Guest Blogger John Knoerle: ‘Why I Love (and write) Spy Thrillers’

We have a wonderful guest post for you today by John Knoerle, author of the new spy fiction, A Despicable Profession: Book Two of the American Spy Trilogy (Blue Steel Press). You can visit his website at

Why I Love (and write) Spy Thrillers

by John Knoerle

Tension and conflict are the two drivers of good fiction. Which is why cops and private detectives are so over-represented in books. Tension and conflict are part of their job description.

But consider the spy. Who experiences more tension on a daily basis than an espionage agent in enemy territory pretending to be someone he’s not? So why then are there fifty police procedural and private eye novels published for every one spy thriller? Give or take a few.

Two reasons, in my humble opinion. To make a spy story credible the author, and reader, need some esoteric knowledge – of geopolitics and espionage tradecraft. A police or PI book has a lower bar of entry. A spy novelist may have to explain that a cut-out is a third person who acts as a conduit between an agent and his handler but a writer of police procedurals never has to explain what a stakeout is.

I think the second reason spy novels are relatively rare is the more crucial one. If we accept that tension and conflict are the two drivers of a good story, conflict is more readily available to the crime storyteller. A cop or private dick can engage in violent confrontation when the circumstances warrant. If they survive, it’s no harm, no foul.

Not so for an undercover agent. Violent conflict brings with it attention from the authorities. Even if an agent survives a violent encounter he risks blowing his cover, which makes him useless. So spies, despite the James Bond stereotype, go to great lengths to avoid bloody conflict. Which makes writing a true-to-life spy thriller quite difficult.

Then why the heck bother, you might ask. My answer is simple. The greater the challenge, the greater the sense of satisfaction when the deed is done!

John Knoerle was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1949 and migrated to California with his family in the 1960s. He has worked as a stand-up comic, a voiceover actor and a radio reporter. He wrote the screenplay for “Quiet Fire,” which starred Karen Black and Lawrence Hilton Jacobs, and the stage play “The He-Man Woman Hater’s Club,” an LA Time’s Critics Choice. John also worked as a writer for Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion.”

Knoerle’s first novel, Crystal Meth Cowboys, published in 2003, was optioned by Fox TV. His second novel, The Violin Player,won the Mayhaven Award for Fiction. Knoerle is currently at work on The American Spy Trilogy. Book One, A Pure Double Cross, came out in 2008. Book Two, A Despicable Profession, was published in August of 2010.

John Knoerle currently lives in Chicago with his wife, Judie.


1 Comment

Filed under Guest Bloggers

One response to “Guest Blogger John Knoerle: ‘Why I Love (and write) Spy Thrillers’

  1. This is a great book. I highly recommend it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s