“The Spy Who” Oddities Part 2.5

In honor of John le Carré’s new release, The Pigeon Tunnel, throughout the month of September I’m highlighting some trivia about his past novels.

Looking at the text included, this is a harshly edited version of TSWCIFTC. For a quick example we need look no further than the first sentence given.

From the book –

The American handed Leamas another cup of coffee and said, “Why don’t you go back and sleep? We can ring you if he shows up.”

Leamas said nothing, just stared through the window of the checkpoint, along the empty street.

From the magazine abridged version –

Leamas stared through the window of the checkpoint along the empty Berlin street, then walked to the observation window and stood between the two motionless West German policeman training their binoculars on the Eastern checkpoint.

From the start they’ve already cut out the most of the beginning six paragraphs which set the mood for the entire novel. These editors prove to be ruthless with large sections cut completely, mixed and matched or words changed or removed for seeming no reason.

The final paragraph from the book –

They seemed to hesitate before firing again; someone shouted an order, and still no one fired. Finally they shot him, two or three shots. He stood glaring around him like a blinded bull in the arena. As he fell, Leamas saw a small car smashed between great lorries, and the children waving cheerfully through the window.

And the magazine-

They seemed to hesitate before firing again; someone shouted an order, and still no one fired. Finally they shot him, two or three shots.  He stood glaring around him like a blinded bull in the arena before he fell.

They’ve removed the final line which is a call back to earlier in the book when Leamas nearly runs off the road by a similar car and family.

It is pure plot, a good plot to be sure, but by removing so much else of the book it loses all tension and its soul.

In conclusion, an oddity in every sense of the word. I’ve got one last oddity in my collection of odd editions of “The Spy Who.” Turn in next week for the thrilling (?) conclusion.


“The Spy Who” oddities – Part Two

In honor of John le Carré’s new release, The Pigeon Tunnel, throughout the month of September I’m highlighting some trivia about his past novels.

 I thought about including this one with the other “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold” editions in part one but this seemed worthy of a couple posts of it’s own.

With a publication date of August 1964, True Magazine published a abbreviated version of TSWCIFTC. True, which carried the subtitle “A Man’s Magazine,” was a part of Fawcett Publishing which was known for its magazines, comics and line of Gold Medal paperback originals.

True, a men’s magazine

I hope to discuss another time the journey TSWCIFTC took to publication another time but to make a long story short, Jack Geoghegan, publisher for Coward-McCann, won the US publishing rights for the book and due to financial pressure had to sell the paperback rights for a song. I’m assuming the rights to publish a magazine version were sold at that time as well since this issue appeared around when the paperback version would have been released.

One of the interesting things about this edited magazine version of “The Spy Who” is the images included. Noted movie poster artist of the 60’s, Howard Terpning, created what I believe are the first images of Leamus, Liz, Mundt and Fielder.

Terpning  was born in 1927 in Oak Park, Il. just a short walk from my house. After getting a degree from the Chicago Academy of Fine Art he began to work in advertising. Branching out he began creating iconic posters for just about every big movie coming out in the 60’s and early 70’s before getting out of the commercial art business. He went on to become one of the world’s most noted “western” painters with some of his paintings selling for over a million dollars. He currently lives in Phoenix, AZ.

Among the spy movies he created poster art for were Guns of Navarrone, Torn Curtain, Ice Station Zebra and Where Eagles Dare. Crispin Garcia’s exhaustive fan site for the movie The Sand Pebbles has some great additional information on Terpning.

As far as I’m concerned his images for TSWCIFTC are pretty spot on.

Heres the description of Leamas from the novel –

Leamas was a short man with close cropped, iron-gray hair, and the physique of a swimmer.


He had an attractive face, muscular, and a stubborn line to his thin mouth. His eyes were brown and small … [h]e looked like a man who could make ground, a man who looked after his money; a man who was not quite a gentleman.

Art by Howard Terpning

Pretty good I’d say.

His Liz isn’t bad either.

She was a tall girl, ungainly, with a long waist and long legs. She wore flat, ballet type shoes to reduce her height. Her face, like her body, had large components which seemed to hesitate between plainness and beauty.

Art by Howard Terpning
And Fielder

He couldn’t have been more than five foot six. He wore a dark blue single-breasted suit; the jacket was cut too long. He was sleek and slightly animal; his eyes were brown and bright.

Art by Howard Terpning

And the final profile, Mundt –

Mundt’s appearance was fully consistent with his temperament. He looked an athlete. His fair hair was cut short. It lay mat and neat. His young face had a hard, clean line, and a frightening directness; it was barren of humor or fantasy. He looked young but not youthful; older men would take him seriously. He was well built. 

