The best books about treason

3 authors have picked their favorite books about treason and why they recommend each book.

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On Treason

By Carlton F. W. Larson,

Book cover of On Treason: A Citizen's Guide to the Law

Professor Larson is America’s leading expert on treason and wrote this book for non-lawyers. He starts with treason in England, discusses the views of the Founding Fathers, and then goes through many entertaining treason cases or examples. Some involve familiar historical names like Benedict Arnold, Aaron Burr, and Jefferson Davis. Others involve notorious celebrities such as Tokyo Rose and Jane Fonda. A fun book on a serious subject. 


Who am I?

My books are about American constitutional history, especially the parts or people that are typically overlooked. In these polarized times, there is both wisdom and comfort that can be found in looking at our past. One lesson from looking back is that there was no “golden age” in which Americans all got along. Democracy is sometimes messy, sometimes violent, and almost always involves fierce disagreements. Judged at a distance, there is great drama and great satisfaction in looking at how prior generations addressed their problems. I hope you enjoy the books on my list!


I wrote...

American Founding Son: John Bingham and the Invention of the Fourteenth Amendment

By Gerard N. Magliocca,

Book cover of American Founding Son: John Bingham and the Invention of the Fourteenth Amendment

What is my book about?

John Bingham was the architect of the rebirth of the United States following the Civil War. A leading antislavery lawyer and congressman from Ohio, Bingham wrote the most important part of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees fundamental rights and equality to all Americans.

He was also at the center of two of the greatest trials in history, giving the closing argument in the military prosecution of John Wilkes Booth’s co-conspirators for the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and in the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson. And more than any other man, Bingham played the key role in shaping the Union’s policy towards the occupied ex-Confederate States, with consequences that still haunt our politics.

A Perfect Spy

By John Le Carré,

Book cover of A Perfect Spy

This twisty tale of a British spy and double agent Magnus Pym is also a thinly disguised portrayal of his early life. Before turning to writing, John Le Carre worked as an intelligence officer for both MI5 and MI6. Unlike Fleming's glamorous portrayal of spies, his heroes were often depicted as lonely, tragic figures. The fact he knew the inside of the system gives his books extra gravitas.


Who am I?

If a book is based on personal experience it has an edge to it. So when I write my thrillers, even though they contain ample doses of make-believe, I try to anchor them to something which has happened to me. When I stook as a parliamentary candidate for the Conservatives in the 2015 UK General Election, a young supporter took his own life because of excessive bullying from within the party itself. This inspired me to write my first political thriller. It's important to me as a writer to make my stories as believable as possible.


I wrote...

The Missing Activist: A Gripping British Political Thriller (P I Karen Andersen series)

By Louise Burfitt-Dons,

Book cover of The Missing Activist: A Gripping British Political Thriller (P I Karen Andersen series)

What is my book about?

Vivid, clever, utterly compelling, The Missing Activist is the story of an outsider’s attempt to uncover a deadly conspiracy at the heart of a UK political party.

Post-Referendum Britain and a country on high alert for terrorist attacks…When a young political activist disappears in London, an off-the-wall Private Investigator Karen Andersen is put on the case. She uncovers secrets of a party system that prizes loyalty above truth, a serial killer and a female Jihadi plotting deadly revenge on the British Government. But Party secrets must be kept at all costs. A totally gripping contemporary thriller that will have you hooked from the very first page to the final, dramatic twist.

The Spy's Son

By Bryan Denson,

Book cover of The Spy's Son: The True Story of the Highest-Ranking CIA Officer Ever Convicted of Espionage and the Son He Trained to Spy for Russia

This case makes me very angry. As a former CIA officer myself, I felt deeply the malignancy of this betrayal from within. I was riveted by Denson’s account of how Howard James Nicholson, a CIA clandestine service colleague, let his personal problems and amorality get the better of him. Selling out to the Russians was certainly not the right answer for him, nor was dragging his son into spying. Denson has written a compelling counterintelligence treatise.


Who am I?

I’m passionate about spying. It was an absolute privilege for me to have been able to spend my life in the shadows, so to speak. I was undercover my entire career doing espionage and covert action operations for our country and the CIA. I discovered very early on that I had a particular fascination for the arcane and Byzantine subspecialty of counterintelligence. It’s hard to describe the exhilaration I felt when we nabbed an American traitor and brought him or her to justice. It doesn’t get any better than that.   


I wrote...

To Catch a Spy: The Art of Counterintelligence

By James M. Olson,

Book cover of To Catch a Spy: The Art of Counterintelligence

What is my book about?

