The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life

John le Carré (A Delicate Truth) does not assume you have read his novels, so both old fans and new readers will enjoy his stories of the British Secret Service, the "distraught and sometimes hilarious love-hate affair" between British novelists and spies, his friendships and encounters with various diplomats, political leaders, aristocrats, famous writers (Graham Greene), actors (Richard Burton, Alec Guinness) and film directors (Francis Ford Coppola, Stanley Kubrick, Fritz Lang). Research for his writing has taken him into war zones, prisons, a Laotian opium den and other tricky corners of the world. He tells of his contrasting visits to Russia in 1987 and 1993, his interest in the Muslim Ingush people, two KGB heads he has known, his 1982 meetings with Yasser Arafat, and an uncomfortable interview with a radical young German who collaborated with Palestinian terrorists. There is only a smattering of his personal life, but a full chapter on "Ronnie, conman, fantasist, occasional jailbird, and my father."

Le Carré has the perfect voice of gracious understatement in which to present his astonishing anecdotes. As he says of himself: "when I came to study the dramas of Goethe, Lenz, Schiller, Kleist and Büchner, I discovered that I related equally to their classic austerity, and to their neurotic excesses. The trick, it seemed to me, was to disguise the one with the other." He makes his reader feel like a fortunate dinner guest--this is a memoir to be enjoyed with an alert mind, in a comfortable chair with a good drink. --Sara Catterall

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