The shock of this book on its release a century ago, set in the years of European tension leading up to the First World War, caused a sensation in Britain by successfully analysing what in military terms can only be called Germany's increasingly 'aggressive posture'. Childers did this in a story which broke new ground, as it is generally agreed to be the first straight modern spy thriller, even more remarkable for it being a first novel.
With exciting bluff and counterbluff, chases, and manoeuvres, always using credible military and navy knowledge and terms, his popularity endures to this day. His two heroes are duck hunting and holiday sailing off the German/Dutch coast in the North Sea when they stumble on a plot to trial-run a massive sea-borne infantry attack from Germany's Frisian coast (north of Holland and due east of north England). Being full of treacherous sand bars and storms, and suspicious yachting characters and dubious wreck salvagers, this is dangerous work. With plenty of variation in pace and scenery, this storyteller really knew his facts and captured the attitudes and conversation of his era with some style. Childers' descendents are Ian Fleming's Bond novels, and the vast array of war novels published since.
This report prepared by Michael JR Jose