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American Spy: a Cold War spy thriller like you've never read before

Lauren Wilkinson



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01 May 2019
Fiction & Literature; Thriller & suspense

My most important secret--and this is how I met my sons' father--is that I was once a spy.

It's 1986, the heart of the Cold War, and Marie Mitchell is an intelligence officer with the FBI. She's brilliant and talented, but she's also a black woman working in an all-white boys' club, and her career has stalled with routine paperwork--until she's recruited to a shadowy task force aimed at undermining Thomas Sankara, the charismatic, revolutionary president of Burkina Faso, whose Communist ideology has made him a target for American intervention.

In the year that follows, Marie will observe Thomas, seduce him, and ultimately, have a hand in the coup that will bring him down. But doing so will change everything she believes about what it means to be a spy, a lover, and a good American.

Inspired by true events--Thomas Sankara is known as Africa's Che Guevara, but his story is not widely known in the United States--this novel is sweeping historical fiction with an enthralling espionage thriller at its core, and introduces a powerful new literary voice.

'This unflinching debut combines the espionage novels of John le Carre with the racial complexity of Ralph Ellison's INVISIBLE MAN' Publishers Weekly
'With unforgettable characters, it's a stunning book, timely as it is timeless' Paul Beatty, Winner of the 2016 Man Booker Prize
'Like all great novels, this one teaches us most about ourselves and our values' Sara Novic, author of GIRL AT WAR
By:   Lauren Wilkinson
Imprint:   Orion
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 234mm,  Width: 154mm,  Spine: 26mm
Weight:   380g
ISBN:   9780349700991
ISBN 10:   0349700990
Pages:   304
Publication Date:   01 May 2019
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Lauren Wilkinson grew up in New York City and lives in the Lower East Side. She earned her MFA in Fiction and Literary Translation from Columbia University and has taught writing at Columbia and the Fashion Institute of Technology. She has received writing fellowships from the Center for Fiction and the MacDowell Colony, and her fiction has appeared in Granta.

