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The Riddle of the Sands


The Riddle of the Sands


"The Riddle of the Sands" has been described by John le Carré as the foundation stone of the contemporary novel of espionage and the creation of an archetype: the smart, resourceful loner who finds himself in danger but manages to cope.

The book does indeed predict not only Le Carré's Smiley but also John Buchan's Richard Hannay, and even James Bond.

When Charles Carruthers accepts an invitation for a yachting and duck-shooting trip to the Frisian Islands from Arthur Davies, an old chum from his Oxford days, he has no idea their holiday will become a fearless investigation into a German plot to invade Britain.

Published in 1903, The Riddle of the Sands not only predicted the threat of war with Germany, but was so prescient in its identification of the British coast's defensive weaknesses that it at once influenced the siting of new naval bases.

Written by Childers as a wake-up call to the British government to attend to its North Sea defenses, The Riddle of the Sands accomplished that task and has been considered a classic of espionage literature ever since, praised as much for its nautical action as for its suspenseful spy-craft.

As Childers's biographer Andrew Boyle noted: "For the next ten years Childers's book remained the most powerful contribution of any English writer to the debate on Britain's alleged military unpreparedness".

It was a notable influence on Ken Follett, who described it as "an open-air adventure thriller about two young men who stumble upon a German armada preparing to invade England."

ROBERT ERSKINE CHILDERS  (1870–1922), was the author of The Riddle of the Sands and an Irish nationalist who smuggled guns to Ireland in his yacht Asgard. The authorities of the nascent Irish Free State executed him during the Irish Civil War when he was but 52 years old.

"The Riddle of the Sands was the first modern thriller."
-Ken Follet


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