot.

Another thing she revealed to me was that on D-Day, 6 June 1944, British troops had been "given something", and it made them really bad tempered, which was bad news for the German defenders. I have never seen that in any official history, but years later I was present when she was chatting with the Director General of Army Medical Services and the subject came up. He was v reticent until she calmly named the drug.

To a kid, it was a fascinating world to be brought up in, and an unusual introduction to covert activity. I proceeded by way of real life to fiction, which is kind of weird.

message 21: by Helen (last edited Jan 19, 2011 02:35PM) (new)

Helen (helenmarylesshankman) Hi, Robert--unbelievable! I hope you find a way to write her story!

I have a lot of incredible stories in my family's history too--during World War II, my mother's family were protected by a powerful Nazi for a couple of years. This was in far eastern Poland. He would tell my grandfather when the SS were coming to round up the Jews, and he even hid them in his castle at one point.

And when I write, I turn it into fiction, too.

message 22: by Robert (new)

Robert Hendry | 8 comments Hi Helen,
If I'm preaching to the converted then no matter, but if not, for heaven sake get the stories written down. They deserve not to be lost, especially if they cast an unexpected light on what happened. There were evil monsters in the SS, but there were good decent Germans as well. My Dad as an MO in the British 8th Army tended to meet decent Germans in the Afrika Korps. Mom, as a nurse saw decent ones as POWs and some of the other sort.

Professionally, in a non fiction role, I write history, but instead of taping Mom, I was a fool and just listened to her. I threw away a wonderful opportunity and I could kick myself for it. I have put a lot of her stories on paper, but you do likewise.

Mom was a natural "saga teller", and as a kid told me stories that had been told her as a kid. One was that one of my ancestors wore armor! Sounds like something out of Walt Disney, rather than real life, and to be honest I thought it was fun but nothing more. I tracked back in the family and found a girl called Amy Stevenson,(1683-1750) and then I found who her grandpa was, Major General Richard Stevenson, and HIS WILL still exists - I was able to read it;

"I leave my bow and quiver, my arms and armor..."

This guy was an English Civil War era general. His son was constable or commander of two castles, and Amy from when she was about eight years old would have seen the garrison drilling under the eye of her Dad. He must have been an amazing guy, as he instilled in her a fierce pride in the MATERNAL line she came from, not just his own folks, as snippets came from General Stevenson's wife's side of the family.

From the documents I found,it is now clear where the stories of the armor (which in the will was spelled in the American way without a "u") came from, and it had to be AMy. I am trying to write a history of Amy and her family. With a Dad who believed in women's rights in 1700, Amy was in no way fazed by a male dominated society as other surviving papers reveal.

I've found a lot from 17th cent sources but I wish I knew more. Only problem is that this post has departed rather a long way from espionage. On the adventure side, it sure hasn't as General Stevenson actually had to appear before King Charles II in 1663, but its a long involved story.


message 23: by Robert (new)

Robert Hendry | 8 comments Hi 20 January 2011
A brief sequel to the previous post. There is a section where you can put up a short story, and I decided I would put up an account of our friend Amy from 1683, and my Mom and her run-in with a Nazi spy, as they probably help explain why the girl in my espionage novels, Lidiya Petrova is so troublesome. As I am the author, Lidiya should do as I say.

Instead it is the other way round. She argues with me. She argues with her husband, and she has even got to the stage of arguing with the Politburo.


message 24: by Elli (new)

Elli | 15 comments Don't even remember the name, but it was an Eric Ambler. And I loved his stuff! Probably still would if I were to go back and re-read!

message 25: by Gideon (new)

Gideon Asche (gideonasche) | 21 comments Obviously I am one of the authors littering this thread, looking for an audience…

But I also spent 8 years in the field during the cold war and have a story you more than likely have not heard. After several attempts to appease DOS screeners we fictionalized some details and I have publish this as fact based fiction.

If you have any interest in how it was to operate iin the dark on the other side of the wall…. This is as accurate a narration as would be allowed told.

I invite you to check out

JINNIK by Gideon D. Asche

The first 100 readers will receive a certified piece of the Berlin Wall.
author may be contacted at

Photographs from Jinnik and Excerpts are available at

I do apologize if I overstepped the limits of my participation here but you are some of the few who might actually understand what it was like in the years before the wall came down.

It still haunts my nightmares and I have to remind myself it is gone…
Jinnik by Gideon D. Asche

message 26: by KOMET (new)

KOMET | 34 comments The first espionage novel I remember reading was "A Small Town in Germany" by John le Carré in 1986.

