Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The setting and background

I often try to find a good smart-mouthed book to amuse myself.  Some of the Donald E. Westlake books and some of the Paul A. Levine books have done very well by me.  But it is difficult to write smart-mouthed crime comedy steadily.  The best book I know in the area is "Big Trouble" by Dave Barry who is sometimes funny but sometimes strained and just silly.  Looking through the local public library the other day, I saw some John Le Carre novels. 

I don't know much about the man although I have read that he was a real-life spy.  You take one look at the man (in well-made professional photos, of course) and you just know he knows about danger and treachery and poison pills.

I have usually felt that his stories were a bit murky for me.  I didn't feel that I really understood what was going on.  But in looking through some of his books in the library, I came across one which had a jacket write-up that intrigued me.  The book is "A Most Wanted Man" and the jacket says the story is about a rather mysterious Muslim man, who may be Russian or Chechen, who has sneaked into Hamburg, Germany.  That might be enough to get me a little bit interested but then I read that the various branches of German intelligence, in competition with each other, and seeking to pull off some stunning achievement, start getting in each other's way, more in an effort to outdo each other than to do justice to the case or their country.

Those comments reminded me of some of my worse chess games, in which I focused so completely on aggressive offense that I gave no thought to my own defense.  Sometimes, I just don't consider the context.  I realized that with no experience in espionage, I had no sense of the vagaries and down-to-earth aspects of it.  I just thought of a young, endangered refugee and his struggles, not the effects of interagency rivalry and other parts of the real world.  I'm a little way into the book and as with other John Le Carre books, I have begun, I expect to finish it.  I will if the story doesn't get too murky.

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