21 November 2006

An open letter to John Le Carre

I must confess that John Le Carre is one of my favorite writers. His skill, style and language put him far above the pack of thriller writers and close to the top of the craft in general. That is, in my humble opinion. His acid depiction of British, American and other intelligence and government establishments have no peers after Evelyn Waugh doing a similar job on British upper classes.

Lately his books veered sharply from his beloved domain of espionage into the twilight zone of government conspiracies, dastardly deeds by right-wingers and corporate mayhem and became so politicized that it is sometimes hard to distinguish between a book by John Le Carre and a new production by a site like Prison Planet or WhatReallyHappened. Not that there is no truth in what he talks about, but his inordinate writing powers are doing much more effective job than all the conspiracy theorists together, and the resulting effect is akin to visiting the Devil's kitchen.

I think that this abandonment of the original domain was a bit premature. The old villains haven't disappeared and haven't changed their thuggish ways and their lethal tricks. And here comes a reminder:

A former Russian spy and fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin was fighting for his life in a London hospital after an apparent bid to kill him by poisoning.

Alexander Litvinenko, a former lieutenant colonel in Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) - successor to the Soviet KGB - fell ill after meeting a contact at a London sushi bar who purportedly had information on the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, said the Mail on Sunday newspaper.

He had kidney damage, was constantly vomiting and suffered an almost total loss of white blood cells, The Sunday Times added. The paper said he had been poisoned with thallium and quoted a medical report which showed he had three times the maximum safe limit in his body, a potentially fatal dose. If Russia's security services were behind the alleged poisoning, it would not be the first time that they have tried to silence critics on the streets of London.
Aside of the relatively novel venue - sushi bar (in the olden days it would have been a noisy, dirty and saturated by smoke to almost total invisibility pub) - the plot, the actors and the outcome are as old as Iron Felix. And the chief protagonists are the same, let's not forget the protagonists, please.

So, dear Mr Le Carre, unless you think that colonel Litvinenko fell prey to a sushi that has gone off (surely a possibility, the stories about lethal sushi rolls abound, but thallium?), you may do well to take another look at the old villains. And maybe to shake off the mothballs from good old Mr. Smiley too.

With best wishes from your devoted reader.

P.S. And just in case you need some implausibility to spice the book, here it comes, from the same article:
The Sunday Times said he had met an Italian called Mario at the sushi restaurant, who said he had important information on the death of Politkovskaya.
Sunday Times, an Italian called Mario and a talking sushi restaurant - what else is needed for another super-thriller?

Update: Of course, it's denials time now:
Russia has denied any involvement in the poisoning of a former KGB agent in London as Britain gave the investigation top priority, calling in counter-terrorism police to spearhead the probe.

Cross-posted on Yourish.com