Art by Howard Terpning

In addition to profiles we see two iconic moments of the novel –  the escape over the Berlin Wall and the trial.

Art by Howard Terpning

Interestingly, the wasn’t Terpning’s only time creating images for TSWCIFTC. He also created the iconic artwork on the poster for the film.

Art by Howard Terpning
Taking a closer look at the artwork we see another sketch of the wall scene and Richard Burton in all his world weary glory as Leamas.

Art by Howard Terpning

But that’s not all. Looking at my beat up paperback copy of the movie tie-in version of TSWCIFTC we see more Terpning art work.

Art by Howard Terpning
He even gets a credit on the back cover, something I don’t recall typically seeing on books of the era.

This art is completely different from the posters I’ve seen for release of the movie. If I had to hazard a guess I would imagine this is from a different movie poster draft that wasn’t used. I can’t imagine Dell would commission Terpning to create original artwork for this later printing of the paperback. However, if anyone has information otherwise, please share it in the comments.

Finishing our art tour where we began, I’ll leave you with this international poster I found.

There are versions of this in a few different languages. A mash up of the book artwork and the magazine art, we get the best of both worlds on the international poster.

Tuesday I’ll take a brief look at some changes the text underwent as it was reduced to magazine form.

Do you know of other TSWCIFTC artwork or an earlier rendition of the characters? Chime in below!



“The Spy Who” Oddities – Part One

Following up on my previous post about “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold,” in the next few posts I’ll be highlighting some of the odd or rare versions of the book I have.

First is a compilation of le Carré’s third, fourth, and fifth novels – The Spy Who, A Small town in Germany and The Looking Glass War.

This edition was released as a Random House Value edition in 1988. My particular copy is the second impression, which would typically make it even less collectible than it already is.

However, this one has been signed by le Carré.


Signed Omnibus
But that’s not what makes it truly unique. In addition to the main title page signature, it’s also signed on the title page for the start of TSWCIFTC.

And the title page of A Small Town in Germany.

And the title page at the start of The Looking Glass War.

Making it a quadruple signed copy, something I haven’t ever seen elsewhere. Honestly, I don’t know that it makes it worth anything in terms of money, but it’s a neat oddity. The fact that I didn’t know I was getting it when I bought a lot of three other signed le Carré books for a total of $10? Makes it even better.

The next is a signed psuedo-recreation of the UK first edition released in honor of the 50th anniversary.

Although it looks very much like what the true first edition looked like, when compared side by side some differences become apparent.

I’m not sure if they went with the larger size to avoid people pawning these off as the really thing or some other reason. It’s still a pretty sharp recreation and I believe all copies came signed by le Carré.

The final copy I’ll showcase today is a 25th anniversary book club recreation of the first printing, first impression of the US edition.

As I mentioned in my previous post, it is an exact replica in every way but one, it is missing “TSWCIFTC $4.50” on the front dust jacket flap. It really is a nice copy that they obviously went to great lengths to match to the original.

This copy also came with a nice pamphlet that discusses how The Spy Who came to be printed by the head of the US publishing house. But more on that in a future post.

Stay tuned for part two of “The Spy Who” oddities next week. This next post has some really fun trivia so do come back and check it out.

Do you have an odd or rare copy of TSWCIFTC? Share it in the comments below!

The Flat Bureaucrat by Susan Hasler

“It’s a Wonderful Life” meets the 9/11 report

If Susan Hasler’s Intelligence was “24” meets “The Office”, it’s sequel, The Flat Bureaucrat, is “It’s a Wonderful Life” meets the 9/11 report. In case it isn’t readily apparent, that’s a good thing.
Hasler’s years as an analyst in the CIA have served her well in her latest novel. She is able to pinpoint the absurdities, the screw-ups and the personalities, not just in the world of modern intelligence, but in modern office life. As with the best novels, by focusing on the specificity of working at the CIA, the author opens the story up to the universality of working in an office anywhere. It draws you into the story whether you are a spy fan or not.
John le Carre, the granddaddy of spy novelists, is known for creating a whole new vernacular when talking about “The Circus”, his version of MI6; Hasler has managed to take this concept to even greater heights for the CIA. Her co-opting of mining terminology to define the various areas of the CIA is not only a perfect way to give context to the various players, but also allows for some great moments of humor with various acronyms used to great comic effect.
Much of this inventiveness and satire was present in Intelligence. What gives this novel a greater weight is a sense of mortality, of seconds slipping away, that pervades the story. We have a limited time on Earth; how would we look back on it and would we say we took advantage of every second we had? It’s hard not to let those questions pass through your mind as you read. But don’t get me wrong, this is not a dirge. Hasler is light on her feet and knows when to defuse the tension with humor and when to get more contemplative.
Although it provides a complete story, it does leave room for a sequel. Here’s hoping we see it.
Highly Recommended.


