I grew up in the city of Chicago, Illinois and have always been fascinated with its history. I covered some of the real spies that the city has given birth to in a previous post. Now I’d like to turn attention to the several spy authors who have either lived in Chicago and or set their novel in the city.
In no particular order, here’s a list of every spy book or author with a Chicago connection –
Bill Granger – Granger was a Chicago newspaper reporter and columnist who wrote a number of mysteries throughout the 1980’s but is best known for his November Man series. The lead character Devereaux, aka The November Man, is a member of a secret government organization setup to keep and eye on the CIA. The first book, The November Man, became a sensation when it’s plot about the IRA attempting to kill a member of British royalty on a boat, was released at the same time Lord Mountbatten was killed by the IRA in real life.
A movie titled The November Man, starring Pierce Brosnan was released in 2014 that had little to do with either the first book, from which it took its title or There Are No Spies the seventh book in the series and the one the movie was supposedly based on. The movie was a disappointment to fans of the series but on the bright side, it resulted in the series being re-released as ebooks.
In the book series, Devereaux is originally from Chicago. The Zurich Numbers even includes some scenes set in the city when Devereaux goes back home to visit, making this series feel very Chicago.
Andrew Grant – Grant is a Brit who until recently lived in Chicago and wrote the David Trevellyan spy series. The character is a British spy working on special missions in the America. The first book, Even, is set in New York but the second, Die Twice sees the spy on the hunt for a rogue agent in Chicago.
Since this three book series he’s written a couple of stand alone novels and started a new series about a detective in New Orleans. I met him at a book signing and he seemed interested in returning to Trevellyan at some point. I’m hopeful it will happen as I really enjoyed the books.
JA Konrath – Konrath, a Chicago author co-wrote the Codename:Chandler serieswith Ann Voss Peterson. A hard cord action series, it follows the adventures of Chandler a female super spy. The first book, Spree, ends with a wild action scene at the top floor of one of Chicago’s tallest structures, the John Hancock building.
Raymond Benson – After Benson wrote The James Bond Bedside Companion, he was tapped to take over writing the James Bond continuation novels from James Gardner. In addition to writing various original Bond novels, he adapted the movies into book form and recently edited Ice Cold, a book with short spy stories by a variety of mystery authors. Benson lives in the Chicago suburbs and now writes his own original mysteries and thrillers.
Sara Paretsky – Paretsky is a Chicago mystery institution and the author of the long running V.I. Washkowski series of detective novels. She also contributed one of the best short stories to the above mentioned Ice Cold. It was autobiographical and took it’s plot from the fact that her father worked as a nuclear scientist. Paretsky is a a great person to hear speak and if you ever get the chance, take it.
Jamie Freveletti – Freveletti lives in Chicago and her original thriller series follows Emma Caldridge, a biochemist, on various adventures.
After finding success with her own books she’s gone on to write in the Robert Ludlum created Covert One series. Her first was The Janus Reprisal which was a fun thriller following in the Ludlum footsteps and her latest in the series is The Geneva Strategy.
Sam Greenlee – Greenlee wrote The Spook Who Sat by the Door was released in 1968 and told the story of Dan Freeman, a black man recruited into the CIA to show that the agency was integrated. Freeman takes the guerilla warfare training he has learned and uses it to build his own army on the south side of Chicago to disrupt the city’s racist structure and empower black Chicagoans. Greenlee worked for the government overseas and the protagonist’s frustrations over his time in the CIA is autobiographical to the time the author spent working for the US foreign service. The book’s subject matter initially scared off publishers and the book had to first find a publisher in the UK.
It was later turned into a movie directed by Ivan Dixon, the actor/director best known for his time on Hogan’s Heroes, and was so controversial at the time that it was pulled from theaters. It’s since then been released on DVD and added to the National Film Registry of significant American films.
John Jakes – Jakes was born and raised in Chicago and is a pretty well known historical fiction writer. His one true spy book is On Secret Service about spies in the Civil War and obviously Allan Pinkerton, mentioned in the previous post, plays a major role.
