Robert L. Duncan Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Robert L. Duncan, who sometimes used the pseudonym James Hall Roberts, wrote a new kind of spy novel, one in the tradition of John le Carré and Graham Greene, but different in its focus on international conspiracies that a persistent individual can undo. His recurrent message is that, despite seemingly impossible odds, a determined, resilient man with the courage of his convictions and a sense of right can make a difference in today’s world. His strengths are his expertise in Far Eastern history, politics, psychology, and culture, and his willingness to break traditional molds. The Q Document (1964), for example, is unique in its application of New Testament studies and scholarship on the deciphering of ancient manuscripts to an intriguing thriller plot. Duncan’s novels are regularly published in Great Britain, France, Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, Denmark, West Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Japan, and South America.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Callendar, Newgate. “Crime.” Review of Brimstone, by Robert L. Duncan. The New York Times, November 23, 1980, p. A37. Callendar praises Duncan’s novel, saying that the author makes the events credible and the adventure involved make the novel suitable for filming.

Hitz, Frederick P. The Great Game: The Myth and Reality of Espionage. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004. Hitz, a former inspector general of the Central Intelligence Agency, compares fictional accounts of espionage with actual cases. Although Duncan is not mentioned, the book provides an understanding of the genre in which he wrote.

Oliver, Myrna. “Obituaries: Robert Duncan; Novelist, TV Screenwriter.” Los Angeles Times, February 5, 1999, p. 27. Obituary of Duncan notes his mysteries, his writings as James Hall Roberts, his writings with his wife as W. R. Duncan, and his work for television, which included many Westerns.

Priestman, Martin, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Crime Fiction. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003. An excellent, all-around trove of information for the reader. Contains a full chapter devoted to the spy novel. Another chapter addresses the thriller.

Williams, Gene. “It’s Murder, They All Write.” Review of The Serpent’s Mark, by Robert L. Duncan. The Plain Dealer, July 22, 1990. Williams reviews several books that he sees as similar to those of Thomas Harris. He finds Duncan’s work memorable and suspenseful but feels he is an inferior writer to Harris.