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The Rebels Of Spy And Suspense

These nine mystery writers didn't just write fantastic novels - their lives and personalities are also as big as their work.

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Gérard de Villiers

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The Insider: Spies, ambassadors, and even presidents have turned to the SAS novels of Gérard de Villiers for inside info on people and places that no journalist would ever be allowed to know. De Villiers spent decades traveling the world, building a network of intelligence contacts and informants that would keep his books at the cutting edge of the news - sometimes even depicting events that hadn't happened yet!

Ian Fleming

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The Godfather: Perhaps the most famous spy novelist of all time, Ian Fleming was also a high-ranking intelligence officer for the British Navy during WWII. While in the service, he formed a unit of commandos who specialized in lock-picking and safecracking, targeting nuclear and rocket science research for the Allies.

Patricia Highsmith

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The Outlier: Highsmith, author of The Talented Mr Ripley, was one of literature's most accomplished misanthropes. Troubled by alcoholism and an avoidance of close relationships, she preferred animals to people, once attending a London cocktail party with a handbag that contained a head of lettuce and a hundred snails, who she called her "companions for the evening."

W Somerset Maugham

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The Original: Too old to enlist in WWI, Maugham volunteered to drive ambulances in France. Then he was recruited by British Intelligence to work as an agent against the Berlin Committee. In 1917 he went to Russia to attempt peacekeeping work, but was sent just too late - the Bolshevik revolution happened only two months later. Maugham used his spy experience as the basis for Ashenden: Or the British Agent, a collection of short stories about a sophisticated, aloof spy (considered by many an early prototype of Ian Fleming's James Bond.)

Stella Rimington

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The Leader: Recruited to the British Security Service in 1968, Rimington spent decades in counter-subversion, counter-espionage and counter-terrorism. In 1992 she was appointed the first female Director-General of MI5 and the first to be announced publicly.

Stieg Larsson


The Revolutionary: As a photographer and journalist, Larsson dedicated his life to fighting right-wing extremism and racism through meticulous research and documentation. His list of political enemies was extensive and he often received death threats, so when he died at age 50 from a heart attack, many suspected foul play.

Andrew Vachss

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The Crusader: Vachss is a frontline defender of both children and dogs, working as a federal investigator, social worker, law guardian, labor organizer, and juvenile-prison director. He also worked in the Biafran war zone to find land routes for food and medical supplies. Plus, he has a really cool eyepatch.

Lee Child

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The Wild One: Child, author of the bestselling Jack Reacher series, says he writes while high on marijuana and has smoked five nights a week for 44 years. Now that is some discipline.

Ruth Rendell

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The Dreamer: Rendell began her career as a reporter, but couldn't help making up her own details to add color to stories. She wrote the ghost of an old woman into a story on an old house, leading to a lawsuit from its owner, and once reported on a dinner that she did not attend (thus leaving out the part where the speaker died mid-speech.) Rendell resigned before she could be fired and went into fiction.