A Spy By Nature, Charles Cumming's first
novel, has drawn comparisons to Len Deighton and the early works
of John le Carré. If we must make comparison to Le Carré, and
when reviewing spy novels it seems de rigueur to do so, it would
not be to the early Smiley novels but to Le Carré's more recent
works such as Absolute Friends, set in the post Cold-War
period when the lines between state-sponsored and private sector
intelligence have blurred.
We first meet Alec Milius in a dead-end job selling advertising space in the Central European Business Review, a publication of dubious reputation*. Through a chance contact he is invited to apply to the Secret Intelligent Service (SIS). Having gone through the rigorous selection process he is placed in a covert position as a support agent inside a ...
Interesting to note: The inevitable question asked of most first novels is how much of it is autobiographical? It is clear that Milius's recruitment experience is based on Cumming's own, but what about his character? This reviewer would hazard a guess that Cumming and Milius have little in common on the basis of one small but interesting detail - Charles Cumming's website is the only one I can recollect visiting where less than positive book reviews share equal space with the glowing ones, which would appear to indicate a certain openness on the author's part - not a character trait shared by Alec Milius!
*The fictitious Central European Business Review claims to publish extensively across Europe but actually publishes only a handful of copies which are sent to advertisers and a few other key ...
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