Eric Ambler’s First Lines

In my research on Eric Ambler’s “lost” novel, “Gentleman from Abroad,” I saw a few first lines from his previous novels. As I looked through them, I realized that they were a master class in getting your reader interested in your story from the start. Sure there are a couple that aren’t as intriguing as others, but on the whole, it’s hard to read them without wanting to know what happens next. 

Read on below and sound off in the comments below on your favorites. Hopefully, you’ll want to run out and pick up a few of his novels you’ve yet to read.

The Dark Frontier (1936)

The events in this book compromise, I am told, an account of my life during the period April 17th to May 26th of last year.

This I am unable either to confirm or deny.

Uncommon Danger (1937), US title: Background to Danger

One sunny morning in July, Mr. Joseph Balterghen’s blue Rolls-Royce oozed silently away from the pavement in Berkeley Square, slid across Piccadilly into St. James’s, and sped softly eastward towards the City of London.

Epitaph for a Spy (1938)

I arrived in St. Gatien from Nice on Tuesday, the 14th of August. I was arrested at 11.45 a.m. on Thursday, the 16th, by an agent de police and an inspector in plain clothes and taken to the Commissariat.

Cause for Alarm (1938)

The man standing in the shadow of the doorway turned up the collar of his overcoat and stamped his numb feet gently on the damp stones.

The Mask of Dimitrios (1939), US title: A Coffin for Dimitrios

A Frenchman named Chamfort, who should have known better, once said that chance was a nickname for Providence.

Journey into Fear (1940)

The steamer, Sestri Levante, stood high above the dock side, and the watery sleet, carried on the wind blustering down from the Black Sea, had drenched even the small shelter deck. In the after well the Turkish stevedores, with sacking tied round their shoulders, were still loading cargo.

Judgment on Deltchev (1952)

Where treason to the state is defined simply as opposition to the government in power, the political leader convicted of it will not necessarily lose credit with the people. Indeed, if he is respected or loved by them, his death at the hands of a tyrannical government may serve to give his life a dignity it did not before possess.

The Schirmer Inheritance (1953)

In 1806 Napoleon set out to chastise the King of Prussia.

The Night-Comers (1956), also published as State of Siege

The weekly Dakota from Selampang had never been known to arrive at the valley airstrip before noon, or to leave on the return journey before one. After the farewell party they had given for me the previous night, I should have slept until eleven at least. But no; I was wide awake, packed and ready to go at dawn.

Passage of Arms (1959)

All that Mr. Wright, the rubber-estate manager, ever knew of the business was that an army patrol had ambushed a band of terrorists within a mile of his bungalow, that five months later his Indian clerk, Girija Krishnan, had reported the theft of three tarpaulins from the curing sheds, and that three years after that someone had removed the wheels from an old scooter belonging to one of his children.

The Light of Day (1962)

It came down to this: if I had not been arrested by the Turkish police, I would have been arrested by the Greek police.

A Kind of Anger (1964)

The weekly American news magazine World Reporter goes to press at eleven o’clock on Friday night. As a rule there is not much work left to be done that evening, except by the proof-readers and checkers; but the atmosphere in the New York editorial offices is still tense.

“The Blood Bargain” (1966), Unreleased novel Gentleman from Abroad

Ex-President Fuentes enjoys a peculiar distinction. More people would like to kill him now that he is in retirement than wanted to kill him when he was in power.

Dirty Story (1967)

Write it on the walls.

H. Carter Gavin, Her Britannic Majesty’s vice-consul in Athens, is a shit.

The Intercom Conspiracy (1969)

It was on May 31 of last year, at Geneva’s Cointrin airport, that the man who called himself Charles Latimer disappeared. All efforts to trace him have so far failed. Through a combination of circumstances the disappearance went unreported for two weeks.

The Levanter (1972)

This is Michael Howell’s story and he tells most of it himself. I think that he should have told all of it.

Doctor Frigo (1974)

The new night Sister from Guadeloupe appears to be intelligent and to know her job. A relief. There is one thing to be said for a tour of night duty at the hospital. The food one is expected to eat may be disgusting and the bed on which one is supposed to rest may be too near the main air-conditioning compressor; but, unless there is an unusually messy traffic accident or the night Sister in charge is inadequate, there is privacy and time for thought.

