WSU Reprints “The Spook who Sat by the Door”

Wayne State University Press has published an edition of Sam Greenlee’s influential novel

Book cover design for “The Spooks who Sat by the Door” by Sam Greenlee. Photo courtesy of the Wayne State University Press.
Samuel Eldred “Sam” Greenlee, Jr. Photo courtesy of The Chicago Literary Hall of Fame.

The Wayne State University (WSU) Press has reprinted the influential spy novel “The Spook who Sat by the Door” by Chicago-born Sam Greenlee and released it both as physical copies and as an ebook. The novel follows the story of fictional character of Dan Freeman, who played football at Michigan State University, as he becomes the first Black CIA officer. He becomes the pawn to drive the reelection of a liberal white senator who used Freeman as a “model minority” and poster child of CIA diversity.

“The Spook who Sat by the Door” has been widely discussed and has been lauded as a critical commentary to the racial inequities of late 1960s United States. “With its focus on the ‘militancy’ that characterized the Black Power movement of the 1960s and 1970s, this is the story of one man’s reaction to ruling-class hypocrisy in ways that make the novel autobiographical and personal. As a tale of a reaction to the forces of oppression, this book is universal,” WSU Press describes the novel.

The Spook Who Sat By the Door book cover artwork.

In an academic book that debated the novel’s literary merits, Greenlee revealed the book’s inspiration. “It was the summer of the Watts rebellion, and I was convinced it was the harbinger of numerous other ‘riots,’” the author wrote. “It was a time of severe unrest among the black [sic] community … and there was anti-racist activity throughout the nation. Armed struggle had not yet begun, but I felt it inevitable in reaction to mounting police abuse.” After roughly 60 years, the fact that the same unrest (#BlackLivesMatter) and issues (police brutality) plagues US society continues to make “The Spook who Sat by the Door” relevant. The piece of fiction has been continuously made available since 1968, and, throughout, has been reprinted several times and by at least three publishers: Allison & Busby in London, Richard W. Baron Publishing Co. in New York, and WSU Press in Detroit. As a testament to its literary merit, the book has also been translated into several languages including German, Dutch, Finnish, Swedish, Italian, and Japanese.

Facebook Comments