chapter  4
33 Pages

One-Way Ticket: Travel, Identity and Espionage

Travel, both foreign and domestic, is a key ingredient of post-war espionage fiction. In the course of a single mission, the spy may visit a number of exotic locales across the globe using variously luxurious or exciting means to get there. Alternately, and a result of the connection between spies and cities and suburbs spies may simply make a more prosaic journey, inconspicuously making their way into London amidst the general public. Consequently, vehicles of various types shape the manner in which the spy accesses and moves through space. Mobility and speed of movement, however, have always formed part of the spy narrative in order to thrill and captivate the reader. For instance, what Brett F. Woods calls one of the ‘first true espionage novels’, J. Fennimore Cooper’s The Spy: A Tale of Neutral Ground published in 1821 and set in the American War of Independence, contains an extended sequence where the hero evades capture on horseback, an eighteenth-century organic precursor to pursuits that would later become essential components of the genre.1 A vital stage of espionage fiction’s modern development was the popularity of John Buchan, E. Philips Oppenheim, and William Le Queux, who published largely between 1894 and 1930. Le Queux and Oppenheim set a precedent by making great use of new and deadly modern technology, German U-boats in particular, looming large in the public consciousness as a result of the First World War.2 As John Atkins notes, however, these authors also included more glamorous means of conveyance such as the Orient Express and private motorcars; Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915) in particular features numerous train journeys and escapes via motorcar within its narrative.3 Buchan and Le Queux reflected the increasingly mobile nature of espionage as it turned more modern forms of transport to the spy’s advantage.