A Small Town in Germany by John le Carré

message 27: by Feliks, Moderator (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 616 comments Mod
Gideon...your posts are fine if taken individually. We certainly wish you the best in your career. But your campaign would be more convincing if you didn't copy/paste postings from thread to thread.
Come on now.

message 28: by Feliks, Moderator (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 616 comments Mod
answer to the OP

...probably 'Tinker Tailor' at age 11

message 29: by Karl (new)

Karl Øen | 8 comments Ian Fleming's 'From Russia with Love' - in 1971...

message 30: by Mark (new)

Mark (markvanvollenhoven) | 8 comments I found the Leslie Charteris, Peter Cheyney, Ian Fleming & Eric Ambler books in my dads bookcase, he has yet to get them back. With Leslie Charteris and Fleming both I bought from my allowance the missing books.

I read the Fleming novels before I discovered the movie series, continued to enjoy them both but see them as two very different entities.

message 31: by Gideon (new)

Gideon Asche (gideonasche) | 21 comments Feliks wrote: "Gideon...your posts are fine if taken individually. We certainly wish you the best in your career. But your campaign would be more convincing if you didn't copy/paste postings from thread to thread..."

point and feedback well taken, Thx
marketing is not my strongpoint.

I'll work on that one..

message 32: by Buck (new)

Buck Jones (monsieurbuckjones) | 1 comments Just bought it, Jinnik, on Amazon. Might take me a few weeks to read since I'm going through my queue of books on my Kindle, but I liked the book description, and saw that it was awarded "Best Book of the Month" or something. So congrats ... expect a review from me sometime soon.

Nooilforpacifists (nooil4pacifists) | 20 comments Same as Karl--From Russia With Love. I might have been 11 years old. The floodgates opened after that.

message 34: by Feliks, Moderator (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 616 comments Mod
Gideon wrote: "I'll work on that one..."

Good man. We appreciate that.

Yep, a promo is more effective when it is done in 'sniper' fashion rather than shotgun; 'pinpoint' rather than 'blitz'. One author-post for his book can attract new readers...create curiosity. But too many similar-postings by the same author, risks turning readers away. Its just like when a girlfriend keeps calling you too much, y'know? :)

message 35: by Sanchit (new)

Sanchit Jain (latenightcrawler) | 15 comments I guess it was "Where Eagles dare"! I was hooked right away and cant even imagine looking towards any other genre. It almost felt i was born for reading this genre.!

message 36: by Feliks, Moderator (last edited Dec 23, 2015 10:05AM) (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 616 comments Mod
I still say 'Where Eagles Dare' (the movie) is the best action film of all time, even more so than 'Die Hard'.

People who nominate DH as best ever, are 'film n00bs'. They nominate it because its one of the few handful of action films they've ever seen, growing up. They're not pulling in data from the full breadth of cinema history.

message 37: by Paul (new)

Paul Bartusiak (infernoz13) | 28 comments My first spy novel...anyone remember the Doc Savage pulp paperbacks? Not sure they can be considered spy novels in the purest sense, but man were they fun, with great cover art. I'd hang some of those covers as wall art in my house.

I used to feed on comic books as a kid (maybe that was my first exposure to spy novels, sort of, Nick Fury-Agent of Shield, Hydra, A.I.M.), and then I came across one of those Doc Savage paperbacks. I remember consuming them one summer. Lots of fun.

I wonder how they'd hold up now? Surprised no one hasn't revived them, or that it hasn't turned into another mini-series along the plethora of other streaming options out there. Dare I wait?

message 38: by Brian (new)

Brian | 8 comments Spy who came in from the cold

message 39: by Scott (new)

Scott | 10 comments I have most of the old Doc Savage pulps (inherited) and have had a blast reading thru them and even reviewed a few. some hold up, others not so much. the word on the street is that Shane Black and The Rock/Dwayne Johnson are bringing him to the big screen.

message 40: by Hans (new)

Hans Ostrom | 3 comments I read the Doc Savage novels, too--in 7th grade. I learned later that "Kenneth Robeson" was the publisher's "house name," and that Lester Dent, a pulp legend, was the main but not sole author. It's a stretch, but a couple Holmes stories edge into espionage --I first read Conan Doyle in middle school, too. A bit later, Eric Ambler and eventually Le Carre.

message 41: by Ben (new)

Ben | 4 comments The Honourable Schoolboy by John Le Carré. This book was given to me as a gift by an older sibling way back in 1978 when I was a teenager. While I read the book I couldn’t follow it. But it did leave a positive impression on me and I vowed to return and reread it again sometime in the future. About ten years ago when I received my first kindle was also the end of a very long hiatus of not reading any fiction and one of the first I picked up was the classic Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’. Since then I have fallen in love with his books. At times I’m not sure why I am reading his work whether it’s for the story itself or his masterful use of language, or for that matter his insights into the human condition. I’ve read most of his books including all the George Smiley series and plan to return to gradually read the remainder of his canon.
Apart from John Le Carré I have read Follett’s Eye of the Needle which lacked the depth and complexity, emotional range and subtlety of Carré but an incredible achievement as a first novel of a 28-year old. At the moment, I’m reading outside the genre but will probably return to it when I finish McCarthy’s The Orchard Keeper.
Thank you for reading!

message 42: by Paul (new)

Paul Bartusiak (infernoz13) | 28 comments Good to hear there were some other spy novel readers who also delved into the Doc Savage chronicles.

