The Spy Who Came In and Got Old

AS GREAT as the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War were to the cause of peace, they were hell on people who made their living telling spy stories. Tom Clancy had to start writing about the drug war, 007 began chasing nefarious media barons, and Reagan-fearing pop singers were forced to record lute music, for Christ’s sake.

OurKindofTraitorCoverFormer spook turned spy novelist extraordinaire John le Carré was among the hardest hit. The foremost writer of Cold War fiction found his creative center blown up by a few sledgehammers and a progressive Communist. His stuff hasn’t been the same since.

I recently listened to the audio version of le Carré’s Our Kind of Traitor. The writing was as terrific as always; le Carré long has transcended the genre into which publishers stuffed him. But the storyline, centered around a few maverick British intelligence officers trying to take down … a money launderer, was fatally insignificant.

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