Free Spybooks online: An Annotated Bibliography of Ebook Espionage
By Wesley Britton
In August 2007, Spywise.net joined the list of websites offering a free spy book for download. In our case, we have available James Bond under the Microscope, the never-before-published revision of O. F. Snelling’s 1964 best-seller then known as James Bond: A Report. It’s in PDF format under the “James Bond Files” at:
While James Bond Under the Microscope is one of the few non-fiction espionage titles any reader can legitimately download for free, a number of websites offer a variety of classic novels now in the public domain. There are important yarns by the likes of John Buchan, James Fenimore Cooper, Joseph Conrad, and Eric Ambler. There’s also escapism in SF flavored adventures by E. Philipps Oppenheim and William Le Queux, as well as juvenile entertainment from both the 19th and 20th centuries. More recent titles include modern Spy-Fi as in a 2005 short story by Elizabeth Bear. And for those seeking historical facts, there’s everything from analysis of spycraft in World War I to a 2003 exploration of what the CIA did or didn’t do in Chile in 1970.
Below are lists of sources for these books and what they offer. We also include annotations for specific authors and titles when information may help guide new readers to what might be of most interest to them. In addition, we’ve added some details about any film versions adapted from the text. Much of this material is drawn from Wes Britton’s Beyond Bond: Spies in Film and Fiction (Praeger Pub., 2005) and Onscreen and Undercover: The Ultimate Book of Movie Espionage (Praeger Pub., 2006) where more in-depth discussions can be found.
Note: We’ve taken care to only include books either in the public domain or are new publications posted by authors and sites giving all readers access to their offerings. Please alert us to any potential problems so we can delete any titles in violation of any copyright law. We also welcome any additional information, including short review material for future annotations.
Project Gutenberg is an extremely valuable source of thousands of public domain titles, many long out-of-print, many hard to find elsewhere. A number of other online sources are essentially catalogues that link to Project Gutenberg’s holdings.
ManyBooks has “Free eBooks for your PDA, iPod, or eBook Reader . . . Thousands of free e-books available in multiple formats for PDAs.”
In particular, they had 39 titles under the subject category of “Espionage.” One, at least, The Pathfinder by James Fenimore Cooper, is questionable. Many are duplicates of what Project Gutenberg offers, but some are only available at ManyBooks. For example, they offer non-fiction publications from the CIA.
Diesel has a number of free titles, but they also offer many “espionage and intrigue” ebooks at very reasonable prices. Spy oriented selections can be seen at:
While holding many titles, this source is difficult to search by topic. Readers must look by title or author—all can be found doing the same with a Google search.
5. Free Books
A directory of free book sources—can search by topic including “Spy Stories and Intrigue.”
While this site claims to offer free e-books, I was able to only find listings of titles for minimal costs, so perhaps worth your time to check out. Note: most seem to come from the Romance genre.
Epitath for a Spy
2020ok.com link to the Internet Archive
From Beyond Bond:
Eric Ambler's early bestsellers included Epitaph for a Spy (1938) and Journey into Fear (1940). Both transformed the genre from heroic stories into more complex and ironic tales of corruption, betrayal, and conspiracy . . . Epitaph for a Spy, in particular, was a major turning point in spy fiction as the theme of the innocent being blackmailed into government service was introduced. In this case, a photographer was threatened with deportation back to the Communist bloc if he didn't perform what turned out to be bungling duties.
Angellotti, Marion Polk, 1894-1979
The Firefly of France
This 1918 book was made into a silent film the same year. In it, an American joined the French Aviation Corps and falls for a girl whose brother is the mysterious “Firefly.” False papers are given to the Germans to save the damsel in distress.
Baden-Powell of Gilwell, Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell, Baron, 1857-1941.
My Adventures as a Spy
Written by the founder of the Boy Scouts, this short memoir is useful for anyone interested in espionage of the First World War. Baden-Powll discusses types of agents and operations along with lively descriptions of spy adventures.
An 11 page 2005 short story by the noted SF author.
Benson, E. F. (Edward Frederic), 1867-1940
Crescent and Iron Cross
Published in 1918, historian Benson recounts events in Turkey and Armenia during the First World War.
Blasco Ibáñez, Vicente, 1867-1928
Mare Nostrum, Our Sea Novel
Spanish novel translated by Charlotte Brewster Jordan.
Brandt, Johanna, 1877-1964
The Petticoat Commando Boer Women in Secret Service
Buchan, John, 1875-1940
The 39 Steps
(All titles listed available both at Project Gutenberg and ManyBooks.net)
One of the important “Clubland Writers,” no novelist ever had as wide an influence as John Buchan. Alfred Hitchcock drew from him, and not only from The 39 Steps, the first of the four Richard Hannay novels. Buchan was certainly childhood reading for Ian Fleming and his generation. While the stories may now seem quaint and outdated, they remain enjoyable diversions for any spy buff, and contain many of the templates used in spy films and books to the present day.
