Wednesday, June 01, 2016

How technology saved the spy novel

Benedict Cumberbatch as Peter Guillam in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011)
Benedict Cumberbatch in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011) Credit: Optimum Releasing

 The end of the Cold War was supposed to be the death of the spy novel, but, writes Charles Cumming, the tech revolution put it right back on the map

At the tender age of 84, John le Carré is having a remarkable Indian summer. The film of his 2010 novel Our Kind of Traitor has just opened, last year came Adam Sisman’s doorstopper biography and le Carré’s own memoirs are promised this autumn. Then there was the moment when Tom Hiddleston emerged from a swimming pool, revealing a glistening torso, in the BBC’s recent adaptation of The Night Manager. Twitter went into meltdown. A vast community of “Hiddlepervs” was born, all of them addicted to an adaptation of a spy novel written by le Carré more than 20 years earlier.

Yet there was more to the series’ success than a good-looking old Etonian. The Night Manager would not have become one of the most talked-about programmes of recent years had it not been an almost perfect example of a spy story.

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