The Looking Glass War – John le Carré (1965)


The Looking Glass War is a 1965 spy novel by John le Carré. Written in response to the positive public reaction to his previous novel, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, the book explores the unglamorous nature of espionage and the danger of nostalgia. The book tells the story of an incompetent British intelligence agency known as The Department and its multiple botched attempts to verify a Communist defector‘s story of a Soviet missile buildup in East Germany. During the early 1960s, a British military intelligence organisation referred to as ‘The Department’ receives dubious information from a defector that Soviet missiles are being placed at Rostock, near the West German border. Although The Department ran successful aerial reconnaissance missions against the Nazis during the Second World War, it has since slipped into irrelevance and risks being assimilated by its rival, the more experienced and professional ‘Circus,’ led by chief ‘Control‘ and his second-in-command, George Smiley. Once a thriving division of British intelligence, The Department has been diminished to a skeleton crew of its own chief, Leclerc, a once-glorious air commander now reduced to a bureaucrat; his 32-year-old aide, Avery, who only took the job because he failed as a book publisher; Taylor, an elderly man who sees his job as his last chance at glory; and Haldane, a pompous but intellectually gifted researcher whose work on East Germany and the Soviet Union has single-handedly kept the organization funded by Whitehall. Leclerc sees the missile intelligence as an opportunity to relive his glory days and regain ground in The Department’s turf war with The Circus. To get aerial photographs, The Department pays a civilian pilot to ‘accidentally’ divert his flight over the area. Taylor is dispatched to collect the film, where he’s killed in a hit and run and the film is lost. Leclerc interprets the accident as a Stasi assassination and confirmation of the missile theory. Further blunders are made when Avery tries to retrieve Taylor’s body in the hope that the film is still among his effects. …”
Wikipedia
NY Times: It’s the Spy Who Counts (July 25, 1965)
The Crimson: Has Success Spoiled John LeCarre? Is the Big Question of Second Novel (October 15, 1965)
amazon

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