Spy Fiction: A Coinnoisseur's Guide, UK First Edition paperback, 1990
This book has two elements: a reference guide to major spy fiction thriller writers in the English language including a critical analysis by the authors, and a number of chapters offering deeper textual interpretations of key examples of the genre. The writers tread familiar ground - and don't really add much new analysis in point of fact, despite the section title - but we do find out from reading the text some interesting US reactions to the unnamed spy novels.
Why it's interesting
The most interesting element is the focus on the Game, Set and Match series of books, which were contemporary with this book. The success of the series is put down to Deighton's sharp narratives filled with the smallest of details; the authors quote one US reviewer who correctly pointed out that Berlin Game had re-invigorated the spy genre, that it was 'a book to strip away the age-withered, custom-staled betrayals of all that quarter century of novels, perhaps even of history, and once again make painful, real, alive the meaning of treason.' The bureaucratic in-fighting and laggardness intrinsic to the trilogy is, the author's conclude, not a laboured ingredient just added haphazardly to the plot. The sense of humour Deighton imbues the story with is, they argue, also important for a genre which does tend to take itself seriously.
'Deighton's prose is elliptical. It needs to be sipped slowly to be appreciated, rather like Yellow Chartreuse.'