Clear and present dangers cry out for a new spy-novel surge
Not since the Cold War has there been so much real-life international villainy demanding Le Carre treatment
The golden age of the spy thriller ended with the Cold War. But of late, news reports have provided enough material for a silver age to start — if authors take heed.
The last time a spy thriller topped the list of a year’s best-selling novels in the US, compiled by Publisher’s Weekly, was in 1988 or 1989 — depending on whether one counts the latter year’s Clear and Present Danger by Tom Clancy as an espionage novel or a political one. (In 1988, another Clancy book, The Cardinal of the Kremlin, unmistakably a spy novel, was number one.) John le Carré, who had his first book on top of the list in 1964 (The Spy Who Came in from the Cold) and was in the Top 10 nine times, had his last big hit in 1989, too, with The Russia House, though he has continued to publish regularly.