The Central Intelligence Agency Homepage
The CIA offers numerous studies of varying lengths including full books which include:
Cia And The Vietnam Policymakers: Three Episodes, 1962-1968
by Harold P. Ford
Cia Assessments Of The Soviet Union: The Record Versus The Charges
by Douglas J. Maceachin
Getting To Know The President: Cia Briefings Of Presidential Candidates, 1952-1992
by John L. Helgerson
Interrorgation: The Cia's Secret Manual On Coercive Questioning
by John Elliston
Report To The President By The Commission On Cia Activities Within The United States
by United States Commission On Cia Activities Within The United States
Chesterton, G. k. (Gilbert Keith)
The Man Who Was Thursday
Published in 1908, from Beyond Bond:
While not the first spy novel some have claimed it to be, the fanciful story had more
undercover agents than most books of the era. In this case, one agent thinks he's
investigating a group of anarchists disguising themselves as anarchists because their
leader says that if anyone trumpets their beliefs out loud, no one will take them seriously.
Chesterton's spy joined the inner circle of seven scheming bombers, six of whom all turn
out to be police informants spying on each other. The evil leader was the mysterious
Scotland Yard official who'd hired them in the first place.
A surreal classic.
Childers, Erskine, 1870-1922
Riddle of the Sands
According to Michael JR Jose:
"The shock of this book on its release a century ago, set in the years of European tension leading up to the First World War, caused a sensation in Britain
by successfully analysing what in military terms can only be called Germany's increasingly 'aggressive posture'. Childers did this in a story which broke
new ground, as it is generally agreed to be the first straight modern spy thriller, even more remarkable for it being a first novel.
With exciting bluff and counterbluff, chases, and manoeuvres, always using credible military and navy knowledge and terms, his popularity endures to this
day. His two heroes are duck hunting and holiday sailing off the German/Dutch coast in the North Sea when they stumble on a plot to trial-run a massive
sea-borne infantry attack from Germany's Frisian coast (north of Holland and due east of north England). Being full of treacherous sand bars and storms,
and suspicious yachting characters and dubious wreck salvagers, this is dangerous work. With plenty of variation in pace and scenery, this storyteller
really knew his facts and captured the attitudes and conversation of his era with some style. Childers' descendents are Ian Fleming's Bond novels, and
the vast array of war novels published since."
Collins, J. E. (Joseph Edmund), 1855-1892
Annette, The Metis Spy. A Heroine of the N.W. Rebellion
Published in 1886, also available at ManyBooks.net.
Conrad, Joseph, 1857-1924
The Secret Agent
An important writer beyond any genre, Conrad’s character study of a terrorist contains themes relevant today. Twice made into a film, the most famous was Alfred Hitchcock’s updated Sabotage. Analysis of the book is at
Full text and analysis also posted at
Cooper, James Fenimore, 1789-1851
The Spy, A Tale of the Neutral Ground
The first American spy novel, Cooper’s look into the costs of undercover patriotic service is a significant contribution to espionage literature. Also available at ManyBooks.net. Criticism is posted at
Copplestone, Bennet, 1867-1932
The Lost Naval Papers
Crane, Laura Dent
The Automobile Girls at Washington Checkmating the Plots of Foreign Spies
Published in 1913, apparently one of a series including The Automobile Girls in Newport, The Automobile Girls in the Berkshires, The Automobile Girls Along the Hudson, The Automobile Girls at Chicago, the Automobile Girls in Palm Beach and more.
Cruikshank, Robert, 1789-1856 [Illustrator]
The English Spy. An Original Work Characteristic, Satirical, and Humorous. Comprising Scenes and Sketches in Every Rank of Society, Being Portraits Drawn from the Life
Davis, Richard Harding, 1864-1916
Davis was a best-selling American novelist, playwrite, and journalist who lived an interesting life, and was accused of being a spy himself during World War I. As a war correspondent, he befriended Theodore Roosevelt, helping publicize the “Rough Riders” in Cuba. The Spy is also posted at ManyBooks.net.
Dell, Ethel M. (Ethel May), 1881-1939
Rosa Mundi and Other Stories. (includes “The Secret Service Man.”)
Durham, Victor G.
The Submarine Boys and the Spies Dodging the Sharks of the Deep
Part of a series including The Submarine Boys Lightening Cruise, The Submarine Boys and the Middies, The Submarine Boys For the Flag, among others.
