National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 8-10.


Cooper, James Fenimore.  The Spy.  1821.

James Fenimore Cooper produced novels that became prototypes for several genres of popular fiction.  In fact, his significance as an influence in this regard has a great deal to do with the resurgence in broader critical interest in his work.

The Spy is the first notable American novel to treat the subject of espionage.  Set  during the Revolutionary War, the novel focuses on a peddler named Harvey Birch whose home territory is Westchester County, New York, a middle ground between regions with pronounced Revolutionary and Tory sympathies.  Birch establishes a persona as someone who will do anything for money, and the British soon offer him employment as a spy.  Spying for the British becomes the perfect cover for his true commitment to spying for the Continental Army.  Birch is operating under personal orders from George Washington, who is one of the few people…

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