Sunday Book Reviews – 03/10/19

Bookshelf books, photo by Alien Motives

Great True Spy Stories by Allen Dulles (1968, Random House)

This book, edited by the longest-seated director of the CIA, provides more than three dozen short articles about successful spy operations throughout history.

While the individual stories are written by different authors, Dulles brings the book together by providing personal anecdotes at the beginning of each piece, explaining why the piece was chosen. The stories are arranged to associate similar themes of spycraft together, allowing the reader to get a detailed look both at how successful operations are performed and how the necessary skills are able to be used in dissimilar situations.

The decision to incorporate stories from differing countries in different ages effectively demonstrates the value in successful spy work. It is not a function of nation or ideology, but rather a function of the human condition.

Best of all for the otherwise involved reader: the stories range from five to just over thirty pages, with solid storytelling. Anyone with limited time on their hands for reading can pick it up, go through an interesting tale of espionage, and put the book down until the next bit of free time they may find.

The Lost and the Lurking by Manly Wade Wellman (1981, Doubleday)

John the Balladeer was the main character in a series of stories which first appeared in the early days of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. He was a wanderer across the hill country of the East Coast, equally ready to dispense wisdom, defend himself in a brawl, or strum his silver-stringed guitar. Most of the stories contained at least references to an Appalachian folk song, and often a stanza or two.

The stories have earned love and have been collected in a few different editions. Two of the tales also formed the plotline for the low-budget film The Legend of Hillbilly John. For the most part, though, Wellman abandoned his beloved character in the mid-1960s.

With this book, Wellman didn’t simply bring John back, but he produced his first novel-length John story. It pits the wandering minstrel against first an unnaturally quiet, hostile town and then, after a bit of digging, against the devil-worshipping witch Tiphane responsible for the issues of the town.

John, nicknamed “Silver John” by publishers attempting to market the character, is ready with Biblical quotes and local folklore. It’s an enjoyable enough book on its own, but it really shines as an extension of the original stories. Anyone with access to Who Fears the Devil? (Arkham House hc / Ballantine pb) or John the Balladeer (Baen pb) is strongly encouraged to read through those before tackling this novel.

About the opinions in this article…

Any opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this website or of the other authors/contributors who write for it.

About AlienMotives 1628 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.