The Spy Who Came In from the Cold

le Carre, John. The Spy Who Came In from the Cold. Ballantine Books, 1963.

Reason read: while The Spy Who Came In from the Cold didn’t win an Academy Award, Richard Burton was nominated for his role as Alec Leamas. The Oscars are usually presented in March.

I had heard a lot of great things about John le Carre’s novels. Growing up, I can remember one or two titles floating around the house. I definitely think The Spy Who Came In from the Cold was one of them.
You know the story: someone is very close to retiring, getting out of the game, but there is one last job they need to do. After they complete this one final task, whatever it is, then they are out. Fini. Except, you know that’s not how it ends up. The job is always more complicated and/or dangerous. Something always goes sideways and the end is horribly wrong. The spy Who Came In from the Cold is no different. Alec Leamas is nearing the end of his career as a British agent. He wants out but die to a fabricated “problem” with his pension, he has one last mission in East Germany. All he has to do is spread rumors about an East German intelligence officer. After that, he can “get out of the cold” comfortably. Of course, nothing goes to plan. I knew this book was going to be trouble when, within 15 pages four people would die in quick succession.
Heads up: keep in mind this was written in a time when men were allowed to be sexist. It never occurs to Leamas that he might have to work for a woman.

As an aside, I love when books give me a connection to Monhegan however small. The Spy Who Came In from the Cold mentions the Morris Dancers. They performed on Monhegan every summer for years and years.

Line that made me think, “At first his colleagues treated him with indulgence, perhaps his decline served them in the same way as we are scared by cripples, beggars and invalids because we fear we could ourselves become them; but in the end his neglect, his brutal, unreasoning malice, isolated him” (p 23).

Author fact: le Carre died in 2020 and according to his Wiki page, his death was unrelated to Covid-19.

Book trivia: The Spy Who Came In from the Cold is the sequel to Call for the Dead and A Murder of Quality. I only have the former title on my Challenge list, but once again I have read these books out of order. Ugh.

Playlist: “On Ilkley Moor bat t’ at”

Nancy said: Pearl mentioned le Carre as someone to read if you are into spy novels. She also called The spy Who Came In from the Cold remarkable.

BookLust Twist: from a few places. First, Book Lust in the chapters called “100 Good Reads, Decade By Decade: 1960” (p 175) and “Spies and Spymasters: the Really Real Unreal World of Intelligence” (p 223). Second, in Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Berlin” (p 36).

June Jumping

I see June as jumping over spring. We went from low 50 degree temps to mid 90s overnight. Not sure what to make of this abbreviated spring. I’m not sure what to make of myself either. I all but stopped running (eleven miles for the entire month). Even when I was home on Monhegan I didn’t lace up. My only saving grace is I’m to start training for a half in July. Sigh…

Here are the books:

Fiction –

  • American Pastoral by Philip Roth ~ in honor of Father’s Day (AB)
  • Under the Gypsy Moon ~ by Lawrence Thornton
  • The Key to Rebecca by Ken Follett

Nonfiction –

  • Death, Taxes and Leaky Waders by John Gierach
  • Provence by Ford Madox Ford (DNF)

Series Continuations –

  • Cider with Rosie (illustrated) by Laurie Lee
  • Henry James: the Middle Year by Leon Edel (not finished yet)

For the Early Review program for LibraryThing:

  • Upstream: Searching for Wild Salmon, From River to Table by Langdon Cook
  • The World Broke in Two by Brian Goldstein (not finished yet)

Here are the short stories –

  • “Artie Glick in a Family Way” by Joseph Epstein
  • “Executor” by Joseph Epstein
  • “Mendocino” by Ann Packer
  • “Babies” by Ann Packer
  • “General Markman’s Last Stand” by Tom Paine
  • “The Spoon Children” by Tom Paine
  • “Someone to Watch Over Me” by Richard Bausch
  • “Aren’t You Happy for Me?” by Richard Bausch

Thanks for the Books

November was a stressful month. The injury that sidelined me for the last half marathon of the season continued to plague me & myself but I pushed through it – ran 70 miles for the month. I don’t think I have ever mentioned this here but…back on January I was a dumbass and agreed to a 1000k challenge. By November 1st I had 267k left to go. I’m now down to 151k. Almost 100 miles. But enough of that. It stresses me out to even think about it.

