The Spy is one of James Fenimore Cooper's masterworks: the first acknowledged espionage novel. A combination of romance, adventure, and morality, this classic tale of the American Revolution is an eloquent opening for Cooper's great wilderness tales.
Published in 1821 and peopled with memorable characters, some of them real life heroes like George Washington, The Spy is a blend of fact and historical fiction, constructed on a magnificent scale.
While the stories of Nathan Hale, Benedict Arnold and John Andre held sway in histories of the revolution, the premise of espionage had not yet been examined in fiction.
Cooper sought to exploit this situation by, for the first time, casting an American spy, Harvey Birch, a supposed loyalist who actually is a spy for George Washington, disguised as 'Mr. Harper,' as the protagonist of a novel.
Thereafter, Cooper's fictional context shifted public opinion toward viewing espionage as a patriotic duty, and seeing the spy in an entirely new light: the unsung hero.
The Spy brought Cooper fame and wealth, and is regarded as the first great success in American fiction.
JAMES FENIMORE COOPER (1789-1851) is considered by many to be America's first great novelist. His most popular work, The Deerslayer, has remained one of the most widely read novels throughout the world, greatly influencing the way many cultures have viewed both the American Indians and the frontier period of U.S. history. Eventually, he published 32 novels, as well as travel books and histories. Cooper invented the genre of nautical fiction, and in the figure of Nathaniel or "Natty" Bumppo, he gave American fiction its first great hero.
“James Fenimore Cooper was the first great American novelist.”
—A. B. Guthrie