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Keep Calm and Le Carré On

John Le Carré’s A DELICATE TRUTH is a terrific thriller. Well worth reading.

9781101618028_p0_v3_s260x420But what struck me is how “of the moment” it is. Especially since, as a test, I read 1963’s THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD and then immediately launched into A DELICATE TRUTH.

Same writer. Same topics (espionage, what the German’s call realpolitik). Separated by exactly 50 years.

Both are terrific. And both very much feel like creations of their era. The cigarettes and the cars and the dialog of 1963 seem pretty perfect to my ear. And the SIM cards and drone strikes and dialog of 2013 seem pretty perfect.

That’s remarkable.

A writer can be ahead of his time, and likely not appreciated. Or a writer can be stuck in time – this is heresy, I know, but I have trouble reading Herman Wouk today. That stuff seems dated, whereas THE SPY WHO… seems fresh.

UnknownFigure out how to bottle that, mate, and you’re set for life.

John Le Carré has.

Bravo (Past and Present)

It’s great to read new books and to discover new authors. But every now and then, it’s nice to return to a classic.

I’m reading John Le Carre’s THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD, circa 1963. I first read this novel when I was about 20. It’s outstanding. It hasn’t aged one bit.

the-spy-who-came-in-from-the-coldI haven’t read his latest, A DELICATE TRUTH, but I’m thinking about reading that next. If only to make note of the way this master storyteller’s skills have evolved.

So, if you’re a writer: there’s a good exercise. Read a first great novel by someone whose works you admire, then his or her latest novel. Can you find the ways the story structure and character development have changed? Are there lessons to be learned?

Just a thought.

I gotta get back to my book. Can’t wait to see how it ends.

Why Tinker with a Tailor-made Performance?

The best film casting for a mystery – ever! – was Alec Guinness in the 1979 BBC mini-series adaption of John Le Carré’s “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.”

Alec Guinness as the iconic spy and detective George Smiley (1979).

I say “the best” because I had read the novel, “Tinker, Tailor,” first, and as always, I constructed a visual avatar in my head for the primary characters. But for the next three decades, whenever I think of the protagonist, George Smiley, I see Alec Guinness in my mind.  He completely reprogrammed my brain to become my visual persona of the famed character.

Even in the other two books in Le Carré’s “Karla Trilogy” – “The Honourable Schoolboy” and “Smiley’s People” – Alec Guinness populates my mind’s eye. Despite the fact that I read all three novels before the mini-series aired in the States.

That’s impressive.

Audience participation time: Which actors or actresses best personified characters from your favorite mystery or thriller adaptations?

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