Here are the books finished for November:

  • Goodbye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton. I thought of this as a short story because it’s less than 100 pages long.
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
  • The City and the City by China Mieville (AB)
  • Advise and Consent by Allen Drury – confessional: I knew that a fictional political book might bore the crap out of me but what I didn’t expect was outright disgust after the election. I couldn’t stomach the contents of Advise and Consent.


  • Then There Were Five by Elizabeth Enright. (AB)
  • Love Songs From a Shallow Grave by Colin Cotterill
  • Toast to Tomorrow by Manning Coles


  • Living Poor by Moritz Thomsen
  • Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn (audio and print)
  • Baby Doctor by Perri Klass
  • The Fifties by David Halberstam

Postscript: it came in too late for me to mention here, but I DID get that Early Review book that I was pining for. I’ll review it next month.

Know Your November

I am trying to move into this month without cracking up or breaking down. I’ve lost the run temporarily and even a small interruption sets me back. You know it is with a mental stability that isn’t quite that solid. I don’t want to say anything more than that.

Here are the books. Nonfiction first:

  • Living Poor:  a Peace Corps Chronicle by Moritz Thomsen – in honor of the month Ecuador’s civil war for independence ended.
  • Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn – (AB) in honor of the holidays and how much they can stress you out. I’m reading this and listening to it on audio.
  • The Fifties by David Halberstam – in honor of finishing what I said I would.
  • Baby Doctor by Perri Klass – in honor of National Health Month.


  • Goodbye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton –  in honor of National Education Week. This should take me a lunch break to read.
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman – in honor of Gaiman’s birth month.
  • Advise and Consent by Allen Drury – in honor of November being an election month (and is it ever!).

Series Books:

  • Then There Were Five by Elizabeth Enright – (EAB = electronic audio book) to continue the series started in September in honor of Enright’s birth month.
  • A Toast To Tomorrow by Manning Coles – to continue the series started in October in honor of Octoberfest.
  • Love Songs from a Shallow Grave by Colin Cotterill – to END the series started in May in honor of Rocket Day.

Books and Spooks

If you have been keeping up with me, myself and moi then you know we love Halloween. Odd. Odd because we can’t watch Walking Dead or go to Fright Fest without peeing our pants. What I love about Halloween is the potential for witchcraft, darkness & something intangibly spooky, if that makes sense. I love mysteries and there is no greater mystery than death. Right? Jack-o-Laterns glowing on doorsteps. Ominous crows watching silently from the trees. Candlelight shadows wavering on the wall. Cemeteries shrouded in the fog…I love it all.
In other news, I bailed for the first time ever on a half marathon but made it home-home to put up a ceiling for my mother. And speaking of Monhegan, we almost got caught in Hurricane Matthew! Somehow we managed to get out just in time.
Having said all that, unrelatedly here are the books:

  • The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright – to continue the series started last month in honor of Enright’s birth month. Took me two days to read.
  • Merry Misogynist by Colin Cotterill – to continue the series started last May in honor of Rocket Day. Took me two days to read.
  • Texaco by Patrick Chamoiseau – in honor of magical realism month. Took me the entire month and I still didn’t finish it.
  • A Blessing on the Moon by Joseph Skibell – an audio book in honor of Halloween (this was my favorite story).
  • Drink to Yesterday by Manning Coles – in honor of Octoberfest in Germany. Another really short book.
  • The Ape and the Sushi Master by Frans de Waal – in honor of Gorilla month being in October.
  • The Aeneid by Virgil – in honor of Poetry month (celebrated in Great Britain).
  • Hush by Jacqueline Woodsen – an audio book in honor of kids. This was only three discs long.