Derek Haas – This might be a bit of a stretch, but Haas created and is a producer on Chicago Fire/PD/Med TV shows and is in Chicago quite a bit. His book The Right Hand is a fast moving spy thriller that is a fun fast read. There have been rumors that he may cross his superspy from this book over with his assassin character, The Silver Bear, from his other book series. Haas also co-wrote the spy movie The Double with Richard Gere and Topher Grace.
Rafael Nieves – Originally created by Edward Marston, Mr. Moto was the lead character in a series of novels in the 1930’s. A secret agent for the Japanese empire he was later rebranded after the war as working for a pro Western government.
Nieves wrote a reboot of the character in the graphic novel Welcome Back, Mr. Moto. The comic is a twist on the original books with Mr.Moto now a Japanese-American spy and recruiting a disillusioned Japanese-American soldier just returning to Chicago from World War 2. The author lives in Berwyn, a suburb just outside of Chicago.
Russell R. Miller – Miller wrote the Charlie Connelly spy series about a business executive that does freelance work for the CIA. It appears to be self published but with good reviews and the writer lives in the Chicago suburbs.
John Knoerle – Knoerle lives in Chicago and has written what he calls the “American Spy” trilogy. The books follow Hal Schroeder a former member of OSS as he gets drawn back into the spy game in the opening years of the CIA.
Fred Hunter – Hunter wrote the Alex Reynolds series in the early 2000’s about a gay Chicago couple that are also part time CIA spies. The writer lived, and may still live, in Chicago.
Brad Thor – Probably the best known of the current spy writers on this list, Thor has written 17 books in his Scot Harvath series. Harvath is a special ops guy that’s always being sent off to the latest hot spot of world conflict. Thor grew up in Chicago and now lives in Nashville. The author is extremely conservative and has recently announced that he plans to run for president in 2020.
David Stone – He’s not a Chicagoan, rather a Canadian, and his name was a pseudonym for Carsten Stroud, but one of the novels in his spy series, The Orpheus Deception, features a attempted terrorist attack set at the Port of Chicago. For anyone who’s ever driven over the Chicago Skyway bridge headed to Indiana or Michigan, it was fun to see spy shenanigans set there. I enjoyed the Micah Dalton series and this interview had an interesting discussion on why the spy series ended.
Jeffery Westhoff – Westhoff’s The Boy Who Knew Too Much is a young adult aimed spy novel. The story follows a teen on a school trip to Europe who finds himself caught up in spy shenanigans. Westhoff currently lives in the Chicago suburbs and can be occasionally heard on the Spybrary podcast.
Michael Moreci – Moreci grew up in the city and now lives in the Chicago suburbs. His first spy thriller The Throwaway is coming out in June of 2018. I’ll have a interview and book review up in the next couple of weeks.
Steven Kinzler – Overthrow, is great nonfiction book about various countries overthrown by the US government, many times with the CIA leading the charge. I highly recommend it for students of history. He also wrote a book looking at the influence and power of the Dulles brothers in the 1950’s, The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War. One brother was Secretary of State and the other was the director of CIA. Between the two of them they had a major influence on world events. The author lives in the suburbs just outside of Chicago.
Ian Fleming – No article about spies in Chicago can be complete without mentioning Thrilling Cities, collection of nonfiction travel stories Fleming wrote for the Sunday Times. I recommend checking out the Literary 007 story that talks more about Ian Fleming’s visit to the city.
Though James Bond never visited the city, we did get referenced in a classic line in Goldfinger –
“Mr Bond, they have a saying in Chicago: ‘Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action’.”
Know other spy novelists from Chicago or spy novels set in the city? Please let me know in the comments!
Our look at Chicago authors will continuenext week with an interview with Michael Moreci on his new spy thriller, The Throwaway.
Further out, to close out my look at Chicago spies, I’ll look at a spy movie filmed and set in Chicago, 1989’s The Package starring Gene Hackman and Tommy Lee Jones.