Spy vs. Spy
When the cold war ended and the last spy came in from the cold, it was predicted that the espionage novel would fade with the “duck and cover” films. No longer were we under the constant threat of annihilation – we were finally free from the fear of nuclear war, and our way of life seemed secure. So did the spies created by John le Carré, Frederick Forsyth, and the rest of those who so skillfully managed the genre disappear from the literary scene? The answer is a resounding no. The world, as it turns out, isn’t safe after all.
A new kind of threat emerged and the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich was where it was born. A Palestinian group calling themselves Black September took 11 members of the Israeli Olympic Team hostage and eventually killed them. Terrorism was born that dark day in Germany, and we have watched it spread throughout the world, eventually landing on our own shores.
Since that time our enemies have taken many names – PLO, Hezbollah, Al-Qaeda, Taliban, Hamas, and now Isis have grabbed the headlines, all state-sponsored terrorist groups with the expressed objective to destroy the West, its allies and its influence. In recent days Isis, a self-declared Islamic State that has seized over a third of Iraq, has boldly executed US trained Iraqi defense forces, destroyed religious sites including Jonah’s tomb, ordered the genital mutilation of all women between the ages of 11 and 46, and ordered all Christians to convert, leave or die.
In a world turned upside down a new breed of thriller writers emerged, establishing a new genre replete with 21st century characters shaped to meet the challenges of this new threat, a threat with a growing arsenal of weapons and tactics each intended to use violence against civilians. Ken Follett, Robert Littell, Robert Ludlum, and Tom Clancy took the lead in introducing us to this new era of thrillers, soon followed by Vince Flynn, Brad Thor, and of course, Daniel Silva.
Jason Matthews, a 33-year veteran of the C.I.A. who “served in multiple overseas locations and engaged in clandestine collection of national-security intelligence” arrived with RED SPARROW, turning his considerable knowledge of espionage into a startling debut.
I AM PILGRIM is the best spy novel I have read in ten years – written by Terry Hayes. The first novel by Hayes, a filmmaker with a huge resume with Mad Max, the Road Warrior, and Beyond Thunderdome to his credit, is sure to follow with many more installments.
Matthew Palmer is a twenty-year veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service, currently serving as political counselor at the American Embassy in Belgrade. His recent debut, THE AMERICAN MISSION, is a top notch political thrill ride that delves into very complicated world of central African politics.
As a long time fan of the spy novel – Matt Damon was only ten years old when I first read The Bourne Identity – I have followed the genre’s transit to its current form with more than casual observation. The new breed of thriller writer has incredible style, an authentic voice, bringing to life characters that demonstrate reckless courage in the face of overwhelming odds. I can’t wait to see what comes next!