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Agent Running in the Field—a complex game in John Le Carre’s latest spy thriller

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Issue 2680
More than just an anti-Brexit novel
More than just an ‘anti-Brexit novel’

Nat is a not quite 50, not quite on the shelf officer of the Secret Intelligence Service.

He has semi-reluctantly returned to the helm of a rundown surveillance substation. He is married to Prue, a lawyer fighting against Big Pharma looking for semi-retirement and leaving the secret world behind.

He is challenged to a game of badminton by a young man. Ed is innocent, but innocents live dangerously in John Le Carre’s worlds.

Ed is passionately pro-European, loathes Brexit and Donald Trump. It is to Le Carre’s credit that he makes the rants of his anti-Brexit novel—as the publicity inevitably describes it—come from the mouth of someone quite annoying.


Nat’s pride is tempered by the mild, lingering anxiety that his game—and not just his badminton—might not be quite what it used to be.

He is mounting an operation against a filthy rich Russian oligarch, resident in London. But of course there are influential connections, one of them a super-rich Tory peer.

Le Carre is enraged by the treachery, arrogance and indifference of wealth and power, the irresponsibly selfish and the readiness to use others as mere instruments.

Nat’s speciality is a long game. Cultivating a source to work against their government may happen after a few beers, or a few years. There are some lovely set pieces. And there is genre-predictable sentimentality, about the young and especially about women.

Le Carre obsesses about loyalty, his mechanism to play that out is conversation. Here they can crackle with Nat’s knowledge that he’s been played.

This is by no means his greatest novel. But it is a lot better than the marketing would suggest.

Simon Basketter

Rudeboy Ft. Don Letts

Rudeboy is a film about the love affair between Jamaican and British youth culture.

Combining archive footage, interviews and drama, it’s told through the prism of one of the most iconic labels in the history of black music, Trojan Records.

The showing will be followed by a DJ set from Don Letts, who came to notoriety in the 70s as the DJ that helped turn a generation of punks onto reggae.

Middlesbrough Town Hall
Sat 23 Nov
Tickets £14 plus booking fee

Trojan Horse

Trojan Horse was a local story that hit the national press, accusing “hardline” Muslim teachers and governors of plotting extremism in Birmingham schools.

This play is based on the real-life testimonies of those at the heart of the government inquiry in order to create a hard-hitting production.

Midlands Arts Centre, Birmingham. 19–21 Nov
Tickets from £8.50


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