If you like spies, then this instalment of Lost in Adaptation will be for you.
Many many years ago I decided I loved spy novels and read the Game, Set, Match series by Len Deighton. Not satisfied with books that mostly went over my head, I was recommended some John Le Carre. Again, I feel like the much younger me got lost in the ins and out of the spy world of Le Carre’s stories.
But then two things happened. The first was they made a pretty decent film adaptation of Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy. Then they cast Tom Hiddleston in a star-studded series adaptation of The Night Manager. So obviously, I was ready for my Le Carre.
I think the TV series was okay. The acting was just terrific, particularly from a relative Aussie newcomer in Elizabeth Debicki, but a lot of the scenes and details felt contrived. This really undermined any tension for me.
For example, the main antagonist played by Hugh Laurie is continually suspicious of everyone around him, but he is just a little bit too ready to accept Tom Hiddleston’s protagonist into the fold. “Here you go, you’re now in charge of one of my shell companies!” This would have been better if it was also great blackmail and/or worked as some sort of leverage against a potential spy (or maybe it was and I just forget that detail).
At some stage, the more mature and debonair me will revisit some of the books and authors I read when I was probably too young to appreciate them. Le Carre and Deighton are on that list.
One thought on “Book vs Movie: The Night Manager – What’s the Difference?”
I am glad to see John le Carré’s Night Manager is back in fashion and his private letters et al in A Private Spy have entered the public domain. In his lifetime, every time John le Carré published a new thriller most of his contemporary authors deemed it yet another masterpiece but John le Carré doesn’t have a record of being enamoured by his fellow authors let alone journalists.
Le Carré, Ian Fleming and Len Deighton did meet one another from time to time but apparently their meetings ended in near nuclear arguments about who was best equipped to write realistic espionage novels. It’s a shame all three focused on fiction but of course not one of them had first-hand experience of being a secret agent notwithstanding Fleming’s experiences in the Admiralty and le Carré’s in Five and Six until Kim Philby outed all le Carré’s agents operating in Europe. Of course, Philby and Oleg Gordievsky both knew Col Alan Pemberton CVO MBE aka Mac, Bill Fairclough’s true life MI6 handler in The Burlington Files which is a must read for all espionage cognoscenti.
Bill Fairclough, MI6 codename JJ, aka Edward Burlington, was the protagonist in The Burlington Files series of fact based spy novels and did have real life experience of being a secret agent albeit not focused so much on the USSR in the Cold War. Critics have likened Fairclough to a “posh or sophisticated Harry Palmer” which probably didn’t appeal to le Carré. We do know that Fairclough once contacted le Carré in 2014 to do a collaboration. Le Carré responded along the lines of “Why should I? I’ve got by so far without collaboration so why bother now?”
A realistic response from a famous expert in fiction who lost his MI6 job after being deceived by Philby! After all, Pemberton’s People in MI6 even included Roy Richards OBE (Winston Churchill’s bodyguard) and an eccentric British Brigadier (Peter ‘Scrubber’ Stewart-Richardson) who was once refused permission to join the Afghan Mujahideen.