Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Most Wanted Man by John Le Carre

I have been a little hesitant to jump back into the "books" part of this blog after I got such a good response from my first book review (see post from June 12)......NOT! It seems that a lot of my audience did not share my enthusiasm for a book about terrorists and strippers. Imagine that?

I just finished reading the new John Le Carre novel: A Most Wanted Man. I doubt a review of this book will create the same amount of controversy as that other post. I have been fan of Le Carre since the mid-70's. In fact, I have read all of his books and own them in first edition in my collection. He is one of our best living authors. 

His mastery of the spy-thriller genre is well known. Although I love the James Bond books and Ian Fleming did create a franchise, when it comes to the writing itself, Fleming isn't good enough to be Le Carre's paperboy.

Like all of his previous 20 novels, A Most Wanted Man is a densely written literary thriller. Short on action and sex, it is filled with great dialogue and subtle character development. It is not an easy beach read like most bestsellers these days. You have to pay attention and work hard to catch the subtle brush work of his prose. If you have the attention span and the patience, the reward is huge.

Even at 77 years old, Le Carre can still write a great novel. With his recent books, he has updated the spy-thriller genre, which he mastered years ago. George Smiley may be long gone, but Le Carre's ability to craft a great story is not. He understands and describes the modern spy game as well as any author writing today.

While I'm on Le Carre, if you haven't read The Constant Gardener, you should. Not only is it a great book, it is one of the best movies I have seen in the last few years. It combines beautiful cinematography with a great cast, that includes Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz and Danny Houston. Fortunately, the movie is very faithful to the book. Both are highly recommended and available from Amazon.

1 comment:

  1. I just emailed you about Charles McCarry, then got to this blog item and decided to elaborate here.

    The following I lifted from a review, but it well summarizes my experience with McCarry. IMO, he easily surpasses Le Carre, my former gold standard.

    << McCarry is beyond Le Carré in vision and purpose and is producing some of the best, most readable and provocative literature today. In a word, he has set himself the task of recording the hopes, dreams, frailties and mistakes of several generations of Americans whose decisions have determined the course of 20th-century history.

    Such journalists and novelists as Richard Condon, John Gardner, Tom Wicker, George V. Higgins and Christopher Buckley have praised McCarry's novels with equally glowing remarks, while Peter Lewis, writing in Britain's The Daily Mail, said that McCarry "ranks up there with [John] Le Carré in a select class of two."

    In The Tears of Autumn (1974), McCarry's lone bestseller, Christopher travels around the globe in an attempt to unearth a shadowy conspiracy of increasingly terrifying dimensions, which turns out to be the assassination of John F. Kennedy--and the theory presented in the book is not only credible but fascinating to consider.

    In The Secret Lovers (1977), Christopher falls in love with and marries the beautiful Cathy. Set in Rome, the novel revolves around a highly explosive manuscript that has been smuggled out of the Soviet Union, a manuscript that Christopher knows the CIA will want published. Publication, however, will put the writer's life in danger, an eventuality that Christopher has pledged to prevent.

    Ostensibly a love story, The Secret Lovers examines how the pressures and allegiances of intelligence work affect the lives of everyone with whom the spy comes into contact. Magnificent and chilling, the book, like the others, looks unflinchingly at what we do to each other in the name of job and country. In the end, it is clear that the novel's seemingly innocent title can be read at least two ways, both of them ironically suggestive. Are the characters secretly in love--or are they really lovers of secrets?

    The final installment in the Christopher series, The Last Supper (1983)--which Richard Condon claims is "like no other spy novel ever written"--unites all the characters of the previous novels and all the subjects referred to in them, to give not only a complete biography of Christopher but also a history of the American intelligence community. It is a tour de force and a fitting end to the Paul Christopher saga. >>