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Before there was James Bond there was Martin Fawley

The Spy Paramount

A British Library Spy Classic

by E Phillips Oppenheim

Poisoned Pen Press

Mystery & Thrillers

Pub Date 01 Nov 2016


Martin Fawley can easily be seen as an early precursor to James Bond - Debonair, quick witted, and unashamedly a spy. He is definitely a professional.

Readers should remember this book was originally published before the onset of WWII and is set against the volatile political backdrop of 1930s Europe. I had some initial misgivings as Fawley is employed by the Italian government, but I put them aside. The Spy Paramount is political but apolitical. I say that because politics play an important role, but the details of what the different groups stand for does not. I was glad I set aside my prejudices because The Spy Paramount is truly a good story.

While there is no "Bond villain" there is plenty of action and intrigue, as well as a beautiful and compelling love interest who has dangerous connections. The Spy Paramount has the charm of a Sean Connery film without quite so many deaths or explosions. It is lighter fare than the spy novels currently in vogue, but nonetheless remains appealing despite its age.


I received a copy of The Spy Paramount from the publisher and in exchange for an honest review.



Rome, 1934. Martin Fawley leaves the American secret service and is recruited by General Berati, the most feared man in fascist Italy, as a spy. After a brief encounter with a glamorous yet murderous Italian princess, Fawley’s mission takes him undercover to Monaco. Suave and worldly, Fawley is quite at home in the casinos and golf courses of Monte Carlo – but he is soon entangled in a game with higher stakes. As the nations of Europe vie for power, Fawley discovers the secret weapon that will determine the outcome of the looming war.

This classic thriller – undoubtedly an influence on Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels – is now republished for the first time since the 1930s. With its yachts and cocktail parties, its steely hero and brutal assassins, and its cinematic range across the cities of Europe, this is a gripping and sophisticated tale of a spy who saves the world.

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