Monday, August 20, 2007

Pg. 69: Charles Cumming's "A Spy By Nature"

Today's feature at the Page 69 Test: Charles Cumming's A Spy By Nature.

About the book, from the publisher:
This is what they told me a long time ago.
Only make contact in the event of an emergency.
Only telephone if you believe that your position has been fatally compromised.
Under no circumstances are you to approach us unless it is absolutely necessary in order to preserve the security of the operation.
This is the number.

Alec Milius is young, smart, and ambitious. He also has a talent for deception. He is working in a dead-end job when a chance encounter leads him to MI6, the elite British Secret Intelligence Service, handing him an opportunity to play center-stage in a dangerous game of espionage.

In his new line of work, Alec finds that the difference between the truth and a lie can mean the difference between life and death — and he is having trouble telling them apart. Isolated and exposed, he must play a role in which the slightest glance or casual remark can seem heavy with unintended menace. Caught between British and American Intelligence, Alec finds himself threatened and alone, unable to confide in even his closest friend. His life as a spy begins to exact a terrible price, both on himself and on those around him.

Richly atmospheric and chillingly plausible, A Spy By Nature announces the arrival of British author Charles Cumming as heir apparent to masters like John le CarrĂ© and Len Deighton. A bestseller in England, it’s the gripping story of a young man driven by ruthless ambition who finds himself chasing not just success, but survival.
Among the praise for A Spy By Nature:
"Smartly paced and intricately plotted, Cumming's decidedly unglamorous look at industrial espionage provides plenty of elaborate deceits, double crosses and other trappings of a first-class spy thriller."
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A wonderfully assured first novel. It has the ring of absolute authenticity. Tautly written, cleverly reminded me strongly of the early books of John le Carré."
--Robert Harris, author of Pompeii and Enigma

"The book is well researched and deftly plotted, and though there is a clear debt to Deighton and le Carre, Cumming never seems like a mere imitator."
--Sunday Telegraph (UK)

"Witty, well-observed and glinting with quotable axioms. Most signally, though, a book that's written with a real loathing of espionage: self-justifying, ruthless and corrupting. A strong and serious entertainment; don't miss."
--Philip Oakes, Literary Review

"From my own reminiscences of the procedure seven years before Cumming was himself accepted into the service (he trained for a short time before deciding to become a writer), I can attest that it is absolutely accurate in every detail, down to the appearance of the buildings, wording of the correspondence and nature of the cognitive tests. Anyone wishing to join the Secret Intelligence Service should certainly buy this book before undergoing the recruitment process ... For once, that is definitely not the teaser that spy writers habitually employ: Cumming writes it like it is."
--Andrew Roberts, Mail on Sunday

"Who among us has never dreamed of being a spy? Charles Cumming takes this conceit and runs with it, pitching his everyman hero Alec Milius into ever-widening circles of betrayal and deceit. But Milius is no ersatz James Bond and there are no amphibious cars or exploding pens in sight, and the book is all the better for it. Cumming writes beautifully, equally at home with the broad brushstrokes of international geopolitics as he is with the finer dabs of nuance and subtlety.... It would be accurate but patronising to call this an excellent debut novel. It is an excellent novel full stop."
--Boris Starling, author of Vodka and Messiah
Read an excerpt from A Spy By Nature.

Charles Cumming's other books are The Hidden Man and The Spanish Game.

The film rights to A Spy By Nature have been bought by Kudos, producers of the acclaimed BBC series Spooks (MI-5 in the U.S.).

The Page 69 Test: A Spy By Nature.

--Marshal Zeringue