First up, The Guardian marked the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of John Le Carré's classic novel The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, and challenged its readers to a quiz about how well they know the novel. I took it; shamefully, I only scored 5 out of 10. Far too long since I read the book!
Second, London's Evening Standard newspaper reported this week that Whiteley's, the West London department store, is to close and, inevitably, become luxury flats. The story by the paper's property correspondent looks back at the historical links with the store, which includes:
"In the film version of Billion Dollar Brain, the hero uses an X-ray machine in Whiteley's shoe department to examine the contents of a sealed package"Why on earth does a shoe department need an X-ray machine?
Finally, I've just finished an excellent book at the moment which I'd go so far as to describe as 'the spy fiction fan's spy fiction. It's The Double Game by Dan Fesperman, a winner of the Crime Writers' Association of Britain's John Creasey Memorial Dagger award for The Small Boat of Great Sorrows.
The Double Game is set in 2012 and follows a journalist Bill Cage who inadvertently reveals a startling secret about a best-selling spy novelist, Edwin Lemaster, a friend of his father's and writer of the 'Folly' spy novels. He's drawn into a web of intrigue involved encoded messages, and the nub of the story rests on Cage's encyclopaedic knowledge of spy fiction, and the fact that he knows someone mysterious is testing his knowledge of spycraft. There are plenty of knowing references to blog readers' favourite writers, including Len, of course:
"In le Carré's Call for the Dead, George Smiley is summoned from sleep by a ringing telephone. In The Miernik Dossier, Charles McCarry's Paul Christopher is yanked from bed in Geneva by the doorbell. In Berlin Game, Len Deighton's Bernard Samson waits in the midnight cold of Checkpoint Charlie for a contact who never shows. And in Knee Knockers, Lemaster's Richard Folly is lured into the murk of predawn Prague. Such a lonely procession of nocturnal seekers. Literally and figuratively they were all in the dark. Now, so was I, an unlikely initiate to the midnight brethren."Definitely one that's worth checking out.