Futrelle, Jacques, 1875-1912
A summary of this 1909 novel is posted at:
Made into a 1916 silent movie. From Wes Britton’s Onscreen and Undercover: The Ultimate Book of Movie Espionage:
In Elusive Isabel (1916), Secret Service agent Hamilton Grimm went after a conspiracy planning to take over the world. He fell for one of the gang, Isabel (Florence Lawrence) who was deported after the gang was captured. Grimm followed her hoping to turn the bad girl good, but, well, she’s elusive.
Garrett, Gordon Randall.
Listed in the “Espionage” category at
Written by Garrett in conjunction with author Laurence Janifer (using the joint
Pseudonym Mark Phillips), this SF book was nominated for the
Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1960. More details are at:
Green, Anna Katharine. 1846-1935
The Mayor’s Wife
Listed by ManyBooks.net in their “espionage” category—questionable listing.
This 1907 novel was by one of the most prolific women writers of the 19th and early 20th centuries, a predecessor to future forensic detective writers. Her biography is at:
Gustafson, Kristian C
CIA Machinations in Chile in 1970:Reexamining the Record
This 2003 history is by a frequent contributor to the CIA’s official periodical, Studies in Intelligence. This indicates this book has both the support of the agency and that the content is likely quite credible.
Haliburton, Thomas Chandler, 1796-1865
The Attache or, Sam Slick in England
Best known for his comic 19th century “Sam Slick” novels, a biography of this Nova Scotia born satirist is at:
Haggard, H. Rider (Henry Rider), 1856-1925
Lysbeth, A Tale of the Dutch
www.online-literature.com/h-rider-haggard/lysbeth-tale-of-dutch/ - 20k -
Biographies of the author best known for King Solomon’s Mines are at:
Kipling, Rudyard, 1865-1936
For a detailed analysis of this classic, see “Rudyard Kipling's `Great Game’: Kim, Spy Stories, and `The Spies March’" posted at this website. This article also contains analysis of Kipling’s spy short stories and links to online texts of them.
Lang, Andrew, 1844-1912
Pickle the Spy; or the Incognito of Prince Charles
The Prince Charles in question seems to be Charles Edward, Prince, grandson of James II, King of England, during the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745-1746. More about the story is posted at
Le Queux, William, 1864-1927
The Czar’s Spy: The Mystery of a Silent Love
The Four Faces, A Mystery
From Beyond Bond:
. . . Le Queux wrote fiction impressing the then Prime Minister, Arthur Balfour, although later critics believed Le Queux wasn't especially literary and questionable in his factual information. But, according to Kingsley Amis, realism wasn't yet the point. In his view, espionage based on imagination rather than actual life began at the beginning of the century "with the almost completely free-lance status of a Bulldog Drummond" and William Le Queux's Duckworth Drew. Drew's early adventures were precursors to later adventures focused on new technology as when he encountered an "electronic eye," an Italian device that detonated mines. In addition, Le Queux's novel, The Great War in England in 1897 (1894 was an early example of literary speculations about an invasion of England. The Secret Service (1896) dealt with Jews in Russia, and England's Pearl (1899) was an early novel shifting British fears from the French to Germany. This fear continued in The Invasion of 1910 (1905) in which Germans wormed secrets out of shipyards, arsenals, factories, and individuals. Le Queux's later books, No. 70, Berlin (1915) and The Mystery of the Green Ray (1915) had increasingly preposterous plots.
Lincoln, Natalie Sumner, 1885-1935
The Lock and Key Library. The Most Interesting Stories of All Nations: Real Life.
(Various authors, short stories)
Julian Hawthorne edited a series of Lock and Key anthologies, most stories being detective or mystery. A table of contents for these collections is at
A 1900 novel.
Mundy, Talbot, 1879-1940
King of the Khyber Rifles, A Romance of Adventure
Published in 1916, the book was Number 3 in the JimGrim
Series. According to ManyBooks.net:
Athelstan King is a secret agent for the British Raj at the beginning of World War I. Heavily influenced both by Mundy's own unsuccessful career in India
and by his interest in theosophy, it describes King's adventures among the Muslim tribes of northern India accompanied by the mystical woman adventurer
Yasmini and the Turkish mullah Muhammed Anim.
A discussion of the 1953 film version is at:
Oppenheim, E. Phillips (Edward Phillips), 1866-1946
Project Gutenberg has 38 titles, below is a representative list. More are available at ManyBooks.net.
