He told Caroline Flyn at FiveBooks about five favorite works on espionage, including:
The Constant Gardener by John le CarréRead about another novel among Cumming's picks.
Why did you choose The Constant Gardener? It’s not overtly a spy novel.
There is actually only one spy in The Constant Gardener, an MI6 officer in Kenya, who I think at one point is involved with Quayle, the lead character, because he needs a piece of information about his dead wife.
I chose it simply because it was a huge influence on Typhoon [Cumming’s latest novel]. The idea of having a thriller that was also a love story, and then the political dimension as well. In The Constant Gardener, Le Carré is having a go at big pharmaceutical companies which are testing products on people in Africa. In Typhoon I was trying to let people know what is going on in terms of human rights abuses in Xinjiang, the Uighur Muslim province in Northwest China.
Having said all that, the most important thing that I can do is to keep people reading the books that I write – to entertain them and interest them in the characters I have created. Writers shouldn’t be preachy. But if at the same time I can add a layer of political commitment to my books, or whatever you want to call it, then that’s a laudable goal, as far as I’m concerned.
Visit Charles Cumming's website.
The Page 69 Test: A Spy By Nature.
My Book, The Movie: The Spanish Game.
The Page 69 Test: Typhoon.