John le Carré does not like Donald Trump. In fact, the eighty-eight-year-old author might well be described as one of the President’s harshest critics on either side of the Atlantic. And, of course, he feels much the same about Brexit (and no doubt about Boris Johnson as well). He’s made his views clear in all his recent novels, but perhaps most vividly in his latest, Agent Running in the Field.
In fairness, le Carré doesn’t like Vladimir Putin the least bit more than Donald Trump. “Putin had always been a fifth-rate spy,” he writes. “Now he was a spy turned autocrat who interpreted all life in terms of konspiratsia. Thanks to Putin and his gang of unredeemed Stalinists, Russia was not going forward to a bright future, but backwards into her dark, delusional past.”
Agent Running in the Field by John le Carré (2019) 288 pages @@@@ (4 out of 5)
Donald Trump “does everything for little Vladi”
Here, for example, is how one of le Carré’s Russian characters describes Donald Trump and the British government’s relations with Russia: “He’s Putin’s sh**house cleaner. He does everything for little Vladi that little Vladi can’t do for himself: pisses on European unity, pisses on human rights, pisses on NATO. Assures us that Crimea and Ukraine belong to the Holy Russian Empire, the Middle East belongs to the Jews and the Saudis, and to hell with the world order.
“And you Brits, what do you do? You suck his d*** and invited him to tea with your Queen. You take our black money and wash it for us. You welcome us if we’re big enough crooks. You sell us half of London. You wring your hands when we poison our traitors and you say please, please, dear Russian friends, trade with us.” And if there’s any point to this novel, that’s it. Well, but maybe that’s not all.
An agent runner back from the field and a badminton challenge
Naturally, there’s more to this book than political diatribes, which fold naturally into the story. Agent Running in the Field is the tale of veteran MI6 officer Anatoly (Nat). He’s forty-seven and back in London after twenty-five years in the field. A “natural-born agent runner,” he’s been working under diplomatic cover in Eastern and Central Europe. Nat is married to a leftist lawyer named Prudence. He’s passionate about badminton and a club champion at the sport. And it’s that passion that brings him into contact with Ed, a younger man who challenges him to a game.
Knowing how seemingly unconnected circumstances intersect in fiction, we can be sure that this connection with Ed will somehow become important in Nat’s new assignment. Nat is now running low-priority agents out of a backwater facility in London. Of course, his work there will evolve into something potentially very important. And you can depend on John le Carré to make that happen.
For additional reading
Over the years I’ve read most of John le Carré’s books. Most recently, I’ve posted reviews of:
- A Legacy of Spies (The Cold War reexamined in John le Carré’s terrific new novel)
- Our Game (John le Carré on British espionage at the end of the Cold War)
- Our Kind of Traitor (The spy who never left the cold)
You might also enjoy my posts:
- The 10 top espionage novels reviewed on this site;
- 20 good nonfiction books about espionage; and
- Top 10 mystery and thriller series.
If you enjoy reading history in fictional form, check out 20 most enlightening historical novels (plus dozens of runners-up). And if you’re looking for exciting historical novels, check out Top 10 historical mysteries and thrillers reviewed here (plus 100 others).
And you can always find my most popular reviews, and the most recent ones, plus a guide to this whole site, on the Home Page.