I am just finishing The Pigeon tunnel; stories from my life by John LeCarré, published in 2016.
The Pigeon tunnel is LeCarré’s autobiography, he was being interviewed on the CBC, Writers and Company by Eleanor Wachtel last week and spoke about it. She reminded him that in 2013 he had said this was is last interview and here he was giving another one to her.
LeCarré is his nom de plume, his real name is David John Moore Cornwell, he was born in 1931 in Poole, Dorset, UK. He served in the Security Service MI5 and the Secret Intelligence Service MI6 between 1958-1964. He has published numerous books, many have been made into movies, etc. In 1964 LeCarré left the service to work full-time as a novelist, his intelligence-officer career at an end as the result of the betrayal of British agents’ covers to the KGB by Kim Philby, the infamous British double agent (one of the Cambridge Five).
Kim Philby, now that was a name I heard repeatedly during my time in the Canadian Foreign Service. We were made aware of the deviousness of the USSR during the Cold War and how we always had to be on our guard. Philby died some years ago, he did a lot of harm to the intelligence community and is seen in Russia today as a National Hero for his service to the USSR.
I come late to the books of LeCarré during my career everyone was reading them. I only read one book of his some 15 years ago and nothing since, not because his books are not good, no they are very good read. I was just reading other authors and not in the intelligence novel genre.
I love The Pigeon tunnel, a real page turner of an autobiography about his life from childhood to adulthood, about his father Ronnie who was quite the charmer and con artist always one step ahead of the Law, his mother Olive and his brother Tony. LeCarré also has step-siblings. He was married twice and has four sons all did very well for themselves.
I think I love this book, because for me it brought back a lot of memories of events and people, some of whom I met and knew. It was a fascinating world. His novels on the other hand are works of fiction, his characters are modelled on real people but the rest is all made up, of course his previous career in MI6 helped with the inspiration, though it is fiction sometimes it is close to the truth. LeCarré in his autobiography does explain that in his novels he is to this day bound by his Oath of Secrecy, as we all are not to reveal what we saw or know, let the politicians blab.
I now want to read his latest novel A legacy of Spies published recently. It tells the story of retired spies who 30 years after the events are called back by a new generation to explain why they did this or that, the young generation does not understand nor know what happened then. We do live in the PC age, Canada is a good example not a month goes by now that the Trudeau government thinks it has to apologize for the past, sometime very distant.