Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Book of Spies

"I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."

Those are the last words of Nathan Hale, possibly the first American spy, seconds before he was hanged by the British in 1776. Hale, a young Yale-educated schoolmaster, was hired by Washington and betrayed by a loyalist relative. The British military official who condemned him to death allowed him to write farewell letters to his mother, sisters, and fiancé, and then tore them up once the noose was put around Hale's neck.

Right now I'm reading a wonderful "profusely illustrated" history of espionage, Brian Innes' The Book of Spies, published in 1966. I was reading this book in bed the other night, and (as I tend to do) I fell asleep with the light on. My sister came into my room to turn the light off, and while she was in the room I bolted upright in bed and started...well, 'screaming' isn't the word, they were more like little yelping shrieks. (That wimpy noise was in itself embarrassing--I like to think if there really was an intruder I'd be able to scream properly.) Anyway, I'm pretty sure I was having a dream, a scary dream with spies in it, and for those few seconds before I woke up Kate became part of it.

Scared the bejeezus out of my poor mother!


Maggie, Dammit said...

I just wanted to let you know I finished Mary Modern tonight, and I'm struck speechless.

I even blogged about it, and I don't do book reviews.

Beautifully done. Thank you for this.

I'm off to start back at chapter one....

Kate said...

"Ah, Ah, Ah!" Shrieking like a little mouse in the clutches of a fat cat.

Brendanó said...

Sounds like someone went "meu" with all their might. I really dig those illustrations posted, could you bring that book to Galway?