The Black Box
The Double Life of Mr. Alfred Burton
The Double Traitor
The Great Secret
Kingdom of the Blind
Mr. Grex of Monte Carlo
From Beyond Bond:
Oppenheim produced 115 novels and 39 short story collections, many of which were Edwardian spy stories emphasizing gambling and secret diplomacy as in The Mysterious Mr. Sapine (1898). Praised by John Buchan as his "master in fiction," Oppenheim spiced up his tales with local color in major city settings as in Mr. Grex of Monte Carlo (1915). Oppenheim was also later lauded by Eric Ambler as one of the earliest outstanding writers of cloak and dagger stereotypes including "the black-velveted seductress, the British Secret Service numbskull hero, the omnipotent spymaster," and the appeal to the snobbery of readers of the era. Kingsley Amis saw Oppenheim as a logical forefather to Ian Fleming. Perhaps the best of Oppenheim's output was Kingdom of the Blind (1917) featuring raids by submarines and zeppelins.
Orczy, Emmuska, Baroness, 1865-1947
(At Project Gutenberg)
El Dorado, An Adventure of The Scarlet Pimpernel
The League of The Scarlet Pimpernel
The Scarlet Pimpernel
I Will Repay
From Beyond Bond:
. . . Other fanciful adventures looked to the past, as in the "Scarlet Pimpernel" series penned by the Baroness Orczy (whose full name was Emma Magdalena Rosalina Marie Josepha Barbara Orzy). First appearing in a play in 1903 and then in The Scarlet Pimpernel (1905), Percy Blakeney was a brave and efficient English secret agent rescuing kindly, victimized French aristocrats from the guillotine under the noses of French revolutionaries. He was something of a Robin Hood figure in reverse, saving the lives of the rich unfairly tormented by a cold-blooded government ostensibly run on behalf of working peasants .
. . . Blakeney was a character masking his heroism behind seeming idleness and frivolity, a master of quick disguises in a series of books including I Will Repay (1906), El Dorado (1913), and Sir Percy Hits Back (1927).
The first film adaptation of the character was The Scarlet Pimpernel (1935) starring Leslie Howard. In 1982, The Scarlet Pimpernel was a British TV movie starring Anthony Andrews and Jane Seymour. In 1999, the story became a three-part miniseries (re-broadcast on American A&E) starring Richard E. Grant and Elizabeth McGovern.
From Onscreen and Undercover:
Based on the Baroness Orczy novel, The Emperor's Candlesticks (1937) starred William Powell and Louise Rainier . . . In the story noted for unrealized potential, a Polish secret agent smuggled messages to St. Petersburg in candlesticks while Russian secret police investigate as a peace treaty is in the balance.
Royden, Barry G, 1938-.
Tolkacheb, A Worthy Successor to Penkovsky. An Exceptional Espionage Operation
This non-fiction account first appeared in the official CIA periodical, Studies in Intelligence, Vol. 47, No. 3, 2003 - Unclassified Edition. Written by a former CIA operative.
Snell, Roy J. (Roy Judson), 1878-
Theiss, Lewis E.
The Secret Wireless or, the Spy Hunt of the Camp Brady Patrol
Lewis E. Theiss wrote primarily illustrated aviation adventure stories for boys, many in the “Young Wireless Operator” series. Another title was The Hidden Aerial: The Spy Line on the Mountain (Boston: W.A. Wilde Co, 1919).
Tomlinson, Paul Greene, 1888-
Bob Cook and the German Spy
Published in 1888.
Vance, Louis Joseph, 1879-1933
The False Faces: Further Adventures from the History of The Lone Wolf
Part of a very popular literary and film series. Discussed in detail in Wes Britton’s Onscreen and Undercover, a portion of that discussion includes:
While many film series began during the silent era, most were detective and not spy oriented. However, Joseph Vance's creation, the former jewel thief, `The Lone Wolf,’ got involved in at least four spy adventures throughout his on-again, off-again career. Films in this series were noted for the formula of the audience never being certain if the Wolf
would end up good or bad--but always saved by a beautiful woman.
. . . Henry B. Walthall was the Wolf in The False Faces (1919) who is given important papers to take to America. On a ship, he discovered an old foe (Lon Chaney) had become a German agent. Our Hero pretended to also be a German when a U-boat sinks the steamer. When he arrived in the states, the Wolf and his girlfriend (Mary Anderson)
defeated a spy ring.
Williams, Valentine, 1883-1946
(At Project Gutenberg)
Okewood of the Secret Service
The Man With the Club Foot
The Yellow Streak
Zitt, Hersch L, 1925-2005
A summary of this 2006 title at ManyBooks.net reads: “A coalition of intelligence officers from the US, Russia, and Israel work to reveal and defeat a complex web of deception spun by a group of nuclear terrorists-- all while protecting Operation TROIKA from rival agencies.”
Related articles also posted at
Rudyard Kipling's "Great Game": Kim, Spy Stories, and "The Spies March"
Don DeLillo's Libra: America's Best Spy Novel?
Sisters of Mata Hari: Reviews of Books on Lady Spies
Espionage Around the Galaxy: The Spi-Fi of Harry Harrison