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on 9 November 2004
This was Cooper's second novel and his first success (his first novel, "Precaution" is still in print but little read, deservedly, by all accounts). America wanted its own Walter Scott, its own in-house novelist, and at the same time it was busy mythologizing the Revolution. So Cooper and "The Spy" were opportune. He was consciously attempting to emulate Scott but, although he writes quite well, he lacks Scott's lyricism. Also, he was not yet into his stride as a storyteller and so, for example, conflicts are resolved too soon and sub-plots remain undeveloped.
Although "The Spy" was inspired by ('Based on' is too strong a characterization) events surrounding the Major Andre affair, the connection is tenuous, and even though real historical characters, including a most implausible George Washington, make an appearance, the historical accuracy is slight. It is a version of events that the American public wanted to hear. Probably it still is. In fact, Mel Gibson will probably one day expunge all vestiges of authenticity from it and turn it into a movie.
It is interesting to note the discussion on slavery that takes place between the British and American protagonists, and also the author's treatment of the black characters. Written between the Revolution and the Civil War, it reflects the attitudes of its time.
If you do decide to read it, I recommend the Penguin edition, as it has a very good introduction.