Nathan Hale grouped spying under the inclusive phrase, a peculiar service, which a country had a right to demand of its patriots. Corey Ford has described the earliest espionage ring in America, George Washington's Manhattan spies. Unfortunately, the humor for which Mr. Ford is noted is not present in a book which would have benefited from the vigor humor supplies. This is not to say that the book is without energy. It has it, but it is a storyteller's energy rather than the completely documented account of the historical raconteur. Mr. Ford has fallen into a trap that's full of Juvenile authors. Where his record has gaps, as any record of spying activity must, his speculations fill in and take on the tone of fact. The crowded cast (he's tried to get all of early N.Y. in) is activated with frowns and gestures and emotions that are the stuff of fiction. Told straight or charged up with fictional fizzle, it is an intriguing story. The influential spies and their lesser known contacts had none of today's electronic communications or devices to rely on and had a longer time in which to panic or snafu in ignorance. One really nice thing about Mr. Gord's story is his willingness to assess the motives as well as the effectiveness of these colonial amateurs at the world's greatest gambling game. Even if the history buff becomes impatient at the treatment, men and boys will find the antique intrigues interesting.