Tuesday, September 20, 2016

"The Pigeon Tunnel", life stories from John Le Carré


As a reader, from time to time of espionage fiction based on real historical settings, I had at one time read a few novels by Le Carré.  From this perspective they were interesting but a bit too involved in the inner workings of the spy services, meaning a bit tedious.  That statement must seem like heresy to some Anglophiles who view Le Carré's work with adoration, but so be it.

Most new books of this genre of fiction inevitably have reviews that state something like, "belongs in the realm of John LeCarré and Alan Furst."  The assessment of the former has just been stated and Furst is a second class spy writer, well grounded in history and the locales of Paris, and with a claim to fame of being in the literary community of Manhattan's upper west side.  If two favorites were chosen here they would be, first, Charles McCarry and second John Lawton.  Their work is, more broadly, historical fiction at its best.

Regardless of this opinion, "The Pigeon Tunnel" is an interesting collection of memories from LeCarré.  Some of the stories are fascinating as he gives accounts of his travels around the world. Some that focus on the rationale or background for particular books of his are less so, as I have not read the books in question.  His two chapters on visits to Russia in 1987 and 1993 were particularly interesting.  Overall, these stories are a mixed bag, but finding the ones that sparkle are worth the slog through some that are factually of note but not as entertaining.  The longest chapter, "Son of the Author's Father", is one of the gems.

David Cornwell, the real name of the LeCarré writer, had a fine career and it continues.  To those who love his work this book is no doubt cherished.  Here it was enjoyed.

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