The Pigeon Tunnel : Stories from My Life
by John Le Carre

Overview - "Recounted with the storytelling elan of a master raconteur -- by turns dramatic and funny, charming, tart and melancholy." -Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

The New York Times bestselling memoir from John le Carre, the legendary author of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy ; The Spy Who Came in from the Cold ; and The Night Manager , now an Emmy-nominated television series starring Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie.  Read more...

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More About The Pigeon Tunnel by John Le Carre
"Recounted with the storytelling elan of a master raconteur -- by turns dramatic and funny, charming, tart and melancholy." -Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

The New York Times bestselling memoir from John le Carre, the legendary author of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; The Spy Who Came in from the Cold; and The Night Manager, now an Emmy-nominated television series starring Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie. John le Carre's new novel, A Legacy of Spies, will be available from Viking in Fall 2017.

From his years serving in British Intelligence during the Cold War, to a career as a writer that took him from war-torn Cambodia to Beirut on the cusp of the 1982 Israeli invasion to Russia before and after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, le Carre has always written from the heart of modern times. In this, his first memoir, le Carre is as funny as he is incisive, reading into the events he witnesses the same moral ambiguity with which he imbues his novels. Whether he's writing about the parrot at a Beirut hotel that could perfectly mimic machine gun fire or the opening bars of Beethoven's Fifth; visiting Rwanda's museums of the unburied dead in the aftermath of the genocide; celebrating New Year's Eve 1982 with Yasser Arafat and his high command; interviewing a German woman terrorist in her desert prison in the Negev; listening to the wisdoms of the great physicist, dissident, and Nobel Prize winner Andrei Sakharov; meeting with two former heads of the KGB; watching Alec Guinness prepare for his role as George Smiley in the legendary BBC TV adaptations of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Smiley's People; or describing the female aid worker who inspired the main character in The Constant Gardener, le Carre endows each happening with vividness and humor, now making us laugh out loud, now inviting us to think anew about events and people we believed we understood.

Best of all, le Carre gives us a glimpse of a writer's journey over more than six decades, and his own hunt for the human spark that has given so much life and heart to his fictional characters.

  • ISBN-13: 9780735210042
  • ISBN-10: 0735210047
  • Publisher: Penguin Audiobooks
  • Publish Date: September 2016
  • Dimensions: 5.8 x 5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.55 pounds

Related Categories

Books > Biography & Autobiography > Personal Memoirs
Books > Biography & Autobiography > Literary
Books > Political Science > Intelligence & Espionage

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2016-10-31
  • Reviewer: Staff

In this assortment of memories from a master storyteller, le Carré reminisces about his posting as a young British intelligence officer in post-WWII Germany, his time in Gorbachevs Russia, and research trips for his novels. People, places, times, dates, and events are jumbled together in no particular order, but manage, overall, to fit together and form an engaging and often insightful narrative. Le Carré proves a natural raconteur of his own work. His reading is smooth, conversational, and totally absorbing. He speaks easily of meeting with presidents, prime ministers, rebel fighters, and a variety of other people from around the world, giving most expertly rendered vocal characterizations that are as enjoyable for the listener as they are unexpected. Whether le Carré is describing being under fire from the Khmer Rouge, remembering his stint as a spy with MI5, or recounting the time he smoked dope in an opium den, his storytelling makes for fascinating listening. A Viking hardcover. (Sept.)

BookPage Reviews

Audio: Mission Impossible

A team of scientists at Los Alamos is in a race with the Nazis to create an atomic bomb and end World War II. If they could find Alfred Mendl, a famed electromagnetic physicist, and enlist his help, it just might give them the winning edge. In 1944, U.S. Army Capt. Peter Strauss discovers that Mendl is in Auschwitz and still alive. Bringing him out means sending someone in—it might be a suicidal mission, but it has to be tried. That’s what we know at the beginning of Andrew Gross’ taut new thriller, The One Man, performed with urgency and all the right accents by Edoardo Ballerini. The man Strauss picks is Nathan Blum, a young Polish Jew who escaped the ghetto, got to the U.S., joined its intelligence agency as a translator and desperately wants to do more to avenge his family’s murder and the Nazi atrocities. Knowing the odds, he agrees to go. Getting into Auschwitz is easy, but getting out with Mendl may be impossible. And Blum has just 72 hours to pull it off. The One Man is a terrifyingly suspenseful, morally nuanced tour de force.

A thriller writer par excellence, Michael Koryta brings back P.I. Markus Novak in his latest, Rise the Dark, excellently read by Robert Petkoff. Determined to find out who murdered his wife and why, Novak trails the suspect to Red Lodge, Montana, where the man grew up with his con artist mother, who pretended to be a medium, and his odd, gun-toting family. There in the Montana mountains, he finds himself in a nightmare scenario that, unfortunately, is all too plausible. Eli Pate, a devotee of Nikola Tesla’s more twisted ideas, is launching a plan to plunge America into darkness by destroying the electrical grid, blaming it on radical Islamists and, with the help of right-wing extremists, taking over as chaos reigns. To carry out his evil project, Pate has abducted the wife of Jay Baldwin, an expert lineman, using her life to force Jay to do his bidding. When Novak meets Jay and puts its all together, the tension is palpably electric.

John le Carré is an extraordinary novelist, not a “spy who turned to writing,” but a writer who “once happened to be a spy.” His exemplary novels have explored the moral ambiguity of espionage or, more broadly, the moral ambiguity of contemporary life. I, and most of his fans, have wondered if his plots and characters were taken from life. Now, with The Pigeon Tunnel, le Carré’s first book of nonfiction, we have a not-too-ambiguous answer. Not an autobiography but a memoir in short takes, the book recounts his forays to Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa to research his settings. He recalls meeting the woman who inspired the main character in The Constant Gardener and finding the quintessential Jerry Westerby in a bar in Singapore. He describes a meeting with Yasser Arafat, adventures and misadventures in the movie-making world and, finally, his most imperfect father, an irrepressible con man whom we met in A Perfect Spy. Le Carré, as brilliant a narrator as he is an author, makes this wonderful book an even better audio.


This article was originally published in the November 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

BAM Customer Reviews