Why do spies have such cachet in the twentieth century? Why do they keep reinventing themselves? What do they mean in a political process? This book examines the tradition of the spy narrative from its inception in the late nineteenth century through the present day. Ranging from John le Carre's bestsellers to Elizabeth Bowen's novels, from James Bond to John Banville's contemporary narratives, Allan Hepburn sets the historical contexts of these fictions: the Cambridge spy ring; the Profumo Affair; the witch-hunts against gay men in the civil service and diplomatic corps in the 1950s.
Instead of focusing on the formulaic nature of the genre, Intrigue emphasizes the responsiveness of spy stories to particular historical contingencies. Hepburn begins by offering a systematic theory of the conventions and attractions of espionage fiction and then examines the British and Irish tradition of spy novels. A final section considers the particular form that American spy narratives have taken as they have cross-fertilized with the tradition of American romance in works such as Joan Didion's Democracy and John Barth's Sabbatical.
Allan Hepburn teaches English literature at McGill University. He has published widely on twentieth-century literature and culture. He has also written for such Canadian publications as The National Post, The Financial Post, and The Globe & Mail.