(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Critic D. B. Hughes rightly credits William Haggard with “the renaissance of the spy-adventure tale.” Haggard’s suspense novels, with their political focus, their sense of realpolitik, yet their preoccupation with propriety and with correct behavior, fill the gap between earlier, romantic spy stories and the more modern, psychological ones. In fact, many critics define the Haggard novel as an erudite amalgam of the romanticism of a John Buchan and the chilling Cold War cynicism of a Len Deighton or a John le Carré. His works, tinged with satire, provide so realistic a portrait of characters and milieus that they seem like novels of manners—even romans à clef. One book had to be hastily revised on the eve of publication to disguise a biting description of a well-known extreme leftist, while another went behind the scenes in Parliament during the Six-Day War. The Money Men (1981) took on the scams of Dutch banking; the Martiny books, the fiddles of bankers, doctors, nursing homes, and politicians. The Power House (1966) openly and contemptuously satirized a prime minister actually in office at the time of publication. The latter was among the first fictionalizations of the growing influence of the Arab world and of the antagonistic diplomatic atmosphere that would necessitate détente; as such it is a significant contribution to espionage fiction. Haggard was one of the very few to have ventured into the world of ministers of state; he was best at giving the reader a sense of the inherent prejudices that affect judgment: “You could never rely on parvenus,” says one character, while another thinks, “If there was one thing he loathed it was upper-crust patronage.” Haggard’s works were published in Sweden, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, Japan, and the United States.