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Near Forgotten Writers: Helen MacInnes pioneer espionage novelist

I was at grocery store Saturday and saw a a “new” Robert Ludlum novel The Janson Equation. He died in 2001. His characters live on.

Got me thinking last night with the posts about James Patterson about that book I saw.


I am thinking post death many characters go on. Spenser, Bond, Mack Bolan, Janson, Nancy Drew etc. Then I thought espionage and action is a trait some have. Then I thought about reading espionage novels in the 80s. Ludlum was my fav. Scarletti Inheritance, I loved Osterman Weekend, Parsifal Mosiac etc. I then thought of Ian Fleming and Clancy.

Yet one writer came in mind and I realized her espionage books are essentially forgotten. That was the late Helen MacInnes. I read two of them back in the 80s and enjoyed them. Also she predates Ludlum and so many others. She was one of the first pure espionage novelists of the cold war and in espionage novel one of the few women in the field.

I found this article about a librarian finding her books and writing about how she loved them. The have been republished in 2010.


The problem also with these novels is so topical they are. I know after the Berlin Wall.fell I lost all interest in reading Cold War novels. I know Ludlum characters are now present day characters, Bond has been updated. I do wonder how many readers of Bond or Bourne also read the novels writen by Fleming or Ludlum.

Its a shame MacInnes novels never got characters or stories with sequels in the present time. I never understood how a pioneer in this field (espionage genre) was a woman who had best selling novels yet this field for so many decades have been almost completely male dominated. Although I am hard pressed to name any female espionage writer or at least was a best selling espionage writer like MacInnes was. With the popularity of MacInnes you would have thought it would have been like mystery genre in which both genders have best selling novels and series. It was not. Anyone know why.


This has been always a literary mystery. Salzburg Connection is good by her.

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