Another month down, which means it is time for the SurfWaco Book of the Month. This month’s selection is The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carre. As the title suggests, this is a spy book. It is not, however, a James Bond spy book. Le Carre’s writing is very crisp and his characters have a grittiness that makes them much more realistic than the tuxedo-clad 007 and his bevy of busty companions. The book is set in the 1960’s, and le Carre’s time with British Intelligence gives him a unique insight into the world of Cold War espionage. The titular spy is Alec Leamas, a British operative in Berlin who is nearing the end of his career. He signs on for one last mission, an undercover assignment aiming to eliminate Hans Dieter Mundt, a leading figure of the East German Abteilung and Leamas’ personal nemesis. I don’t want to give too much away, but things do not go according to Leamas’ plan. He falls in love with a plain assistant librarian (not a chesty foreign agent), and his feelings for her further complicate his mission. The book is an excellent thriller, but also offers insights on Cold War politics, the power of love, and the modern lack of concern for human decency.
Le Carre himself is an interesting individual. He describes himself as follows: “I hate the telephone. I can’t type. I ply my trade by hand. I live on a Cornish cliff and hate cities. Three days and nights in a city are about my maximum. I don’t see many people. I write and walk and swim and drink.” Sounds like good people.
You can check out my other reading selections from February here. — TCN