Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Charles McCarry's favorite tales of espionage

Early last year Charles McCarry wrote about his five "favorite tales of espionage" in Opinion Journal.

The more recent title on the list:
The Polish Officer by Alan Furst

Like [The Manchurian Candidate author Richard] Condon, Furst writes about espionage from the outside and manages to create a compelling version of a twisted world in which good men do bad things in the name of a foul cause. Where Condon relied on a fabulous imagination, Furst is a prodigious researcher, and in his fiction he has done for interwar European espionage what the blind historian W.H. Prescott, who had never been there either, did for Peru--that is to say, made palpable a vanished time and place and its political mood swings. "The Polish Officer" is the novel in which Furst hit his stride, and like his other books, it is a dazzling commentary on fate--how the unanticipated leads to the inevitable by way of the unavoidable.
Click here to read about the older classics on McCarry's list.

Melanie Kirkpatrick called Charles McCarry "America's best writer of espionage novels."

In Slate's 2006 round-up of its writers' book picks, the architecture critic Witold Rybczynski praised McCarry:
My favorite bedtime read this year was Charles McCarry's The Last Supper. This political thriller was actually written in 1986, but Overlook Press has been republishing his tales of Cold War espionage at the rate of one or two a year, so I guess it qualifies as "new." Like all the best spy novelists since Graham Greene, McCarry creates a world of his own. It helps some that he spent years in the CIA doing undercover work; it helps more that he's a very good storyteller. I like thrillers; the good ones can be reread many times. I regularly reread early Le Carré (before he turned preachy), and I recently reread all of Alan Furst's World War II novels. Last year, I found some old Len Deighton thrillers in a used-book store and reread those. They seemed so fresh 40 years ago—oh well.
--Marshal Zeringue