Is it a game, a book, a television show? I suspect many of you first thought of the children’s game that parents encouraged during those long family car trips of old. Either that was popular after my childhood, or we just played other games. Truth be told, we were well occupied with reading our books on our trips up and down the East Coast to visit relatives.
Your next thought may have been the old TV show with Robert Culp and Bill Cosby or, depending on your age, the movie with Owen Wilson and Eddie Murphy. I recall the TV show fondly along with The Man from U.N.C.L.E., another spy show with Robert Vaughn and David McCallum. Yes, McCallum had a career before NCIS. The 60’s and 70’s were Cold War decades; hence the preponderance of books and shows about spies. Even The Wild, Wild West had spies as the main characters.
It was a book review, though, that caused the phrase I Spy to pop into my head. I was intrigued by the review of The Empire of Night, a novel by Robert Olen Butler, set during WWI. I discovered it’s the third in a series featuring Kit Cobb as a journalist- turned-spy. I’ll soon be searching for the first book either on Amazon or at library sales. Anticipating the successful conclusion of that search made me reflect on the many authors and series I enjoyed in the 70’s and 80’s.
Robert Ludlum was my favorite long before the Bourne Identity became a hit movie series. I read almost all of Len Deighton, John Le Carre, Ken Follet and Trevanian. My all time favorite spy novel, though, had to be Tears of Autumn written by Charles McCarry in 1975. “Spun with unsettling plausibility from the events surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and featuring secret agent Paul Christopher, it's a tour de force of action and enigma.” For years, I recommended it to everyone I knew, and when I married 15 years ago, I found a copy for my husband. He enjoyed it as much as I did, so much so, that I bought him several other Paul Christopher books. I, for some reason, have never read the others.
I've occasionally thought of picking them up off our very crowded bookshelves and digging in, but somehow I always have another book to finish first. Could that be because I’m forever buying books? Or because the McCarry books are in another room? This time when the thought crossed my mind, I followed through and took the very first in the series, The Miernik Dossier, to Charlotte for bedtime reading on my business trip. Since Tears of Autumn is next in the series, I think I’ll have to reread it, though it is rare if not unheard of for me to read a book twice. Well, let me qualify that claim; there have been times I buy a book and start reading it only to find I've read it before. That’s a hazard of so much reading.
With several more McCarry books in the house, I should be set for a few weeks. And, come January, The Americans, the FX series about Russian spies embedded in America will be back on. I see myself ensconced in my easy chair reading and then watching tales of the Cold War for weeks to come.