Childers' lone masterpiece, "The Riddle of the Sands", considered the first modern spy thriller, is recognisable as the brilliant forerunner of the realism of Graham Greene and John le Carre. Its unique flavour comes from its fine characterization, richly authentic background of inshore sailing and vivid evocation of the late 1890s - an atmosphere of mutual suspicion and intrigue that was soon to lead to war.
Erskine Childers was born in Ireland in 1870 of Anglo-Irish parents. Educated at Cambridge, he worked at the House of Commons before volunteering at the outbreak of the South African War. In 1910 Childers resigned his post in the Commons to work for the Irish cause and later did reconnaissance work during WWI. After the war he settled in Ireland and joined the Republican Army at the establishment of the Free State. He was amongst those arrested and shot in the civil war that followed.