Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor,
Rich man, Poor man, Beggar man, Thief.
-English counting song, published 1695
Someone in the British secret service, at its highest levels, is a spy…
Published in 1974, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is, in my opinion, one of the greatest spy novels of all time. An intellectual thriller, John le Carré’s seventh novel not only cemented his reputation as a great spy novelist (he did that ten years prior with The Spy Who Came In From The Cold) but showed the depths that such work could achieve. No trashy James Bond paperback here, with all that gunplay and innuendo, no, this was a book that opened up the inner sanctums of official lying, official stealing. Not daring-do, but thinking made exciting, memory made thrilling.
The English espionage novel has a long and illustrious history with writers such as Kipling, Conrad, Maugham and Greene on the literary end, and John Buchan, Talbot Mundy and Ian Fleming on the pulpier end, though they are certainly not without their merits. One thing that sets many of them aside is the fact that they performed these duties during various emergencies and wars. Maugham during WWI, Greene during WWII, and le Carré during the Cold War, lending all of their efforts in the genre a depth that can seldom be matched.
Due to my love of this book, I propose a book club for Ordinary Times. We shall read, in three installments, le Carré’s masterpiece of a spy story. Please join me, readers. The book is 40+ years old, so no worries about spoilers. It is set in a different country, with different politics, at a different time, so any current political issues should be left in the cold.
So, please, join me here in a two weeks to discuss the first part of three. We shall call that by its cover name: Tailor.
(A note from the editors: If you are interested in read the book and do not own a copy, please purchase it directly from Amazon at the link embedded in the post above, or here at Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, and help support the site! — BL)
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