Meet the Best American Spy Writers of the Modern Era

best American spy writers

On this 4th of July, let's celebrate four of the best American spy writers working today!

Let me introduce you or maybe reacquaint you with the best American spy writers of the modern era. Most of you know my preference is for the more cerebral, realistic spy book rather than a shoot em up. These top American writers are giving the British spy writers a run for their money!

Dan Fesperman
David McCloskey
Paul Vidich
Joseph Kanon

If you're new to their work, here are my best American spy writer book recommendations:

1️⃣ Dan Fesperman – The Double Game. A true love letter to the spy genre. A story about spies and their secrets, fathers and sons, lovers and fate, duplicity, and loyalty, The Double Game ingeniously taps the espionage classics of the Cold War to build a spellbinding story. This book was featured in David Clark's recent Dead Drop 5 episode on the Spybrary Spy podcast.


From the acclaimed author of Layover in Dubai—the story of a journalist’s journey to Vienna, Prague, and Budapest in search of the truth about a spy-turned-novelist’s decades of dark secrets…

“As fiendishly clever a spy story as you could hope for…. A guaranteed delight for any espionage fan.” —The Seattle Times

A few years before the fall of the Berlin Wall, spook-turned-novelist Edwin Lemaster reveals to up-and-coming journalist Bill Cage that he’d once considered spying for the enemy. For Cage, a fan who grew up as a Foreign Service brat in the very cities where Lemaster set his plots, the story creates a brief but embarrassing sensation.

More than two decades later, Cage receives an anonymous note hinting that he should have dug deeper. Spiked with cryptic references to some of his and his father’s favorite old spy novels, the note is the first piece of a puzzle that will lead Cage back to Vienna, Prague, and Budapest in search of the truth, even as he discovers that the ghosts of Lemaster’s past eerily—and dangerously—still haunt the present. As the suspense steadily increases, decades of secrets begin to unravel….SEE LESS

2️⃣ David McCloskey's debut novel – Damascus Station, is a gem that has garnered high praise from Spybrary listeners. In fact, I offered to refund any dissatisfied listeners if they did not enjoy it. I knew my money was safe! I can't wait for his second book which is due out later this year!!!

Best American Spy Writers

A CIA officer and his recruit arrive in war-ravaged Damascus to hunt for a killer

CIA case officer Sam Joseph is dispatched to Paris to recruit Syrian Palace official Mariam Haddad. The two fall into a forbidden relationship, supercharging Haddad’s recruitment and creating unspeakable danger when they enter Damascus to find the man responsible for the disappearance of another American spy. But the cat-and-mouse chase for the killer soon leads to a trail of high-profile assassinations and the discovery of a dark secret at the heart of the Syrian regime, bringing the pair under the all-seeing eyes of Asad’s spycatcher, Ali Hassan, and his brother Rustum, the head of the Republican Guard.

Set against the backdrop of a Syria pulsing with murder, fear, and rebellion, and drawing on real events and authentic CIA tradecraft, Damascus Station is a gripping thriller that offers a textured portrayal of espionage, love, loyalty, and betrayal in one of the most difficult CIA assignments on the planet.

Best American Spy Writers

3️⃣ Joseph Kanon – Defectors. Kanon is a master at transporting readers to historical eras and destinations, and “The Defectors” is a prime example. Kanon's meticulous research and captivating storytelling will make you feel like you're living the espionage life yourself.

The bestselling author of Leaving Berlin and Istanbul Passage “continues to demonstrate that he is up there with the very best…of spy thriller writers” (The Times, UK) with this “fascinating” (The Washington Post) novel about two brothers bound by blood but divided by loyalty.

In 1949, Frank Weeks, agent of the newly formed CIA, was exposed as a Communist spy and fled the country to vanish behind the Iron Curtain. Now, twelve years later, he has written his memoirs, a KGB- approved project almost certain to be an international bestseller, and has asked his brother Simon, a publisher, to come to Moscow to edit the manuscript. It’s a reunion Simon both dreads and longs for.

The book is sure to be filled with mischief and misinformation; Frank’s motives suspect, the CIA hostile. But the chance to see Frank, his adored older brother, proves irresistible. And at first Frank is still Frank—the same charm, the same jokes, the same bond of affection that transcends ideology.

Then Simon begins to glimpse another Frank, capable of treachery and actively working for “the service.” He finds himself dragged into the middle of Frank’s new scheme, caught between the KGB and the CIA in a fatal cat and mouse game that only one of the brothers is likely to survive.

“A finely paced Cold War thriller with [Kanon’s] usual flair for atmospheric detail, intriguing characters, and suspenseful action” (Library Journal), Defectors takes us to the heart of a world of secrets, where even the people we know best can’t be trusted and murder is just collateral damage.

4️⃣ Paul Vidich – The Mercenary. Step back into the Cold War era with Vidich's “The Mercenary.” This novel embodies the grand tradition of Cold War spy fiction! This was my first Vidich, and on finishing it immediately bought up his back catalog of books.
What are your favourite books written by these authors? And which US writer do you see joining them next year?

From acclaimed spy novelist Paul Vidich comes a taut new thriller following the attempted exfiltration of a KGB officer from the ever-changing—and always dangerous—USSR in the mid-1980s.

Moscow, 1985. The Soviet Union and its communist regime are in the last stages of decline, but remain opaque to the rest of the world—and still very dangerous. In this ever-shifting landscape, a senior KGB officer—code name GAMBIT—has approached the CIA Moscow Station chief with top secret military weapons intelligence and asked to be exfiltrated. GAMBIT demands that his handler be a former CIA officer, Alex Garin, a former KGB officer who defected to the American side.

The CIA had never successfully exfiltrated a KGB officer from Moscow, and the top brass do not trust Garin. But they have no other options: GAMBIT's secrets could be the deciding factor in the Cold War.

Garin is able to gain the trust of GAMBIT, but remains an enigma. Is he a mercenary acting in self-interest or are there deeper secrets from his past that would explain where his loyalties truly lie? As the date nears for GAMBIT’s exfiltration, and with the walls closing in on both of them, Garin begins a relationship with a Russian agent and sets into motion a plan that could compromise everything.

What do you think of Spybrary Host Shane Whaley's picks?

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