Saturday, July 17, 2010

Stella Rimington's 6 favorite secret agent novels

Stella Rimington joined Britain’s Security Service (MI5) in 1969. During her nearly thirty-year career she worked in all the main fields of the Service’s responsibilities—counter subversion, counter espionage and counter terrorism—and successively became Director of all three branches. Appointed Director General of MI5 in 1992, she was the first woman to hold the post and the first Director General whose name was publicly announced on appointment. Following her retirement from MI5 in 1996, she published her autobiography, Open Secret, in the United Kingdom. She is also the author of the novels: At Risk, Secret Asset, Illegal Action and the newly released Dead Line.

She named her 6 favorite secret agent novels for The Week magazine. One title on the list:
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré

Le Carré’s 1974 novel about the search for a mole in British intelligence has a cast of wonderful characters, many of whom are reminiscent of people I met back in the 1970s: mild-mannered George Smiley; Connie Sachs—retired and gin-sodden, but still with an impeccable memory. The jargon of “ferrets,” “lamplighters,” and “the Circus” makes us all insiders.
Read about the other books on the list.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is on John Mullan's list of ten of the best pairs of glasses in literature; Peter Millar includes it among John le Carré's best books.

Also see Rimington's five best list of books about spies in Britain and a 2009 list of her six best books.

Read Rimington's answer to the question: Which fictional character most resembles you?

--Marshal Zeringue