The First Spy Novel

Industrial Spy Stuff – The First Spy Novel

ImageThe word spy has it’s origins in Old French, espie, meaning ‘to watch’. Espionage also has it’s origins in Old French, espionner, meaning ‘to spy’.

The first spy novel, The Spy, A Tale of the Neutral Ground, was written and published in 1821. It is the second book written by James Fenimore Cooper whose most famous work is The Last of the Mohicans. It is the story of Harvey Birch, considered a loyalist, but is actually a spy for George Washington.

Cooper’s first book, Precaution, is the result of encouragement from his wife to write something better than the available books (1820). The critics claim Precaution is unpatriotic because of scenes and characters from other countries.

Determined to set the record straight on his patriotism, Cooper wrote The Spy. It is a big Imageliterary gamble for the time. Most people do not want to admit spy activities are necessary. Considering the small population of America and the communication systems of the1820’s, it achieves a high market penetration and is very successful. It is re-published in 1997.

Harvey Birch is a peddler living with his father, John, and a housekeeper in Westchester County, New York. The county is considered neutral ground between the British troops and Loyalist in Manhattan, and the American rebels up the Hudson River. Birch is considered a Loyalist by the British and has access to British intelligence; He is thought to be a traitor by most Americans. Only a few people know that Harvey Birch is actually a master spy. Birch’s handler is the aristocrat Mr Harper, who reports to General George Washington.

ImagePatrick Killough’s review recommends “Just open it, Start reading . . . do not peruse any scholarly prefaces or notes before you unravel the yarn for yourself. 

The Spy has reviewer ratings of 2.8 to 5 out-of-five.

The Spy has been published in hard copy, paperback, comic book series, audio book, ebook, and a play. It is available at any reputable bookstore. (Not intended as a book review.)

by: Leo N Ardo

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