Okay, How Many Of You Are There?
The answer to that question is: A LOT!
I first started looking when I played an amusing intellectual game with myself over how many I could name from memory. It was James Bond, naturally, that started this train of thought. A dozen came within an instant: Bond, Smiley, Durrell, Helm, Gall, Quiller, Man From U.N.C.L.E, and so on. Another dozen came when really concentrating: the Avengers, Hawks, Fedora, Allon, Tweed, McGarvey, Dillon, to name a few.
But when I truly started looking, my expected count of 50 was very quickly reached and exceeded. After only a short while, I had neared 100. Along the way, a couple were added but then, upon reflection, removed as not truly fitting.
At that point, I began to ponder what really qualified a series for inclusion.
The first qualifier, naturally, were actual paid agents such as James Bond, Matt Helm, Sam Durrell, and Quiller. If a guy or gal was an individual working for a nation''s Intelligence agencies, putting his or her life on the line, he or she was in.
Next came those who controlled the ones in the field, such as George Smiley, Kenneth Aubrey, and Charles Russell. Each of those may or may not have been a field agent at one time but the series were about their running the show, staying at home while others put their lives at risk. To me it was another no-brainer that those in charge belonged as well. So qualifier two was to run a spy bureau or department.
The third qualifier was a series about groups of spies. Covert-One immediately came to mind, as did Op-Center, both new as I started my research, and both dealt with collections of spies. There were others, too, and they told of guys and gals who spied for a living though the series was about the collective or the agency itself.
The last qualifier was a personal one and that was the time period in which they served. I needed a starting point and the one I chose, the end of WWII, was picked because that was the era I enjoyed. Anything earlier might be a nice change of pace but when I thought spy, I first thought modern spy. I did fudge the time period a tad to include any spy guy or gal who operated after WWII. The bulk of activity could have happened before or during the War as long as some came after.
Those were my initial qualifiers for entry into this collection.
Almost immediately, I was faced with those who didn''t meet these qualifiers but who still looked like they belonged.
Paul Harris, by Gavin Black, was not a spy; he was a businessman. Still, any list of spy series that didn''t include his tales was flat out incomplete for the things he did in furtherance of his business and the troubles he got into were every bit as intense as legitimate agents.
Philip Mercer, by Jack DuBrul, was an engineer but his travels took him all around the world and up against some pretty impressive opponents. Spies, both foreign and domestic, terrorists, sects and cults of strange leanings, all vyied for his attention and the tales were just too darn terrific to pass up.
Though hardly as compelling as the previous two, other series like The Peacemaker, by Adam Hamilton, presented a man who ran his own agency dedicated to preserving peace and taking on spies, terrorists, odd sects, etc. If a man was an agent for his own company but did the same as government agent, should it not count? And how about someone like Paul Bannerman, fantastically written by John Maxim, in which the main character, indeed most of the characters, was a former spy who wanted to be left alone but who came to life when confronted by other spies, terrorists, odd sects. etc.
So, I was seeing many absolutes and a fair number of probables. I hesitated, though, with the probables as they too easily slipped into the possibles. If a private investigator was once a spy years before but now dealt with blackmail and murder and cheating spouses, that certainly would not qualify. Labeling a character as an ex-spy would not be enough for admittance. Gray areas sometimes became light gray.
With those thoughts, I formulated by criteria for being a Spy Guy And Gal.
The series had to take place at least partially after WWII. The books had to be about a government agent, spymaster, or agency OR it had to be about a person or group that dealt primarily with governments, agents, or Intelligence Agencies in the course of the adventures.
Having laid down the law, I proceeded with my investigations. And immediately found incredibly gray areas where sometimes I would vote yes and other times I would vote no. I waffled on more than one occasion.
And with a few series, I went back and forth on who the main character was. In cases like Matt Helm, the series was about him, period. In cases like Modesty Blaise, the series was really about her but she had a companion names Willie Garvin who might have qualified but ended up not. And there were a few series like the Digburns, Ward and Sally, who were equal partners in the series and so deserved equal billing.
Which is why you will find most entries dealing with a single Spy Guy or Spy Gal. And some entries dealing with a Spy Group. And some entries which were team efforts, such as Ward and Sally Digburn.
But I still haven''t answered the question, "Okay, how many of you are there?" Here goes:
1979 is the current number of series I have logged herein.
70 deal with Spy Groups, such as agencies or bureaus. "Op-Center" is an example.
1909 deal with a small team of 2 or 3 spies in which no one character could really be considered the star. There are 1650 males and 395 females in these series. "The Hunters" is an example of this.
306 are about a single female protagonist. The perfect example here is the incomparable "Modesty Blaise".
1481 are about a single male protagonist. An example? James Bond, of course. He''s the one who got me thinking about it in the first place.
So, for totals, 1979 series dealing with 1650 males, 395 females, and 70 groups.
A lot more than my original guess of 50!
Regarding my long-winded list of guidelines as to who was admitted into the collection, I looked at the occupations of each entrant and came up with these broad categories:
Agent: Count = 1433 - these are the Spy Guys and Gals who go out into the world to fight the forces of evil, although in a couple of cases, they are the forces of evil.
Spymaster: Count = 36 - these people are the one who order agents into the field.
Agencies: Count = 67 - these series are about whole agencies or bureaus, not specific Spy Guys or Gals.
Freelance Agents: Count = 81 - this group hold the people who are agents but come to the highest or latest or quickest bidder.
Troubleshooters: Count = 9 - a cousin to the agent, these guys and gals spend their days trying to clear up problems, and are included here when the problems are international in scope.
Businessmen: Count = 9 - when a businessman finds his business involving foreign countries, especially when intrigue plays a part, that series fits here.
CEOs: Count = 15 - there are a fair number of rich people who have decided to use their wealth to fight the good fight.
Military: Count = 21 - Most series out on the market that deal with the military don''t fit here. When the series has the character dealing with intrigue and clandestine activities, they do.
Reporter: Count = 43 - If there is one occupation that sticks its nose into other people''s business as much as a spy, it is a reporter. These series are about reporters whose investigations routinely involve them with spies or shadowy government officials or nasty rebels or terrorists.
The next and final two categories I put series into are the most nebulous.
Adventurer: Count = 34 - some people just naturally gravitate towards trouble. When that trouble regularly involves governments or spies or rebels or terrorists, that series gets included. A person is considered an Adventurer by me when that person is out for adventure, even if they don''t realize it.
Other: Count = 231 - just like the Adventurer, some people just cannot stay away from trouble. When that person really didn''t want the trouble, or the excitement, he or she falls into this catch-all category.
And that concludes my number-crunching!