I’ll give you my bottom line upfront. I don’t like traitors. I don’t like Americans who sell us out to China, Russia, Cuba, or any other country for money, ego, or sex. In my 31-year career at the CIA, including time as Chief of Counterintelligence, my greatest satisfaction was catching spies. My book tells readers how we do it. It’s a world of betrayal, defectors, surveillance, double agents, and clandestine tradecraft. It’s not always pretty. Very few Americans realize the extent to which foreign intelligence services are recruiting our citizens, stealing our technology, and hacking into our databases. I believe To Catch a Spy will come as a shock to many readers. I hope it will be a wake-up call.

The Kingdom of Liars

By Nick Martell,

Book cover of The Kingdom of Liars: A Novel volume 1

The Kingdom of Liars follows a man named Michael Kingman, the son of a traitor to the crown. The main character’s father was accused of murdering the king’s nine-year-old son, obviously making him unpopular and unwelcome in high society. Michael is petty and self-serving, taking low-level jabs at a world that’s rejected him. When he’s offered the chance to get back into the court, he jumps at it, accidentally uncovering some dark secrets as he does.

This book is great for a number of reasons, but one of the things I love about it is the magic system. In The Kingdom of Liars, the price of using magic is some of your memories. This adds a fun wrinkle to the story, making it hard for our morally grey, magic-wielding characters to trust anything: Even their own memory.


Who am I?

I’ve always been fascinated by morally grey characters. One of the things I find so fascinating about them is their unpredictability. You can always count on a knight in shining armor to do the right thing. Captain America will always make the sacrifice play. That doesn’t mean they’re not great characters… it just makes it a little harder for them to surprise us. When everyone is kind of a “bad guy” in a story, it makes things doubly fascinating because you simultaneously want to root for everyone and no one. That was my goal in writing Among Thieves: for readers to have no idea who they wanted to “win” in the end. 


I wrote...

Among Thieves

By M.J. Kuhn,

Book cover of Among Thieves

What is my book about?

Ryia ‘the Butcher’ Cautella has earned her reputation as the deadliest blade in the city – not to mention the sharpest tongue. But Ryia Cautella is not her real name.

A deadly secret has kept Ryia on the run, doing whatever it takes to stay one step ahead of the formidable Guildmaster – sovereign ruler of the five kingdoms. But even the most powerful men can be defeated. One last job stands between Ryia and her freedom – but she can’t do it alone. She teams up with a crew of miscreants, smugglers, and thieves to attempt an impossible heist on the most tightly guarded island in the kingdoms – the Guildmaster’s stronghold. Unfortunately for Ryia, her new allies are all planning betrayals of their own...

A Tip for the Hangman

By Allison Epstein,

Book cover of A Tip for the Hangman

This book, set during the Elizabethan period, tells the intrigue-filled story of Christopher (or Kit) Marlowe as he agrees to be a spy for the Queen of England in order to make the money he needs to become a playwright. I know what you’re thinking. This does involve a monarch, but it’s very much about what happens when a desperate man makes a deal with powerful people to achieve his dreams, and ends up in trouble. If you know what happened to the famous playwright who was Shakespeare’s peer before his death (or what likely happened to him), you know what I mean. This book is a thriller, but is at its heart a love story about a man in love with his art and his best friend, and his struggle to choose between them. 


Who am I?

I am a librarian and a writer with a passion for history and challenging the narrative, because sometimes, the things the history books tell us aren’t the whole story. After all, history belongs to the victor, doesn’t it? Finding and writing stories that explore historical lives beyond royals and the wealthy is what I love, and I’m always looking for more books that do this. I started reading historical fiction as a child, delving into things like the Dear America and American Girl series, that told the stories of everyday people in these grand moments of history, and reading those books inspired me to write my own.


I wrote...

Sailing by Orion's Star

By Katie Crabb,

Book cover of Sailing by Orion's Star

What is my book about?

East India Company sailor Nicholas Jerome has no patience for pirates, determined to leave his father's thieving past behind. After a convict and an enslaved woman escape his grasp with the aid of an aristocrat’s mysterious wife, he faces one last chance to save his career. Finding an unexpected home with a new crew, he gains a chosen younger brother in René Delacroix, the son of his wealthy captain and the grandson of Jamaica’s cruel governor.

But there’s a storm brewing in the Delacroix household. For René and his best friend Frantz, the Robin Hood tales about legendary pirate Ajani Danso and his famed female quartermaster are a lifeline amidst the governor’s abuse. Danso robs greedy merchants, frees slaves, and shelters queer sailors, inspiring the downtrodden across the New World.

A Season for Treason

By Golden Angel,

Book cover of A Season for Treason

This book has everything. Spies and intrigue. Friendship and family. And some spanking, sexy good times. There is a lightness to the book, a sweetness along with the steam that had me immediately buying the rest in the series. I loved how even though Mary tried her hardest to go unnoticed, Rex saw through her façade to the complex woman underneath. And I had to laugh when Rex rushes to Mary’s rescue only to find she and one of her friends have already taken down the bad guy. His disbelief was priceless. A thoroughly charming and spicy read.


