jump to navigation

Spy fictions… February 20, 2021

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Mick Herron’s Slough House series has another addition this month, according to the Irish Times. Certainly one of my favourite series of spy novels in recent times and highly recommended.

Mick Herron’s Slough House (John Murray, £11.99) is the latest in a series of novels that have charted the decline of the British secret services, in which the “slow horses” of British intelligence – the goofs, screw-ups and no-hopers – have been exiled to the purdah of Slough House, which is run by the Cold War veteran Jackson Lamb. In the seventh instalment of his superb series, Herron explores the possibility of an all-too-believable coup… As always, Lamb (despite “looking like a bin someone had set fire to”) is the unlikely hero, a latter-day George Smiley who fully justifies Herron’s reputation as the heir to the late, lamented John le Carré.

Anyone else read any of Herron’s work?

I should mention again Adrian McKinty’s Sean Duffy series about a Catholic RUC man set in the 1980s and casting a sceptical eye over the politics of that period. I always think of Herron and McKinty together since I first read them around the same time. But there’s a lightness of touch even when dealing with extremely heavy content that makes them similar in certain respects. And McKinty has had a new Duffy book out, though only published so far in paperback in the US if I recall correctly.

Any good leads on books in these areas? Another one the IT references is:

Walter Ellis’s debut, Franco’s Map (Conrad Press, £8.99), opens in 1940, with Charles Bramall dispatched to Madrid as equerry to the politically unsound Duke of Windsor, although Bramall’s real role is to ensure that Germany doesn’t drag Spain into the war on the Axis side. A tough ask, as they say, and especially as the mission is Bramall’s first as a spy, but Our Man in Madrid is undeterred…an enjoyably improbable romp that involves Bramall consorting with a host of historical figures, among them Oswald Mosley, the Duke of Windsor, Kim Philby and Adolf Hitler.

Might be good.


1. Mat Danaher - February 20, 2021

I very much second the Slow Horses as brilliant believable heirs to the Smiley tradition.

The Pepe Carvalho books are the pinnacle of political spy fiction with a left sensibility and sympathies – check out Murder in the Central Committee as the most accessible of them.


roddy - February 20, 2021

With a bit of luck ,Bobby Storey who is still making headlines will have left some sort of memoir behind him.A working class man with enough “native cunning” to out fox every arm of the British state for decades and who deserves a film at least.


WorldbyStorm - February 20, 2021

I’ve got that on my reading list Mat, very keen to get to Murder in the Central Committee. Tomboktu loaned me a copy ages back.

I think I may have mentioned I like le Carre, but his treatment of female characters was always a bit meh. Reread some of his lesser known works a few years back and thought they were great but the women got a walk on part. Slow Horses is quite different in that regard.

roddy, the need for memoirs from the conflict is huge. Absolutely agree.


Klassenkampf Treehugger - February 20, 2021

Yea – the sexual politics of Herron is much better than Le Carre – he writes believable women as major characters. Particularly like the treatment of the ex-alchoholic – I forget her name.

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - February 20, 2021

She’s a fantastic character.


Klassenkampf Treehugger - February 20, 2021

Well @roddy, if Bobby Storey is going to bare all in an autobiography, I’d certainly be in the market to read it :-). Can’t quite see that happening.

Liked by 1 person

2. Klassenkampf Treehugger - February 20, 2021

I’ve read one and listened to the audiobook of another of Herron’s series. Slow Horses and London Rules. I’d recommend them both. I’m not enamoured of his previous Zoe Boehm series having heard one of them off the back of the Slough House series.

A thinly disguised political chancer with no scruples with an entirely accidental similarity to a certain Al de Pfeffel Johnson appears first in Slow Horses and elsewhere I believe.

I must try the McKinty Belfast series. Which would you recommend as a first?


WorldbyStorm - February 20, 2021

Any order of the McKinty ones is good weirdly enough but they do run chronologically so the first may be best. I am really interested to hear your opinion on them.


Klassenkampf Treehugger - February 24, 2021

I’ve listened to half of a McKinty / Duffy audiobook and it’s good – I especially like the black humour. I’m not reading it as an apology the the British occupation and RUC’s part in it so far. But I’ve only heard half of one book.

Liked by 1 person

3. Gearóid Clár - February 20, 2021

Big fan of Herron – the Slough House and Oxford series – and had a nice surprise there last week. I must have pre-ordered the latest one on my kindle sometime back. No memory of it, but it meant Slough House popped up on the kindle when I turned on wifi.

As good as ever, finished it in two days. Dreading the day he kills off Lamb or the series stagnates.

On that note, does anybody know the story with the tv series with Gary Oldman as Lamb? It’s on imdb as “(2021)” but not sure if covid put paid to that.

I’ll check out this Belfast series, thanks for the tip.

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - February 20, 2021

I’m the same, I’m keeping at least one book ahead unread in the series – so I’m just on his second last book.

I vaguely heard about that tv show but nothing more.


4. polly - February 20, 2021

I do love a good spy novel. The most recent biography of George Blake has just come out, which would send me back to read Sean Bourke’s book if I could find a copy.

New to me, Adam Brookes is three books in to a series on spying in present day China. Great plots, great writing, highly recommend.

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - February 20, 2021

I haven’t read the GB book, sounds fascinating. He was a very interesting character to put it mildly.

Cheers for the Adam Brooke’s lead.


5. EWI - February 21, 2021

Sean Duffy series about a Catholic RUC man set in the 1980s

The jaundiced but ultimately loyal Paddy, that favoured reassurance of English-language tropes?


WorldbyStorm - February 21, 2021

Have you read it?


WorldbyStorm - February 21, 2021

I mean I don’t want to be spoilery….but avert your eyes if that’s a problem…

In it said RUC man actually interacts with British Intelligence who make it clear the British government has a long term withdrawal/disengagement plan for the North and seeks some form of Irish unity and said RUC man sees that as the only viable option (EDIT albeit doesn’t agree with their methods).

Addendum… also there’s factions within the security forces, etc.


6. Dr. X - February 22, 2021

Not spy fiction, but I would urge you to check out the Harry McCoy series of Alan Parks. He’s only a couple of books in, but this 1970s Glasgow police procedurals isn’t one you should miss.

Be warned that they’re deeply, deeply grim books. It’s inevitably going to be called Glasgow’s answer to Rebus, but Parks’ anti-hero is deeply damaged in a way a Rebus never was. . . and the evocation of seventies Glasgow is raw and burning. You can smell the place as you read.

In addition to Bloody January and February’s Son, I see he has added two more volumes to the series, Bobby March Will Live Forever, and The April Dead. I don’t know what he’s going to do when he runs out of months, but for now I’m going to follow him.

Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: