This is the novel that placed John Le Carr firmly on the path of fame and fortune It was his breakthrough novel and 50 years later he was still telling people it had nothing to do with his previous job in the Secret Service that it was a figment of his imagination only that had it been based on any facts whatsoever, it would never have been allowed into publication.
None of that registered at the time with the media and critics And those old rumours still hang in shabby tatters to this day The consensus was that if John Le Carr protested its validity, it was only to save face for the Secret Service In his 10 page Foreword to this novel, he said that his job involved information gathering and he didn t do it all that well because even then his imagination got in the way He also said that where the world saw a spy who became a writer, the reality is that he was always a writer first and happened to be in the spy business on a low rung of the ladder until he could manage to get by on his writing.
I believe him Not because his spy novels aren t first rate they are And maybe I might not have been so quick to believe him 50 years ago I may not have I do believe him now, though, and if you read the Foreward, you will likely believe him, too.
This novel is the first one that details an actual operation George Smiley plays a peripheral role as most of the story revolves around Alec Leamas Another one of his people has been killed and he is getting tired of it Mundt, who also featured as the bad guy in a previous novel, is the one who set it up so Alec gets behind the idea generated by Headquarters of an elaborate sting operation behind the Iron Curtain to eliminate Mundt.
The pace of this novel is fast very fast The action moves swiftly through the prep work for the operation and as Alec sinks deeper into the role he needs to play it is sometimes hard to tell when he is the real Alec Leamas and when he is the character playing a pivotal role in the operation He is just that good During the race to complete the mission before something goes too far awry, sometimes the bad guys aren t the worst guys, and sometimes the worst guys are better than they seem Or are they It s a topsy turvy world, this spy business, and this book has it all The ending could have been happier, and I probably would have written it a bit differently However, no one asked me to, and I bow to John Le Carr s superior skill in writing a fitting ending for a heart racing, heartbreaking spy novel.
In This Classic, John Le Carre S Third Novel And The First To Earn Him International Acclaim, He Created A World Unlike Any Previously Experienced In Suspense Fiction With Unsurpassed Knowledge Culled From His Years In British Intelligence, Le Carre Brings To Light The Shadowy Dealings Of International Espionage In The Tale Of A British Agent Who Longs To End His Career But Undertakes One Final, Bone Chilling Assignment When The Last Agent Under His Command Is Killed And Alec Leamas Is Called Back To London, He Hopes To Come In From The Cold For Good His Spymaster, Control, However, Has Other Plans Determined To Bring Down The Head Of East German Intelligence And Topple His Organization, Control Once Sends Leamas Into The Fray This Time To Play The Part Of The Dishonored Spy And Lure The Enemy To His Ultimate Defeat Winner of the Edgar and Dagger awards, The Spy Who Came In from the Cold is a wonderfully written International espionage novel John Le Carre s 1963 classic is undoubtedly the most intelligent, dark, and ominous spy novel of it s time.
Earlier this year I read A Legacy of Spies, written in 2017 by Le Carre, so it made so much sense to dive into his classic Cold War novel as a follow up The author, who worked for British Intelligence, brings so much authenticity to his novels.
The book centers around British agent Alec Leamus who is asked by headquarters to go back into the cold for one last assignment before retirement Leamus plays the role of a disenchanted, drunk set on taking down Mundt, the head of East German intelligence, who killed off Alec s team in Europe As the team s demise was considered Alec s fault, his role playing is quite realistic to the other side.
The Spy Who Came In from the Cold is gritty with superb dialogue There is no loss to plenty of twists and turns It also shows that good and bad are not so clear cut I listened to the e audio which is narrated by the formidable Brian Cox, an Emmy award winning Scottish actor Most recently, I have enjoyed watching him perform as a media mogul in HBO s new 2018 drama series, Succession, which I highly recommend if you like intelligent and witty banter.
5 out of 5 stars A few thoughts that I jotted down I am on vacation this week so Le Carre was appropriate reading for a trip A group of buddy readers in the group reading for pleasure is reading through Le Carre s novels, and I join them from time to time This installment of George Smiley introduces readers to Alec Leamas, an intelligence officer who Control is convincing to come in from the cold, that is to retire from the service For any man accustomed to constant action and being on one s toes, searching out double agents at a time when the western world was divided and on edge, retiring is not so simple Le Carre allows readers to explore Alec s conscious, making this episode much cerebral than the usual spy thrillers I am used to Our group will be reading the entire Smiley series, and, as each book can be read as a stand alone, I will be joining them whenever I have time permitting 4 stars A profound book, that surpassed all my expectations A hell of a ride from the first page till the last word It s a cold and dark book which is written very intelligently It was hailed as one of the best among the world s top classic espionage books ever written And, now that I see in hindsight, it has truly surpassed all the spy thrillers, in terms of quality and scope, that I ve read before reading this one and it has now climbed the ladder to reach the top in my all time favorite list.
Highly Recommended Intelligence work has one moral law it is justified by results After having just met George Smiley for the first time last month, I admit I was a bit disappointed to hear that he would not be featured prominently in this novel I should not have worried in the least, however, because Alec Leamas as leading man in this book was every bit as compelling a character as was Smiley If you are looking for a glamorous spy novel, you should look elsewhere If you are in search of a smart, realistic look at the business of espionage, then this book and author John le Carr will than satisfy that desire This was excellent I am officially hooked on this seriesWe have to live without sympathy, don t we That s impossible of course We act it to one another, all this hardness but we aren t like that really, I mean one can t be out in the cold all the time one has to come in from the cold d you see what I mean Leamas has just returned to London from Berlin and a bleak, Cold War assignment He is yearning to come in from the cold and remove that burdensome cloak which is the habiliment of the British intelligence officer But the powers that be have other plans for him, and Leamas finds himself in what is perhaps his most dangerous and friendless role of all on the other side of the Iron Curtain He has been assigned the formidable task of dethroning the head of the East German Intelligence agency, one of the most ruthless men imaginable There are plenty of twists and turns throughout and you really need to keep your eye on the ball at all times to keep up Leamas is a fascinating character, and I often found myself trying to determine when he was showing us glimpses of his true self and when he was staying in character as a spyAware of the overwhelming temptations which assail a man permanently isolated in his deceit, Leamas resorted to the course which armed him best even when he was alone, he compelled himself to live with the personality he had assumed Only very rarely, as now, going to bed that evening, did he allow himself the dangerous luxury of admitting the great lie he lived You ll find plenty of suspense and just enough action in The Spy Who Came In from the Cold There is romance don t worry if you don t have a sweet tooth, it s far from sugary There is good and evil and all that murky area in between And, of course, I can t fail to mention the brilliant writing once again Highly recommended for fans of the genre and those that may like to dip into a spy thriller now and againWhat do you think spies are priests, saints, and martyrs They re a squalid procession of vain fools, traitors too, yes pansies, sadists, and drunkards, people who play cowboys and Indians to brighten their rotten lives
It is said that men condemned to death are subject to sudden moments of elation as if, like moths in the fire, their destruction were coincidental with attainment Wow, that was boring And I did not even have any expectations towards it But calling it the best spy novel ever , as so many reviewers have done, is a teensy bit far stretched I don t have much to say about this book If you want to read it because you expect action and thrill and incredible escape plans or impossible heists, you better move on to the next book If there was any action, we only hear of it after it has already happened, through reports and dialogues The characters are overall bland, especially the female love interest, who, of course, is roughly 20 years younger than the main character She only exists so she can sit prettily and cry a lot It was a severely well plotted story, no doubt, but it failed to spark any intrigue from my side The coolest thing about it is the cover design.
Find of my books on Instagram What do you think spies are priests, saints, and martyrs They re a squalid procession of vain fools, traitors too, yes pansies, sadists, and drunkards, people who play cowboys and Indians to brighten their rotten lives Do you think they sit like monks in London balancing the rights and wrongs Checkpoint Charlie where it all begins.
John Le Carre A.
A David John Moore Cornwell while in college started working for MI5 and then later transferred to MI6 He worked as a consul code for spy for the British Embassy in Germany and that is where he saw something that would spur the creation of the most influential spy novel of all timeIt was the Berlin Wall that had got me going, of course I had flown from Bonn to take a look at it as soon as it started going up I went with a colleagues from the Embassy and as we stared back at the weasel faces of the brainwashed little thugs who guarded the Kremlin s latest battlement, he told me to wipe the grin off my face I was not aware I had been grinning, so it must have been one of those soupy grins that comes over me at dreadfully serious moments There was certainly nothing but disgust and terror, which was exactly what I was supposed to feel the Wall was perfect theatre as well as a perfect symbol of the monstrosity of ideology gone mad This moment spawned The Spy Who Came In from the Cold.
He d written two little novels, almost novellas, where he introduces his character George Smiley Smiley is in this novel as well, a shadowy figure behind the scenes which is where he works best He can pull strings, and at the same time smooth the path, dropping just the right amount of crumbs to lead enemies into making assumptions we all know the ditty about assumptions Cornwell wrote these books under an assumed name to protect himself from blowback which was prudent given the nature of his clandestine work When Spy is published and it stays on the US bestseller list for over a year all pretenses of anonymity are replaced with the exact oppositecelebrity The Spy, David Cornwell, who wrote novels, John Le Carre.