Who am I?

I grew up reading nothing but mystery novels, which is why when I discovered romance, I found the ones I liked the best had a bit of intrigue to them. As Alyson Chase, I write Regency romances I like to read: full of adventure and mystery, deep emotional connections, and, yes, quite a bit naughty. Character is the most important thing to me, whether as a writer or reader, and the books on this list are full of characters you can’t help but fall in love with.


I wrote...

Disciplined by the Duke

By Alyson Chase,

Book cover of Disciplined by the Duke

What is my book about?

The day her sister murdered their abusive father, Elizabeth Wilcox stopped being a gentleman’s daughter. Willing to do anything to save her sister from the hangman’s noose, now she is a spy... A servant. A liar. A submissive.

Masquerading as a parlor maid in the Duke of Montague’s estate, Liz is willing to risk all to uncover the secrets that would save her sister. But submitting to the duke’s peculiar brand of discipline surprises her with a heady mixture of pleasure and pain. Eager to relinquish control of her messy life, Liz soon craves the rough hands of Montague and his powerful, passionate attentions. Can she succumb to the hot sting of his hand and the gentleness of his kisses without revealing her darkest secrets?

Stolen Words - The Classic Book on Plagiarism

By Thomas Mallon,

Book cover of Stolen Words - The Classic Book on Plagiarism

As a writer and teacher, I’ve always classified plagiarism as a high crime and misdemeanor. It’s the academic equivalent of treason. Thomas Mallon covers well-known and unknown instances, word thieves punished and not. The book is highly entertaining but deadly serious about the harm done by plagiarists and by those who do not take their crimes seriously.


Who am I?

As an avid reader, I'm curious about where books come from and what they do. How does a story get to be a book? How does someone become an author? What is happening to us as we read? I worked in publishing, and eventually, I started teaching other people how to become editors and publishers. As a faculty member, I had time to study and write about book history. I joined the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing when it was formed and became its president. The conferences helped me to learn about the history of books throughout the world and from pre-print times to the present.


I wrote...

Expanding the American Mind: Books and the Popularization of Knowledge

By Beth Luey,

Book cover of Expanding the American Mind: Books and the Popularization of Knowledge

What is my book about?

Even in an age of Google and Wikipedia, we continue to rely on books written by historians, scientists, economists, and other researchers to learn more about important subjects. My book looks at serious nonfiction—its authors, publishers, and readers—in the United States since World War II, the moment when the GI Bill opened college to thousands, and when paperbacks became widely available. I used the books themselves, publishers’ archives, authors’ correspondence, and surveys to learn why and how scholars and others write serious books for serious readers, and what those readers expect from the books they choose.

The Unreliable Death of Lady Grange

By Sue Lawrence,

Book cover of The Unreliable Death of Lady Grange

This historical novel is based on quite horrifying fact. In Edinburgh in 1732, Lord Grange was apparently mourning the death of his estranged wife Rachel. Except he’d actually had her kidnapped and marooned on the remote and desolate island of St Kilda. Lawrence isn’t only a historical novelist: she’s a respected cookery and food writer, and former winner of the BBC’s MasterChef. She first heard of Lady Grange when she was researching her cookbook on Scottish islands. And she discovered that Rachel’s life had been recorded by male writers in the 18th and 19th centuries, all of whom blackened her reputation. So this book, for the first time, gives Rachel a voice. 


Who am I?

Proud to drop the F-bomb—I’m an unrepentant feminist. I grew up during the heady days of the Sixties and Seventies when books played a major part in raising our consciousness. I’m remembering the wonderful Virago Press championing women’s voices, and writers such as Marilyn French, Angela Carter, Maya Angelou, and Maxine Hong Kingston. I’m not keen on books where women are helpless victims or ciphers while men get to do all the exciting stuff. And since real life can be quite grim enough (I was a journalist for over thirty years and remain a news junkie), I’m increasingly attracted by writing that includes a dollop of humour. 


I wrote...

Miss Blaine's Prefect and the Vampire Menace

By Olga Wojtas,

Book cover of Miss Blaine's Prefect and the Vampire Menace

What is my book about?

Fifty-something librarian Shona is a proud former pupil of the Marcia Blaine School for Girls, but has a deep loathing for Muriel Spark’s novel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which she thinks gives her alma mater a bad name. 

Impeccably educated and an accomplished martial artist, linguist, and musician, Shona is personally selected by Marcia Blaine herself to travel back in time for an important mission in fin-de-siècle France. But Shona finds this mission very confusing. Why have so many people been torn to death by wild animals, what are Maman and the mayor up to, and is the reclusive aristocrat in the isolated castle really suffering from toothache?

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