As to your start, Ben, with Honourable Schoolboy, that makes me chuckle, It wasn't my first spy novel, but it was my first Le Carre. I read it on a whim after the Chicago Tribune reviewed it (but didn't indicate it was the middle portion of a trilogy). So I, like you, couldn't quite understand some of what was going on, and why some characters were spoken of with such familiarity. But, I liked its style enough to try more Le Carre, later to learn of the Karla trilogy.

Good stuff. I like hearing about the backstories and extra info, like The Rock/Dwayne Johnson doing a Savage movie, as much as or maybe more than what the actual first book was.

message 43: by Paul (new)

Paul Bartusiak (infernoz13) | 28 comments By the way Ben, I was over in your part of the world for the first time, though not as far north as you. I spent a good chunk of time in Sydney and absolutely loved it. Couldn't believe how one could walk and take a ferry and quickly be out of the city and into some great hiking. And the Blue mountains were incredible. Would like to go back some time, so much to explore.

message 44: by Ben (new)

Ben | 4 comments Paul wrote: "By the way Ben, I was over in your part of the world for the first time, though not as far north as you. I spent a good chunk of time in Sydney and absolutely loved it. Couldn't believe how one cou..."
Hi Paul. Launceston is actually in the southern island state of Tasmania! If you look at the map of Australia, Tasmania is the inverted (somewhat) triangular shaped island to the southeast. Sydney - I am familiar with. I grew up in Sydney and it was while commuting on suburban trains in Sydney I first attempted Le Carre's An Honourable Schoolboy.
Anyway, I'm finding this exchange such a pleasant relief. I was beginning to believe that I was the only human here in goodreads in the company of robot accounts. Nice to meet you!

message 45: by Robert (new)

Robert Kratky (bolorkay) | 7 comments "The Venetian Affair" - Helen MacInnes

"Thunderball" - Ian Fleming

message 46: by Paul (new)

Paul Bartusiak (infernoz13) | 28 comments Nice to meet you, Ben. Didn't think about company robot accounts, that's an interesting one. Are they robots, or just uninteresting. Anyway, I'm on GR in spurts, get real busy and am away for awhile, then I come back when I have the time.

message 47: by Ben (new)

Ben | 4 comments Paul wrote: "Nice to meet you, Ben. Didn't think about company robot accounts, that's an interesting one. Are they robots, or just uninteresting. Anyway, I'm on GR in spurts, get real busy and am away for awhil..."

Hi Paul,
To be clear, by "robots" I am refering to fake (spam-bot) accounts that have porn spam links in their profiles. Its an issue I have been raising with Goodreads for quite a while. Apologies if I wasn't clear. kind regards,

message 48: by Scott (new)

Scott | 10 comments The Day of the Jackal (if it qualifies) if not, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

message 49: by Steven (last edited Jul 26, 2021 06:02PM) (new)

Steven (stevenwsjohnson) | 18 comments Ben wrote: "The Honourable Schoolboy by John Le Carré. This book was given to me as a gift by an older sibling way back in 1978 when I was a teenager. While I read the book I couldn’t follow it. But it did lea..."

I did exactly the same myself, Ben, and literally just revisited The Honourable Schoolboy last month for the first time since my first read as a teenager in about 1982. Like you, I couldn't quite follow it, but there's a good reason for that - there were so many complex, intellectual and 'adult' concepts! I had no life experience or historical understanding and therefore no context.

My first espionage book was probably the Jack Aubrey / Stephen Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian. Equal parts 19th-century British social history, naval adventure, and complex espionage tales. And they run to 20 amazing, beautifully-written, glorious novels. I have read the series through about three times, and some individual books up to a dozen times (especially Post Captain, a masterpiece and as comfortable and warm as a feather doona).

Please do not ask me about the movie Master and Commander, which was lots of fun in itself but completely disloyal to the books' detail and subtleties.

message 50: by Paul (new)

Paul Bartusiak (infernoz13) | 28 comments Scott wrote: "The Day of the Jackal (if it qualifies) if not, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold"

D of J was a good one, I think it qualifies...and this was a rare case of the movie version being excellent, too!

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