I’ve recently been asked a couple of times for authors I would recommend to read after folks have finished all the Slough House novels and novellas. My first suggestion would be to make sure you’ve read some of Herron’s other novels, like Down Cemetery Road, Reconstruction, Nobody Walks and even This is What Happened. If you are into Herron for the spies, all have spy adjacent plots.
Beyond Herron, when thinking about how to break down his Slough House novels, for me it comes down to three elements – the type of Spies, the type of Humor, and the type of Writing. It’s hard to find books with all three, although I do have a couple, my list below is of books that have at least two of the three elements.
Intelligence by Susan Hasler – Hasler’s book is a great “office” dynamic look at the CIA with plenty of sharp humor.
Ross Thomas – His political/spy adjacent novels like The Fools in Town are on my Side, The Money Harvest, The Seersucker Whipsaw, The Eight Dwarf, and If You Can’t be Good are all great.
Lawerence Block – His Evan Tanner series takes on a specifically spyish bent starting with the second novel, albeit a bit more broad, and his The Burglar series is a really fun mystery series.
Transcription by Kate Atkinson – It’s a spy novel with wonderful writing and gets you in her character’s heads in a way that Herron also manages.
All the Old Knives by Olen Steinhauer – This book is a twisty spy thriller that I could see fans of Herron quite enjoying.
East of Hounslow series by Khurram Rahman – Rahman has created a total fun original character in his narrator and you’ll enjoy following him in the spy exploits he accidentally falls into.
The 87th Precinct series by Ed McBain – Herron recently said he could see himself writing Slough House books for the rest of his life and no one created a rotating cast of characters over a period of decades like McBain in his legendary series following one particular police precinct.
Charlie Muffin by Brian Freemantle – The first couple of Muffin books are wonderful, Muffin could be Jackson Lamb’s grandfather and they also are great at offering some of the twists and turns that Herron loves. I’d skip the 3rd, 4th and 5th as they are just so-so, but with the 6th he comes back strong and has a very nice run of stories.
Agent Running in the Field by John le Carré – I’d say le Carré’s last novel is also his lightest and most fun. The first person point of view gives him a chance to bring his sense of humor to the forefront and his method of mixing politics and spies serves him well in his last novel.
That’s my list. Please comment below with who you think should be added to the list!
10 thoughts on “Mick Herron’s Slough House – What to read next?”
Those look great – thanks so much, I’ve been quietly desperate since I finished Slough House for the umpteenth time! Is “Intelligence” the one that has been adapted into an American TV series with David Schwimmer and Sylvetre Le Touzel?
Nope, Intelligence is completely different from that show. The audiobook is quite good as well.
Ross Thomas was a tremendous writer. The series most strongly reminiscent of Mick Herron is the four or five with McCorkle (bartender) and Padillo (multilingual ex(?)-CIA tough guy); the first is The Cold War Swap and the last is Twilight at Mac’s Place. My favorites are the ones with Quincy Durant and Artie Wu. Start with Chinaman’s Chance. Why no one has made this into a movie is itself a mystery. Though not spy-adjacent, some network made Briarpatch into a series in the past couple of years. I didn’t see it, and it seems not to have been very well received. A pity.
The closest to Herron’s ‘Slough House’ series are undoubtedly John Gardner’s Boise Oakes books.
They achieved in the ‘60s/‘70s what Herron is achieving now.
That is to say a unique cocktail of humour and thrills that root for the underdog.
The characters are brilliant. Boise is an out and out coward. Mostyn, the spy boss is so greasy he doesn’t open doors he slips right under them. And there is a character called Griffin who is a subcontract hitman who masquerades as a hitman.
Start with ‘The Liquidator’ and read them in chronological order. The high water mark was probably ‘Madrigal’.
Sorry, re above, meant to say “masquerades as an undertaker”.
Many thanks to Jeff and David Derbes and David (presumably noy the same person?) for all those great new ideas. If we are harking back to old favourites may I bring Gavin Lyall’s Major Maxim series to your attention? Whitehall, in the corridors of power, a simple Army Major is seconded to Number 10 feeling rather like a fish out of water.
But being Army, he’s a bit of a man of action and soon all the civil servants are running round like headless chickens demanding “Find out what Major Maxim is doing and stop him doing it!!” Office politics, particularly at the MI5 end, international action, Berlin, Washington, Jordan, Goole and Rotherhithe…with a welcome dry wit and interesting pen portraits.
The Secret Servant is first, then my favourite The Conduct of Major Maxim, then The Crocus List and finally Uncle Target (where you learn a lot about tanks! Gavin Lyall told me in a letter that we’d have learned a lot more if his wife Katherine Whitehorn hadn’t taken her blue pencil to it!)
Sadly for the Maxim books, the Berlin Wall came down and spy-related Cold War books were so passé for a while. Lyall went on to the earliest days of the Security Services, pre-World War One, and they were good but never quite grabbed me like Major Maxim (a young Charles Dance in my head – he played the part in the only BBC adaptation in the eighties)
I’m so glad I found your blog. I’m 3/4 through “Bad Actors” after having read nothing but Slough House novels since January. And I’m starting to panic. I need a new target to obsess on.
Most searches that address this question end up with machine algorithm answer. “People who liked that will like this:” But it’s obvious most of those are only similar to Herron because of crime or spies, and that’s of course not merely what I’m looking for. So thank you for breaking it down to writing, type of spies, and humor. I think that articulates in broad but useful strokes the charm of Herron’s series. I will follow your recommendations and those of the commenters.
In that vein, I recommend the thrillers of Graham Greene. Herron makes allusions to Greene’s books sometimes, which like Herron’s are set on the “dangerous edge of things.” (Which is not Greene’s line, but he quoted it often.) Greene’s humor is drier and less built-in to most of the books, but it has similar undertones of the darkly and absurdly funny.
Greene was a spy for the UK during World War II, and his biographers have speculated that he may have continued to do occasional work for the service whilst ostensibly researching his novels. He certainly brings lived experience to some of his spy fiction. He doesn’t do much with teams, even dysfunctional ones, but he creates a shabby demi-monde of spies and grifters that readers of Herron will find familiar. He does other kinds of books as well, but here are some set in the spy/crime genre:
1. Stanboul Train
2. A Gun for Sale
3. The Confidential Agent.
4. The Ministry of Fear
5. The Third Man
6. Our Man in Havana
7. The Comedians
8. The Honorary Consul
9. The Human Factor
10. The 10th Man
There are others that sort of apply hang on, especially the quiet American. But most of the others are less like thrillers.
Glad the list is helpful! Your right Greene is a good fit, especially Our Man in Havana.
Can’t find any email address for you Jeff so had to contact this way – just wanted to ask if you’ve seen this? https://deadline.com/video/slow-horses-gary-oldman-his-slough-house-spies-tease-season-3/ And there’s another from the same date (13th March) https://deadline.com/2023/03/20-questions-on-deadline-podcast-gary-oldman-slow-horses-season-3-oppenheimer-interview-news-1235298563/
I did see that! Thanks!
If you ever want to contact me I can be reached at lecarrecast @ gmail dot com.