For fun:

  • The Code of the Extraordinary Mind by Vishen Lakhiani because I saw it in a running magazine.

For LibraryThing: nada

Drink to Yesterday

Coles, Manning. Drink to Yesterday. Boulder: Rue Lyons Press, 1940.

Drink to Yesterday is based on the life of Cyril Henry Coles. Like his character, Michael Kingston (given name)/William Saunders (alias when he signed up in the military)/Dirk Brandt (spy name), Coles lied about his age and enlisted at 16 in the British army during World War I. His actions remind me a lot of my father. He too, left home and joined the service at 16.
William Saunders proves to be invaluable to the Foreign Intelligence Office when his fluency in conversational German is discovered. He goes on to have some harrowing and exciting experiences with his mentor, Tommy Hambledon. As Dirk Brandt, Saunders spends so much time behind enemy lines that he develops an entirely dual life for himself. After the war is over he has a hard time separating the two. His relationship with two separate women is heartbreaking. The end of Drink to Yesterday leaves the door open for its sequel, Toast to Tomorrow.

Reason read: Germany plays a big part in this story & October is Oktoberfest.

Quote that caught my eye, “Bill soon acquired the knack of moving quietly since it is wonderful how quickly you can learn when your life depends on it” (p 43).

Author fact: Cyril Coles was the youngest member of the Foreign Intelligence Office.

Book trivia: Drink to Yesterday opens with a list of cast of characters, much like a script for a play.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Intriguing Novels” (p 124).

Aught to be October

October is…another half marathon. Maybe another trip to Monhegan (not sure yet thanks to it being hurricane season) but what I’m sure about is definitely reading more, more, more books!

  • Texaco by Patrick Chamoiseau – in honor of magical realism month
  • The Merry Misogynist by Colin Cotterill – to continue the series started in May in honor of Laos Rocket Day
  • A Blessing on the Moon by Joseph Skibell (AB) – in honor of Halloween
  • Toast to Tomorrow by Manning Coles – in honor of October being the best time to visit Germany. Note: just found out this is the second Tommy Hambledon book in the series so you will probably see A Drink to Yesterday before A Toast to Tomorrow.
  • Ape and the Sushi Master by Frans de Waal – in honor of October being Gorilla Month
  • The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright – to “continue” the series started in September in honor of Enright’s birth month (yes, another series read slightly out of order).

For fun:

  • The Code of the Extraordinary Mind by Vishen Lakhiani. Don’t ask.

If there is time I would like to add Aeneid by Virgil in honor of Great Britain’s poetry month.


Polish Officer

Furst, Alan. The Polish Officer. Read by George Guidall. New York: Recorded Books, 2005.

Alexander de Milja has been offered a miraculous choice. With Poland on the brink of surrender to the Germans, he has a decision to make: stay in the Polish army as Captain and serve on the battlefield (a guaranteed suicide) or join an underground Polish resistance group Zwiazek Walki Zbrojnej. No brainer. His first mission is to secure a successful route for Poland’s Gold Reserve to the safety of England via a refugee train headed for Bucharest. Later, in Paris de Milja poses as a Russia poet. Still later he is a Slovakian coal merchant. This is at a time when the war was filled with uneasy partnerships and extremely unstable alliances. How anybody trusted anyone else is a mystery. Even though it was everyman for himself, de Milja infiltrated a variety of groups and formed key relationships which helped him keep his disguises believable. The women embedded in the resistance were the most interesting to me.

As an aside, reading this now is perfect timing. It fits in with Maus, Maus II, and The Wild Blue – all books about World War II I’ve read in the last two months.

Reason read: Furst’s birthday is in February.

Author fact: I have read in numerous places that Alan Furst is the “next” Graham Greene. I would agree they are similar.

Book trivia: As far as I know this hasn’t been made into a movie. If it isn’t, it should.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “World War II Fiction” (p 253).

