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Full Name: Piers Roper
Nationality: British
Organization: None
Occupation Industrial Spy

Creator: Ken Follett
Time Span: 1975 - 1976


Piers Roper is an industrial spy.

Like the more "traditional" member of the cloak and dagger business, it is the job of the industrial spy to gather information about the "enemy" that will either help the "good guys" with a leg up on the competition or will, if disseminated properly, do harm to that "enemy". For the industrial spy, however, the words in quotes are especially important because there are no good guys or bad guys. There are just competitors.

Roper is a particularly proficient spy. He has an uncanny ability to learn enough about an industry and more importantly its needs, present himself as the man able to fill that need, and then insinuate himself inside the work climate, providing value for his salary, all the while learning all the good secrets an insider could know and an outsider shouldn't.

But it takes a person able to be viciously ruthless to be a good industrial spy. To glean the information he is paid to procure, he has to befriend a varied group of "co-workers", becoming one of the them, all the while betraying the confidences he has earned.

Back in the traditional spy world, such a person is called a mole and that term is always used in a very demeaning manner. Moles are despicable, totally untrustworthy individuals. Roper is one without a doubt and he is very good at it.

Roper is probably in his late 30s and has an impressive resume and most of the places mentioned in that record of his professional accomplishments are the victims of his spying. He really works, freelance style, for a man named Palmer. Palmer gets paid extremely well for the intelligence he and his people gather and he passes a good deal of that on to those doing the work. Roper makes a ton of money at his schenanigans as a result for his deal with Palmer is that he gets whatever the victim company pays him, which is substantial, and five times that from Palmer.

One of the reasons Roper seems to do so well in his chosen profession is his desire to remain free of entanglements. He has no close friends that we learn of. He has no romantic attachments, preferring the services of lovely call-girls when the urge hits him. He stays by himself in offices filled with people because it can be rather difficult to betray friends and betrayal is what Roper does for a living.


Number of Books:2
First Appearance:1975
Last Appearance:1976

1 The Shakeout The Shakeout
Written by Ken Follett
Copyright: 1975

Becoming a valued employee at a large corporation to undermine their work and steal their secrets is what Piers Roper does very well. He is hired by one auto maker to infiltrate a competitor and he is firmly in place to pull off his coup. An alluring woman, though, might be his undoing.

2 The Bear Raid The Bear Raid
Written by Ken Follett
Copyright: 1976

Piers Roper is attacking Wall Street but he is using a young protege to do the heavy lifting while he looks into some shady actions by the Mob. This gets him wanted for murder and likely to take the fall for it, if he doesn't get killed first.


If you, on reading my About the Series section, got the impression that I was less than enamored with the character, you would be spot on. Roper, for all that he is very, very good at his job, is a sleaze - precisely because he is very, very good at his job.

Most of the spies I love so much reading and writing about work for their side in the hopes of making sure their side is on the winning end of things. The "other" side might be another country or a group of terrorists or a criminal organization but invariably they are the "others". Them versus Us. Forgetting any political bias the reader may have, the writer is clearly presenting that us versus them scenario. I like that.

Industrial spies, on the other hand, especially in the case of Piers Roper, operate in a "them versus them" environment or worse yet, "us versus us". He has no side that he is backing. He really does not care a whit about either side. Someone is paying him to spy so he spies. That is just too bloody cold for me and this from a man who has heaped a lot of praise on more than one paid assassin. (I know - it ain't logical!)

So, do I like the character? Not a bit.

Do I like the series? That is a different story. The writing is, well, Ken Follett. A very early Ken Follett who apparently does not think much of his own writing back then to be keen to get them reprinted these days. But still Ken Follett and it does not take more than a couple of pages to know that someone especially talented is crafting these tales. From the beginning of his career he has been terrific and while these earlier books are nowhere as fantastic as his later works would be, they are still good and well worth reading.

His ability to let you see and believe characters with just a few lines is superb. His skill at letting you into the thought process of the protagonist (I did not say good guy) without once bogging down the flow is remarkable. From a joy of reading point of view, I highly recommend these earlier works.

From a "you'll like Piers Roper" standpoint, not so much. If you are even a tiny bit like me, you will not care for the man. I mean, let's face it. He is a mole. No one likes moles.


My Grade: B+


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