Send No More Roses (1977), US title: The Siege of the Villa Lipp

They stopped the car by the gateway in the wall on the lower coast road. Then, after a moment or two, the three of them climbed out stiffly, their shirts clinging to their backs. It had been a long, hot drive. From the shade at the end of the terrace I could see them clearly through the binoculars.

The Care of Time (1981)

The warning message arrived on Monday, the bomb itself on Wednesday. It became a busy week.


Eric Ambler’s “lost” novel


This post follows up on my earlier discussion of “lost” or unpublished spy novels.

Eric Ambler is widely known as one of the early masters of the espionage novel.

His “The Mask of Dimitrios,” published as “A Coffin for Dimitrios” in the US, is one of the best thrillers ever written and “Epitaph for a Spy” set the standard for the “man mistaken for a spy” plot. Between 1936 and 1940 he wrote six books that would become classics and influence every subsequent writer in the thriller genre.

The outbreak of World War II at the height of his popularity led to his serving in the army and an eleven year hiatus between the publication of his sixth and seventh books.

It was a surprising break for someone who’d been having as much success as Ambler had. According to Peter Lewis in his book, “Eric Ambler,” after Ambler’s six years in the service it took a while to rediscover his muse. When he first started in the thirties he found his motivation for writing in socialism and the politics leading to WW II. With the war over and facing a changed political landscape Ambler needed to find a new reason to write apart from his passions as a young author. When he finally did, in 1951, he went on a run that continued until his last release in 1985.

In 1966 he was working on a novel set in the Caribbean and Central America, a setting he hadn’t explored before. Tentatively titled either “Gentleman from Abroad” or “Blood Bargain,” the book had been basically completed before Ambler for some reason decided on a complete rewrite. Something must have gone badly in the rewrite process because he scrapped the project. He did this even with a signed contract and a publisher expecting a finished manuscript within the month.

Although never released we can see a hint of what the novel might have looked like. Ambler later repurposed the first chapter as a short story, “The Blood Bargain.” It first appeared in UK collection called “Winter’s Crimes 2” with later appearances in Ellery Queen Magazine and the collection of Ambler’s short stories “Waiting for Orders.”

If there was one thing you could count on with Ambler, it was his ability to put together a great opening. Here’s the first paragraph from “The Blood Bargain.”

Ex-President Fuentes enjoys a peculiar distinction. More people would like to kill him now that he is in retirement than wanted to kill him when he was in power.

TBB details the actions of Fuentes, described as an “engaging scoundrel,” when confronted with a coup d’etat of his government and it gives a taste of what we might have seen in the full novel. Ambler later took up some of the themes he explored in TBB in his 1974 novel “Doctor Frigo” which also involved leaders in a Caribbean nation planning a coup.

Talking about the unreleased book in his story collection, Ambler wryly observes that the short story “is an episode from a failed novel. It was written before the invention of the home shredder and after California brushfires could safely be relied upon to retrieve such indiscretions.”

The manuscript for “Gentleman from Abroad” is currently avoiding shredders and brushfires with the rest of Ambler’s papers in the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University. If anyone has or does read the novel there, any information you can offer would be great.

An email to the agent of Ambler’s written estate revealed they are aware of “Gentleman from Abroad” and are looking into possibilities for its release. Even if it isn’t a polished gem, with the right introduction and afterwords it would be an interesting release. It could be especially interesting if it offers an opportunity to compare it to his later work on a similar theme, “Doctor Frigo.”

Perhaps if enough people read this post and ask for the book to be published it will finally see The Light of Day.

Much of the research for this post came from Peter Lewis’ “Eric Ambler,” an essential resource, and Ambler’s own “Waiting for Orders.” Additional thanks to Jeremy Duns, who in his post here, brought this “lost” manuscript to wider attention.

Currently, at, you can receive free ebook copies of two of his novels, one of which is “Doctor Frigo,” mentioned earlier and has been called his best work. It’s a great offer and introduction to a essential spy novelist.



Collecting Spy Fiction

Abel Uribe/Chicago Tribune

Linking here to a short profile that appeared in the Chicago Tribune book supplement Printers Row a couple years back

They have a weekly feature on various local book lovers and their collection. The story was written by Laura Pearson, @tislaurapearson, and the pictures below are by a great Tribune photographer Abel Uribe.

Abel Uribe/Chicago Tribune

Abel Uribe/Chicago Tribune
Abel Uribe/Chicago Tribune