British secret agent Alec Leamas becomes a double agent. His mission: to bring down the head of the Communist intelligence agency in Cold War East Germany. He finds himself before a secret tribunal that seeks to expose him as a British spy. His personal and professional loyalties come in to play as he realizes that nothing is how it seems in the dangerous world of political espionage.
A House in Order, by Nigel Dennis
Admired by people as diverse as the American writer Diane Johnson and the British journalist Rod Liddle, this, the final novel of Nigel Dennis, should be better known. It is a short parable about how to make order out of chaos. The chaos is a third world war. The protagonist claims to be a cartographer, is suspected of being a spy and is most certainly a busy and dedicated coward. His world in the midst of war is a greenhouse, a privileged position for a prisoner who wants to keep out of things. All he wants to do is tend his plants through the long wicked winter. But he is persuaded to take a fatal and decisive role in the bickering rivalries between the captors who are themselves half afraid of his monumental fear.
Making Enemies is the first volume in Francis Bennett’s Cold War trilogy, which is being reissued in Faber Finds.
It centres around the race for the hydrogen bomb in 1947, a deadly global game of institutionalized deceit and lies in which human life is the cheapest commodity of all. Brilliantly evoking the paranoid and mutual mistrust of those early days of the Cold War this novel was widely acclaimed on first publication.
One critic said, ‘Le Carre could not have done it better.’
Secret Kingdom is the second novel in Francis Bennett’s Cold War Trilogy. The first novel was set in 1947, this one at another pivotal moment in the Cold War, the summer and autumn of 1956, in the tense months leading up to the Hungarian uprising.
Bobby Martineau, a member of the British SIS, has been posted to Budapest, from where he reports to London about the growing crisis; to his increasing dismay his warnings are ignored. The Hungarians, he knows, are prepared to risk their lives against the Soviet oppressors because they believe the West will support them. But they, and Martineau, reckon without the cynical jockeying for position that is going on in London where whole nations can be sacrificed on the altar of career opportunity. Martineau’s dilemma is exacerbated by his deepening relationship with the beautiful Eva, a woman well-known to both Russian and Hungarian security forces, and with plenty of reasons for hating the regime.
‘The Cold War here is not just a political but also psychological landscape … In picking out a personal history from the greater tapestry unfolding in the background Bennett has produced a literary thriller of considerable merit.’ Peter Millar, The Times
Like the first two Dr Berlin centres around a pivotal moment in the Cold War: the building of the Berlin Wall in August 1961. As one reviewer of this book remarked, ‘the Iron Curtain had become concrete’.
Dr Berlin is a successful academic at the Moscow Institute of History and leads the privileged life of a Party member. But he is also the secret servant of a corrupt regime, an informer who betrays his friends and colleagues alike. Sickened by his own weakness, weary of his life of deception, he is trapped in a morally empty world where he plays his part in manufacturing the lies that conflict with what he knows is true. On the eve of departure to lecture at Cambridge University, he is asked by a disillusioned faction in the Soviet military to deliver a message to the West in the hope of preventing the conflict expected throughout the world. Can he redeem his life of deception through one courageous act?
‘This is another rare piece of subtle and complex storytelling, an excellent continuation in Bennett’s Trollope-like chronicling of the Cold War years.’ Peter Millar, The Times