Reviews for American Spy: a Cold War spy thriller like you've never read before

Blending fact and fiction, this intelligent and fresh take on the spy genre tackles race, loyalty and American politics * Sunday Times Crime Club (Crime books of the year) * Often, spy thrillers evoke familiar comforts, if also images of dusty covers and yellowed pages. But Lauren Wilkinson, while returning to a classic era (the Cold War), manages to reinvigorate the genre by following a character we haven't seen before * TIME * Unusual and fast-paced * The Times (Best thriller books of 2019) * Sexism and racism complicate Cold War and familial secrets in this unusual and fast-paced debut * The Times (Best Thriller Books of 2019) * Lauren Wilkinson reclaimed the espionage thriller with her gripping, pawky American Spy, which has an African-American heroine instead of the usual posh, white men * Telegraph (Best crime novels and thrillers to buy for Christmas) * Spy fiction plus allegory, and a splash of pan-Africanism. What could go wrong? As it happens, very little. Clever, bracing, darkly funny and really, really good -- Ta-Nehisi Coates Wilkinson paints a convincing and lively portrait of this fascinating real-life figure . . . [American Spy is] a fine thriller, thoughtful and drily witty, richly textured and, when required, pacy and very exciting * Telegraph * An often challenging but rewarding read that'll keep you taut and on your toes from a range of angles * Sunday Sport * An extraordinary debut . . . a truly impressive, suspenseful bit of work * The Tablet * This unflinching debut combines the espionage novels of John le Carre with the racial complexity of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man * Publishers Weekly * [A] romantically offbeat mix of fiction and fact * Peterborough Evening Telegraph * [In] this genre-defying novel . . . Marie's journey into the moral and spiritual morass of espionage is inventive . . . Unlike the heroes of John Le Carre's novels, Marie must also grapple with the cognitive dissonance of serving a country in which she is regarded as a second-class citizen * Vulture (Best Books of 2019 So Far) * American Spy is unusual, intelligent, compassionate and thoroughly original * Shots magazine * Written with considerable grace and insight, this is a remarkable and groundbreaking spy thriller * Irish Independent * A smart page-turner that gives the genre a welcome shot in the arm * The i * This is a true thriller of a read from Lauren Wilkinson * Pride Magazine * Lauren Wilkinson's debut, American Spy, is a spy novel with a difference. Wilkinson brilliantly recreates the confusions, anarchy and self-contradiction of the US's clandestine involvement in African affairs * Irish Times * A most unusual espionage story . . . An exciting historical thriller is combined with a novel about whether a black woman can be a 'good American' as well as true to herself * Morning Star * The endurance of the Mitchell family is inspiring, and their portrayal is vivid and sound. With American Spy the plot is gentler than other books you may read under the espionage genre. This serves as an effective and thoughtful book tackling less James-Bond style action, instead focusing on the more grounded issues of gender and racial divisions that still exist today * Magic FM (Book club) * American Spy is by turns suspenseful, tender, and funny, always smart and searingly honest. Lauren Wilkinson renders the world of spies with vivacity and depth, and shines a penetrating light on what it's like to be a black woman in America. But like all great novels, this one teaches us most about ourselves and our values * Sara Novic, author of Girl at War * Lauren Wilkinson reminds us of a less-covered side of the Cold War with her debut set in 1986 Africa. FBI agent Marie Mitchell is stationed in Burkina Faso, and when she's assigned to shadow Thomas Sankara, 'Africa's Che Guevara,' the personal, political and professional collide for her in unforgettable ways * Washington Post * A gutsy new thriller . . . challenging boundaries is what brave fiction does, and Wilkinson proves confident enough to carry it off * New York Times * For the novel's engaging intelligence and serious reckoning with the world's postwar order, Wilkinson deserves the comparisons to John le Carre she's already receiving. But in bringing a virtually unheard-from fictional viewpoint to espionage literature, she has reinvigorated the genre * Time * Mitchell is an engaging, complex protagonist: feisty and brave but also vulnerable. The story is told in the first person; Wilkinson takes us inside Mitchell's head, which is an interesting place to be. The scenes of New York and African life are sharply observed, the narrative often lyrical. This is an impressive debut, with a multi-faceted and engaging protagonist * Financial Times * So much fun... Like the best of John le Carre, it's extremely tough to put down * NPR * The genre-breaking spy story . . . If this isn't made into a film/HBO series then there's something wrong with the world. Written with verve and detail, this is a fantastic thriller that explores the black experience in Reagan's America, the personal vs political of serving your country and just who is on the side of righteousness * Stylist * It might seem hyperbolic to say that this book is riveting and thrilling from the very first page, except that it totally is. . . . It's a refreshing take on an espionage story . . . that's sexy and suspenseful in equal measure * Marie Claire * An intelligent and propulsive debut tackles issues of politics, race, gender and moral ambiguity in a tale of espionage that moves between black FBI agent Marie Mitchell's 1960s New York childhood, her involvement in the 1987 Burkina Faso coup d'etat as a CIA operative and her retreat to Martinique in 1992 * Guardian * Echoing the stoic cynicism of Hurston and Ellison, and the verve of Conan Doyle, American Spy lays our complicities-political, racial, and sexual-bare. Packed with unforgettable characters, it's a stunning book, timely as it is timeless * Paul Beatty, Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Sellout * If your idea of a cold war thriller is a 'white saviour' hero with conservative values rescuing the world from the Soviet menace, think again: American Spy, Lauren Wilkinson's intelligent and pacy debut set against the background of a real coup d'etat, injects new life into this tired formula . . . this is a complex, powerful story of divided loyalties, double consciousness and moral ambiguity * Guardian * A novel that will snatch your summer away. There has never been anything like it, and not because of the Black female spy telling the story, but the kind of story it is: espionage thriller, African political drama, wild romance and doomed family epic -- Marlon James * GQ * Wilkinson paints a convincing and lively portrait of this fascinating real-life figure. A non-privileged protagonist in this poshest of genres is rare enough to make that the USP, but by any standards this is a fine thriller, thoughtful and dryly witty, richly textured and, when required, pacy and very exciting * Daily Telegraph * This debut gives a distinctive spin on the spy novel . . . A compelling read * Mail on Sunday * A fresh perspective. Marie Mitchell, a black female spy, goes on a mission to track down Thomas Sankara, the African Che Guevara, and has to choose between love, her family and her country * Sunday Times * American Spy updates the espionage thriller with blazing originality * Entertainment Weekly * A whole lot more than just a spy thriller, wrapping together the ties of family, of love and of country -- Barack Obama

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