i spy, you spy - i spy, you spy spy noun 1. an agent employed by a state to obtain secret...
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1 Have you ever
discovered a secret
and passed it on?
2 Who do you think is
the most famous
3 In the last few years,
many books and films
have been released
spies. Do you think it
would be possible for
a teenager to be a spy
in real life? Explain.
Those who enjoy the spy
genre give a variety of
reasons for their
devotion. Some like the
mystery and intrigue;
some like the gadgets;
others enjoy the exotic
locations and incredible
exploits of the cult
heroes and villains.
What are the techniques
that their creators use to
allow us to experience
the thrills and spills of
the spy story?
In this unit • Spies in narrative texts
• Spies in short stories
• Spies in computer
• Spies in film
110 english alive 3
I spy, you spy spy noun
1. an agent employed by a
state to obtain secret
information, especially of
a military nature,
concerning its potential or
actual enemies: He was
captured inside enemy lines
and shot as a spy.
2. one who secretly keeps
watch on others: My little
sister is such a spy, always
trying to see what my friends
and I are doing in my room.
1. to find out by looking
closely: He was sent to spy
out the land before the
Word history: From German
spähen, to scout, reconnoitre
Word family: espionage, espy
Technology: spyware is any
software application that is
planted on a computer hard
drive, without the owner
knowing, and that can ‘see’
the Internet sites visited. Its
purpose is to send that
information back to another
source, such as a marketer.
nce you enter the tangled web of espionage, there is no escape. A spy story twists and turns, keeping the protagonist
and the audience guessing until the end. Like most literature, spy
fiction often reflects the preoccupations of its time. During the post–
World War II period, when famous spy fiction writers included Ian
Fleming, John Le Carré and Robert Ludlum, the USSR was the big
enemy. Fictional Russian agents were pitted against those of the UK
and the USA in a never-ending spy game that reflected Cold War
politics. So what does the future hold for the genre? Only one thing
is certain: as long there are battles for ‘world domination’ and secrets
to be kept and revealed, there will be spies; and while
there are spies, there will be spy fiction.
Reading and writing about spies in narrative texts Spy novels A good spy story draws the reader in with fast action and a
series of puzzling clues to a mystery. Often the clues will lead
the reader and the protagonist to one conclusion, only to discover that they have
been tricked — led astray by a clever double agent or spymaster.
Below is an extract from the spy novel Sleeper by Luke C. Jackson. Set in present-
day India, Sleeper centres around 15-year-old Sara Gray, a student at Calderstone’s
International School. In this extract, Sara is catapulted into a dramatic situation
that sets in motion a series of events which will make her question her past and
fear for her future. The margin notes will give you some tips to consider when
writing your own spy stories.
A single sentence, ending in a cliff-hanger,
immediately pulls the reader into the story.
Implied violence adds to the sense of impending danger.
t the bottom of the stairs, she steps into the living room
In the middle of the room, her mother is sitting in a chair,
her hands behind her back. The telephone cord has been used
to bind her hands to each other, then to the chair’s frame. Her
mouth is covered with electrical tape, its silver surface stained
with blood that trickles from her nose.
Two men stand in the room, both of European appearance,
one dressed in a suit, the other in a black shirt and leather
jacket. She doesn’t recognise either of them, but they both
wear the same almost-blank expression as they turn to face
unit 5 • Alive with . . . spies 111
‘You must be Sara,’ the man with the leather jacket says. He
has the trace of an accent that Sara can’t identify.
Sara says nothing.
‘Why are you just standing there? Aren’t you going to help
Sara’s mind reels. Should she make a run for it? She could
probably make it upstairs, lock herself in her room, then call the
police on her mobile. But without a lock on her door, it would
only be a matter of time before they broke in.
‘Come in,’ the man in the suit says, motioning for her to move
to her left, further into the room.
For the first time, Sara notices that he holds a gun, its long
barrel reflecting the light from the kitchen. As she takes three
shaking steps to the left, she’s surprised the gun wasn’t the
first thing she saw. ‘My father will be home any minute,’ Sara
says, her voice quaking. Then she thinks about Aparna’s
father, and bluffs, ‘He’s in the computer business. He’s impor-
tant. And he has guards who go everywhere with him. They
have guns, too.’
‘We’ll take that chance,’ the man in leather says, smiling.
For a few seconds, nobody says anything. The only sounds are
the drip of a tap in the kitchen, her mother sniffing softly, and the
distant whine of an auto-rickshaw. Then the man in leather
speaks again. ‘So Sara, your mother tells us you’re an intelligent
girl. Is that correct?’
Sara doesn’t know what to say.
‘I’m going to make you an offer, one intelligent person to
another. Would you like that?’
Sara’s heart is hammering. Her legs feel like they’re about to
collapse beneath her. But she nods.
‘Very good,’ the man says. ‘If you answer my questions cor-
rectly, we’ll make sure no more harm comes to your mother.
Again, Sara nods, and the man continues. ‘Who are you
working for, Sara?’
Sara shakes her head. ‘What do you mean? I’m not —’
She stops as he produces his own pistol and shakes his head
sadly. ‘I thought you loved your mother.’
‘I do!’ Sara cries out. ‘I do. Please, I’ll help you, if I can.
Now the suited man is speaking in a foreign language. His
words are short and clipped. Sara has no idea what he’s saying,
and stares at her mother. Mrs Gray’s nose continues to bleed, and
her chin is cut, her forehead rising in a lump, but her eyes are sur-
prisingly calm. Taking heart from her bravery, Sara forces herself
to relax. She hears a voice inside her, whispering.
The guy in the suit doesn’t want to use his gun.
A description of a number of sounds
makes the scene more vivid for the reader.
The question of who Sara is working for is
raised. This question is a common one in spy
The only escape route is considered and dismissed immediately, heightening suspense.
Sara demonstrates her ability to think quickly.
Through her interior monologue, it is clear that Sara understands more about the men, and the use of weapons, than she realises
112 english alive 3
Sara doesn’t know where the thought comes from. She shakes
her head in confusion.
Look at the way he holds it, with his finger so far from the
trigger. He’s afraid to fire.
Her vision clouding momentarily, Sara feels a stinging sen-
sation in her temples, then forces herself to breathe more slowly.
Now the leather-jacketed man is speaking again. Sara tries to con-
centrate, but catches only the tail end of what he’s saying, ‘. . . our
‘Okay,’ Sara bluffs. ‘I’ll tell you what you want to know.’
He smiles. ‘Tell us how much you remember about the
The men relax slightly. For the first time both are holding their
guns in plain sight, and Sara knows that their pistols contain tran-
quilliser darts, designed to stun rather than kill. She doesn’t know
how she knows it, but she does.
If you’re going to do something, do it now, the voice whispers.
As Sara springs forward, the man in the suit raises the pistol,
but Sara ignores it, punching him once in the solar plexus. Then,
using her own body to keep him upright she slips her hand
beneath his, her right forefinger finding the gun’s exposed
Spinning in the direction of the man in the leather
jacket, she aims the gun and presses the trigger,
feeling three small, gas-powered explosions, each
shot sending a dart into the man’s broad
chest. Even as he takes a step towards her
his eyes roll upwards, before he crashes
to the ground unconscious.