Man Who Was Thursday

Chesterton, G.K. The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare. [Auckland]: The Floating Press, 2009. ebook collection (EBSCOhost). Web. February 3rd, 2015.

There are so many reviews which comment on the religious allegory of this book so I will refrain from doing that, except to say I enjoyed the “dueling with the devil” scene the most. There are also many reviews that mention how weird the story gets. Agreed. Completely. This is one of those situations in a story where purpose overshadows plot because the whole thing is really quite ridiculous. In a nutshell, Gabriel Symes is an undercover detective who infiltrates an anarchist group (Council of the Seven Days) only to find that the entire membership, with the exception of its leader, is made up of undercover New Detective Corps members. Each member goes by a day of the week for an alias, hence the Council of the Seven Days. Symes has just been nominated as “Thursday”. As a collective week they are all trying to get at the elusive leader, “Sunday”. Except, they are all in the dark as to each others true identities. What I find curious is that when Sunday sniffs out a spy his fears are confirmed when the undercover policeman reveals he is carrying his membership card to the anti-anarchist constabulary. Wouldn’t you remove that piece of evidence, especially if you bother to go through the trouble of wearing an elaborate disguise? Gogol posed as a hairy Pole, accent and all. The Professor posed as an invalid old man with a huge nose. Turns out, all six policemen are carrying the tell-tale blue identification card. Not one of them thought to leave it at home. But, I digress. For most of the story it is a cat and mouse game with the good guys chasing the bad guys (until one by one, they find out they are all good guys). The theme of “who can you trust” is ongoing.

I found a who bunch of lines and phrases I wanted to quote. Here are a few of them: “Many suitcases look a like” (p 2), “Boisterous rush of the narrative” (p 5), “The poet delights in disorder only” (p 15), “It is new for a nightmare to lead to a lobster” (p 29), and one more, “If you want to know what you are, you are a set of highly well-intentioned young jackasses” (p 263).

Reason read: Anarchy plays a huge part in Man Who Was Thursday and the Russian Revolution happened in February. You make the connection.

Author fact: Chesterton also wrote The Best of Father Brown which is also on my Challenge list.

Book trivia: The Man Who Was Thursday was first published in 1908. I cannot tell you how cool it is to be reading this an e-book 107 years later. As an aside, this is my first Challenge book from Ebsco. Another small piece of trivia: Chesterton had a thing for the sea. He mentions it no less than a dozen times throughout The Man Who Was Thursday.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “100 Good Reads, Decade By Decade” (p 175).

Last Supper

McCarry, Charles. The Last Supper. Read by Stefan Rudnicki. Blackstone Audio, 2006.

Paul Christopher is a CIA man who was raised around dark secrets. His parents smuggled Jews out of Germany via boat to Denmark during World War II when he was just a child. As a teenager he remembers he and his American father being removed from Germany while his German mother was held behind. This separation and the need to find her prompted Paul’s father to join the CIA. Following in his father’s footsteps after his murder, Paul also joins the “The Outfit.” The Last Supper spans all of the major conflicts between World War I and the Vietnam War. Stay on your toes because this is fast paced and involves many different characters who may or may not be spies.

Can I just say I love Stefan Rudnicki’s reading voice? He and his accents are great!

Edited to add: I didn’t get the opportunity to quote anything from The Last Supper because I experienced it in audio form. But, there was a few lines about running that I wanted to remember so I borrowed the book specifically so I could find the passage and quote it properly. So, here it is: “Only a bourgeois fool doesn’t know instinctively the deep spiritual meaning of running…It’s tremendously ritualistic. You put om a sweat suit and tennis shoes with funny soles that cost a hundred dollars and are all wound around with dingy adhesive tape, and you run through the public streets, dripping with sweat. It gives you shin splints and snapped Achilles tendons and wobbly knees but in compensation you build up your state of grace and these marvelous muscles” (p 288).

Reason read: the Cold War ended in September.

Author fact: According to the back of The Last Supper McCarry was an intelligence officer working deep undercover during the Cold War.

