M.Hartland, The Year of the Scorpion
Michael Hartland was an “insider” having worked in “the business” before he became a spy writer. His novels capture the action and adventure side of the tradition and are often set in far-flung places. This edition is one of only 75 numbered and signed copies in a special binding with an appreciation by Eric Homberger and Ted Allbeury.
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Michael Hartland published his first spy fiction book Down Among the Dead Men in 1983. He wrote five novels which bring together the older espionage tradition (Buchan, Sapper, Ambler) of danger, capture, torture and escape from evil powers to the moral ambiguity and sensitivity the post-60s le Carre, Deighton and Allbeury school of Realpolitik. Hartland applied to join GDHQ Cheltenham in his final year at Cambridge and worked with the legendary Hugh Alexander. The latter broke the German codes in the Second World War. This was at a time of great international tension – the Cuban missile crisis, and tension in the Far East over Mao’s designs on Taiwan. Subsequently, Hartland worked in others branches of the intelligence service such as counter-terrorism and finally worked in the diplomatic corp. His books are admired for the authenticity and the clever combination of thriller elements and depth of compassion for his characters – particularly spy chief David Cable (based on Alexander) and his daughter Sarah, who has reoccurring doubts about her suitability to be a good intelligence officer.
The Year of the Scorpion (1991) is set in the near future on the fringe of British influence at Hong Kong station. Sarah is sent on a mission to discover the mole and aid the October Tenth underground democratic movement in Communist China. It is a tale of intrigue and cat and mouse tactics as Sarah must avoid the enemies traps as she moves to her goal. For this edition Eric Homberger (author of a study on John Le Carre) was asked to place Hartland in the spy writing tradition and Ted Allbeury, one of the most experienced real spy writers also did an appreciation.