by Lindsay Shank

Dr. Robert Lance Snyder, retired University of West Georgia professor, recently published his second book since retiring: “John le Carré’s Post-Cold War Fiction.” Published by the University of Missouri Press, Dr. Snyder’s work is a scholarly analysis of the spy fiction produced by le Carre.

His book challenges distinctions between “popular” and “serious” literature by recognizing le Carré as one of the most significant ethicists in contemporary fiction, contributing to an overdue reassessment of his literary stature. Le Carré’s ten post–Cold War novels constitute a distinctive subset of his espionage fiction in their response to the momentous changes in geopolitics that began in the 1990s. Through a close reading of these novels, Snyder traces how—amid the “War on Terror” and transnationalism—le Carré weighs what is at stake in this conflict of deeply invested ideologies.

Dr. Snyder is also the author of “The Art of Indirection in British Espionage Fiction” (2011) and guest-edited “Espionage Fiction: The Seduction of Clandestinity” (2012). Dr. Snyder spoke more on his new book as well as his previous works in an interview with Jeff Quest on his blog, Spywrite.

“I’ve also published more than a dozen scholarly articles on such authors as Philip Larkin, Graham Greene, Eric Ambler, Geoffrey Household, John le Carré and Len Deighton,” said Dr. Snyder. “A few more essays on Adam Hall and Francis Clifford, both of whom are neglected spy novelists, are either under review or in preparation.”

Dr. Snyder did not always have an interest in spy fiction. He graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in English then went on to earn his master’s at Northwestern University. He taught literature for three years at a college in West Virginia. While there, he began his doctoral studies and taught at Wake Forest University before completing his dissertation in 1979.

After teaching for 28 years, Dr. Snyder finished his teaching career as the English department chair at UWG in 2007. 

“While a faculty member at the University of West Georgia, I taught a handful of graduate seminars on Conrad and Greene, as well as a few senior-level courses on espionage fiction and film,” Dr. Snyder continued. “The impetus for that redirection in my scholarly interests probably originated when a widely read friend and colleague at Seattle Pacific, Luke Reinsma, recommended that I delve into le Carré’s oeuvre. I did and became captivated."

However, spy fiction was not always considered a reputable scholarly pursuit, and Dr. Snyder says he treated it more as a hobby at first.

“It started as a guilty pleasure, in part because ‘spy fiction,’ tainted as it was at the time by the formulaic James Bond franchise (notwithstanding semiologist Umberto Eco’s fascination with Ian Fleming’s potboilers), was well below the radar in terms of literary respectability. The more I explored the genre’s antecedents […] the more I appreciated that this was good stuff—genuine literature by any other name. So that’s how I shed my blinders and accepted the fact that espionage fiction or suspense/detection novels or whatever else one wishes to call these narratives tap into what as readers we find inherently compelling,” Dr. Snyder said.

Information for this article was obtained from SpyWrite. The full interview can be found at https://spywrite.com/2016/12/30/1155/.

Posted on May 23, 2017