Book trivia: While McCarry wrote Paul Christopher as a series character the chronology is not based on publication. I read The Last Supper (published in 1983) before Tears of the Giraffe (published in 1974), but I don’t think it matters.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Cold War Spy Fiction” (p 61).

Night Soldiers

Furst, Alan. Night Soldiers. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1988

I have to admit this took me a little time to get into. The story starts off in 1934 with a violent bang. Khristo Stoianev is a Bulgarian teenager who witnesses the brutal beating and subsequent killing of his younger brother, Nikko. Nikko, only 15 years old, was used as an example of a growing power. Using this tragedy as a vehicle for change, Khristo is drawn into the NKVD, the Soviet intelligence service. From there he is sent to serve in the Spanish Civil war (although it is curious to note during his training he was taught English and French, not Spanish). Meanwhile,the political arena is heating up. Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia are arm wrestling over real estate in Eastern Europe. Stalin is starting to purge the undesirables and this is to include Khristo so he flees to France.
Furst paints a stunning picture of eleven years of Eastern European history complete with French underground guerrilla operations, lavish love affairs, the never ending quest for power and multidimensional aspects of war.

Most telling line, “But these were political times, and it was very important to think before you spoke. Nikko Stoianev spoke without thinking, and so he died” (p 3).
Favorite line, “The nasty scene at the Finnish embassy refused to leave his mind, and he and Andres had decided to drawn their war in a bottle of Spanish gin” (p 161).

Author fact: Alan Furst was born on February 20th, 1941. He has an ongoing love affair with Paris.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called  “World War II Fiction” (p 253) even though WWII isn’t the focal point of the the story.

Tinker Tailor

Le Carre, John. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Toronto: Bantam Books, 1975.

I have seen this book peering out at me from my parents bookcase for years and years. I was always fascinated by the title, but scared of the plot. As a teenager I could never get into spy books. I don’t think it had anything to do with being a girl because I read the Hardy Boys just as readily as Nancy Drew. I think it was the fear of spies in general. I mean, think about it – a spy is someone you think you know, but don’t. A spy is someone completely different than who they appear to be. That scares the crap out of me.

To be honest Tinker Tailor was one of the most confusing books I have ever tried to read. For starters, it’s one of those start-in-the-middle-of-the-plot books. The only successful way to catch the reader up on what has been missed is a series of flashbacks. I kept getting the flashbacks confused with the here and now. Another thing I kept getting confused was the language. le Carre has a whole series of secret words to describe the Cold War spy game. For example, a babysitter is really a bodyguard.The plot itself is really straightforward inasmuch as an espionage thriller could be. George Smiley is pulled out of retirement as a British Intelligence officer. He is recruited to uncover a Russian mole deep in the BIA’s ranks. Of course, that it the simplest, dumbed-down plot synopsis I could make. Many reviewers have called Tinker Tailor “complicated” and I would have to agree.

I did manage to find a favorite line in the 50 pages I did read, “Only food could otherwise move him so deeply” (p 23). Go figure.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called, “Cold War Spy Fiction” (p 61).

Interesting sidenote: John le Carre is the pen name of David John Moore Cornwell.

September ’10 is…

September is the storm before the calm – literally since Earl is raging up the coast! School is back in session. A new hire is on the premises. Things are a little crazy right now. Here are how things look for books at the moment:

  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carre ~ in honor of the Cold War starting in September
  • Between Parent and Child by Haim G. Ginott ~ in honor of National Family Month
  • Where Big Foot Walks: Crossing the Dark Divide by Robert Pyle ~ in honor of Bigfoot being spotted on September 16, 2007 in Pennsylvania (yay for the Northeast Sasquatch!)
  • Wild Life by Molly Gloss ~ a companion read to Where Big Foot Walks: Crossing the Dark Divide.
  • Moo by Jane Smiley ~ in honor of school being back in session

I’m also in the process of reading a few food books and an Early Review book. More on all of that later.