Le Carre has an interest in secrets He wants to understand them, and the need that people have to keep them His father Ronnie was a man that probably would have made a great spy if he hadn t decided to be a criminal instead Much to Le Carre s ongoing embarrassment Ronnie was eventually jailed for insurance fraud and was frequently on the verge of bankruptcyHis father, Ronnie, made and lost his fortune a number of times due to elaborate confidence tricks and schemes which landed him in prison on at least one occasion This was one of the factors that led to le Carr s fascination with secrets His father also had business dealings with the notorious Kray Twins who were London gangsters in the 1960s I recently ordered a book on the Kray Twins becausewelllook at them I must know Reginald and Ronald KraySpying and committed fraud are not so far apart on the scale of unsavory professions, so those aspects that may have made Ronnie a con artist are exactly the same attributes that made his son a good spy So Smiley is relegated to the shadows and in the forefront is Alec LeamasHe had an attractive face, muscular, and a stubborn line to his thin mouth His eyes were brown and small Irish, some said It was hard to place Leamas If he were to walk into a London club the porter would certainly not mistake him for a member in a Berlin night club they usually gave him the best table He looked like a man who could make trouble, a man who looked after his money, a man who was not quite a gentlemanThe intensity of Richard Burton playing Alec Leamas in the movie brought the fictional character to life.
Leamas was head of the Berlin branch until too many things went wrong His network of spies had been dismantled one by one by his arch enemy Mundt, head of the East German Intelligence When I say dismantled I mean dead and by dead I mean murdered Leamas is recalled to London where in a meeting with Control, head of the Circus and of course, Smiley is there, a plan is hatched to bring Mundt down It is going to have to take a con, not the short con, but the long con It would take time to turn Leamas from a reasonably respectable man into a man that is desperate enough to want to sell his country s secrets First step, he must begin drinking copious amounts of alcohol, not a hard chore given his penchant for heavy drinking anyway Second, they find him a job shelving books in a library a job so mundane for most people you know norms it would create desperation The plan goes slightly awry when he meets Liz, who also works at the library Later when he is at one of his bleakest moments behind the Iron Curtain he realizes that Liz has given him something to hope for beyond just the success of this mission Claire Bloom stars as Liz in the 1965 movieHe knew what it was then that Liz had given him the thing that he would have to go back and find if ever he got home to England it was the caring about little things the faith in ordinary life the simplicity that made you break up a bit of bread into paper bag, walk down to the beach, and throw it to the gulls It was this respect for triviality which he had never been allowed to possess whether it was bread for the seagulls or love, whatever it was he would go back and find it he would make Liz find it for him To me, anyone who can inspire those thoughts in another person is a beautiful human being The diabolical thing about Smiley is that what seems random is simply a carefully planned roll of loaded dice As the pieces of plot fall into place my respect for Smiley continues grow right along with a leeriness of ever wanting my fate in his hands Being a weighed risk before men such as Control, Smiley, or Mundt is like waiting for a judgment from Pontius Pilate Though this is a short book the plot is heavy, forcing the reader to pay close attention, to ponder each revelation, and still be left at the end with doubts about who among the main players pulled the final string I will defer to Graham Greene s assessment of this book The best spy story I have ever read I also watched the 1965 British movie starring Richard Burton This was a reread and a rewatch for me, but so much water has went under the bridge that much of it was new again or at least being seen, being read, with older, hopefully wiser eyes The movie is faithful to the book Many great novels inspire great movies and many great novels great movies inspire future writers The overall impact of this novel on the genre is hard to calculate, but it is impossible to deny that this book set the bar high for all writers who try to write a better one My Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy ReviewIf you wish to see of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit also have a Facebook blogger page at
Spy novels, likewise, are not in a genre to which I am inclined Nonetheless, I know when I see greatness and this must certainly be, like Graham Greene stated, the best spy novel I ve ever read.
First of all, I was astounded by Le Carre s mastery of prose language They walked to her flat through the rain and they might have been anywhere Berlin, London, any town where paving stones turn to lakes of light in the evening rain, and the traffic shuffles despondently through wet streets Le Carre delivers this level of artistry in page after page of prose reminiscent of Graham Greene, or obliquely, like Malcolm Lowry This is simply a very well written book.
Add to that the psychological depth and the labyrinthine twists and turns of the interactions between east and west operatives and there is little doubt why this novel has collected such accolades A book that rises above its labeled genre and becomes simply a brilliant story Le Carre could have described competing stationary merchants and this would have been interesting.
Most impressive is that Le Carre eschews convention, deliberately rejects Hollywood sentimentality and tells this straight He makes his case as it should be, as it must be.
Bravo 2018 My wife and I visited Berlin this year and went to Checkpoint Charlie, it was kind of surreal Beautiful city BTW.