The Honourable Schoolboy by John Le Carre – #2 in the Karla trilogy
Review to follow – Currently reading
It is a beleaguered and betrayed Secret Service that has been put in the care of George Smiley. A mole has been uncovered at the organisation’s highest levels – and its agents across the world put in grave danger. But untangling the traitor’s web gives Smiley a chance to attack his Russian counterpart, Karla. And part-time spy Jerry Westerby is the weapon at Smiley’s disposal.
The Honourable Schoolboy is remarkable and thrilling, one of three books (together with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Smiley’s People) to feature the legendary clash between Smiley and Karla, two brilliant spymasters on opposite sides of the Cold War.
Perhaps a more realistic point of departure is a certain typhoon Saturday in mid-1974, three o’clock in the afternoon, when Hong Kong lay battened down waiting for the next onslaught. In the bar of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, a score of journalists, mainly from former British colonies – Australian, Canadian, American – fooled and drank in a mood of violent idleness, a chorus without a hero. Thirteen floors below them, the old trams and double deckers were caked in the mudbrown sweat of building dust and smuts from the chimneystacks in Kowloon. The tiny ponds outside the highrise hotels prickled with slow, subversive rain. And in the men’s room, which provided the Club’s best view of the harbour, young Luke the Californian was ducking his face into the handbasin, washing the blood from his mouth. Luke was a wayward, gangling tennis player, an old man of twenty-seven who until the American pullout had been the star turn in his magazine’s Saigon stable of war reporters. When you knew he played tennis it was hard to think of him doing anything else, even drinking. You imagined him at the net, un-coiling and smashing everything to kingdom come; or serving aces between double faults. His mind, as he sucked and spat, was fragmented by drink and mild concussion– Luke would probably have used the war-word ‘fragged’ – into several lucid parts. One part was occupied with a Wanchai bar girl called Ella for whose sake he had punched the pig policeman on the jaw and suffered the inevitable consequences: with the minimum necessary force, the said Superintendent Rockhurst, known otherwise as the Rocker, who was this minute relaxing in a corner of the bar after his exertions, had knocked him cold and kicked him smartly in the ribs. Another part of his mind was on something his Chinese landlord had said to him this morning when he called to complain of the noise of Luke’s gramophone, and had stayed to drink a beer.
John Le Carre – Information:
On 27 September Penguin Modern Classics will have published the entire works of John Le Carré, making him the living author with the greatest body of work to be awarded classic status.
John Le Carré is one of the greatest and most popular writers of our time. His writing has come to define the age, from his extraordinary Cold War novels The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, to his powerful depiction of the War on Terror in A Most Wanted Man and his most recent novel, A Legacy of Spies. New to the list will be The Little Drummer Girl – a thrilling story of love and loyalty set against the backdrop of the Middle East conflict. This compelling novel will be the subject of a major six-part BBC adaptation this October starring Alexander Skarsgård and Florence Pugh, from the producers of the award-winning BBC drama The Night Manager.
John Le Carre
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