In Dan Simmons’s The Crook Factory, which is out in paperback on February 5th, Ernest Hemingway assembles an espionage ring from an unlikely team of misfits in order to root out Nazi infiltrators in Cuba. Though this storyline is, regrettably, a work of fiction, there are plenty of writers who really were spies. Some of our favorites include:
Oh yes, the man who brought us Faustus was also a spy. And his mysterious death at 29 raises all sorts of questions: was his fatal stab wound the result of a bar brawl? Or an assassination by the Elizabethan state? I highly recommend you listen to this BBC podcast for more on Marlowe.
The author of The Quiet American, The Third Man, and Our Man in Havana (among many other excellent novels) was recruited by his sister into the M16, resulting in a posting to Sierra Leone during the Second World War.
Burgess did cipher work for British Army intelligence in Gibraltar during World War II before penning A Clockwork Orange in 1966. Perhaps there lies something encrypted in lines like “The trombones crunched redgold under my bed, and behind my gulliver the trumpets three-wise silver flamed”?
John le Carré
For starters, John le Carré is a nom de plume. The novelist’s real name is David Cornwell, and he worked for the British Intelligence during the Cold War. His assignments included interrogating people who crossed the Iron Curtain to the West and spying upon far-left groups for information about Soviet agents.
The author of Shadow Country and founder of The Paris Review admitted that the CIA has had some involvement with the literary magazine—but how much is still the cause of much speculation. George Plimpton has stated that Matthiessen founded The Paris Review as a cover for his CIA operations.
Let’s not forget about the ladies. Rimington was appointed director general of the M15 in 1992, making her the first woman to hold the post. Her novels frequently highlight the conflict between the M15 and the M16, for those of you who thrill to the drama of British bureaucracy.
Still, nothing beats the thought of Papa battling Nazi spies in Cuba. If you feel the same way, preorder The Crook Factory from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Indiebound | Other Retailers