John Le Carre

December 17, 2020 at 4:08 pm (books, In memoriam)

David Ignatius has written a wonderful feature on John Le Carre for the Washington Post. It is entitled “LeCarre’s People.” In it, he states:

His spies and their world were based on real life, and yet totally his own inventions.

His spies and their world…and what a world it was, by turns bleak and terrifying, with long stretches of boredom in between. Its ethos was embodied in the character of George Smiley, played on screen unforgettably by Sir Alec Guinness.

The other great portrayal of a Le Carre character was done by Richard Burton; he was Alec Leamas in The Spy Who Came In from the Cold, surely one of the greatest espionage films ever, based on the novel of the same name, published in 1963. This was Le Carre’s third work of fiction; it vaulted him to stardom in the literary world, where, it being the early 1960s, such things still mattered to the general public – sigh…

The acclaimed, best-selling novel by John le Carré, about a Cold War spy on one final dangerous mission in East Germany, is transmuted by director Martin Ritt into a film every bit as precise and ruthless as the book. Richard Burton is superb as Alec Leamas, whose relationship with the beautiful librarian Nan, played by Claire Bloom, puts his assignment in jeopardy. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is a hard-edged and tragic thriller, suffused with the political and social consciousness that defined Ritt’s career.

From the Criterion Collection site

Le Carre’s first two works of fiction are Call for the Dead (1961) and A Murder of Quality(1962). Both feature George Smiley in a more or less conventional detective setting. They’re a good way to make the acquaintance of Smiley. I enjoyed them both, especially A Murder of Quality, which is set at a boys’ boarding school and has that tense, claustrophobic atmosphere which often characterizes such places, both in fiction and in fact.

More recent tiles by Le Carre that I’ve enjoyed are A Legacy of Spies and Agent Running in the Field. That last came out in 2019. It’s hard for me to believe that there will be no more from the astute and brilliant pen of John Le Carre.

A YouTube commenter on the trailer for The Spy Who Came In from the Cold wrote, three days ago:

R.I.P. John le Carré. You are in from the Cold.

David John Moore Cornwell, aka John Le Carre , October 19, 1931-December 12, 2020


Permalink Leave a Comment

Tony Horwitz

May 28, 2019 at 10:51 pm (books, In memoriam)


Tony Horwitz, a gifted and witty prose stylist, wrote two of my favorite nonfiction titles: Baghdad Without a Map and Confederates in the Attic. I read the former when it came out in 1991. It might come across as somewhat dated now, but Confederates, with its wonderful stories of Civil War re-enactors and the lengths they go to to achieve authenticity, is probably just as entertaining today as it was when it came out in 1998.

Earlier this afternoon, I was checking my library reserves and was delighted to find that my reserve on Horwitz’s latest book, Spying on the South, had just come in. About an hour later, I read the news of his sudden death. He was here in the Washington area to promote the new book when he collapsed.

Tony Horwitz’s death was sudden, probably due to cardiac arrest. Married to novelist Geraldine Brooks, he was sixty years old.

This is very sad news.

Tony Horwitz June 8 1958-May 27, 2019

Permalink Leave a Comment

Sue Grafton

December 29, 2017 at 9:44 pm (In memoriam, Mystery fiction)

Shocked and saddened to hear this: After battling cancer for the last two years, Sue Grafton has passed away. Her daughter Jamie Clark has posted a poignant obituary on Sue’s  home page.

I know I speak for many readers when I say that Sue’s “Alphabet mysteries” have given great pleasure since they debuted in 1982 with A Is for Alibi. We feel as though we know Kinsey Milhone. At least, we  we wish we did. She would have been great fun to hang out with: cheerfully irreverent but always compassionate, ever resourceful, and always good company.

Sue Grafton will be  genuinely and deeply missed.

Sue Taylor Grafton April 24, 1940 – December 28, 2017

Permalink Leave a Comment

Dominick Dunne

September 4, 2009 at 1:08 pm (books, In memoriam, Magazines and newspapers)

I was on my way out of town last week when I learned of the passing of Dominick Dunne. Dunne’s crime reporting was terrific. During the 1995  O.J Simpson trial, his dispatches in Vanity Fair were the only thing I read on the subject.

Dunne wrote both fiction and nonfiction. Here is Amazon’s Dominick Dunne page.

Lately, Dunne has been hosting a program on Tru TV entitled Power, Privilege, and Justice. Here is Tru TV’s tribute.

In 1982, Dominick Dunne and his wife Ellen suffered a terrible tragedy: their daughter Dominique, a budding actress (she appears in the film Poltergeist), was murdered by a rejected, obsessed boyfriend. In “Justice: a father’s account of the trial of his daughter’s killer,” Dunne tells the story of Dominique’s death and its excruciating aftermath. This essay, by turns angry and almost unbearably sad, appears in Justice: Crimes, Trials, and Punishments. This collection is as good a place as any in which to sample Dunne’s distinctive work.  In the best tradition of true crime writing, he knew how to tell a story.

Dominick Dunne was the brother of novelist and screenwriter John Gregory Dunne and the brother-in-law of Joan Didion, author of The Year of Magical Thinking.

Dominick Dunne: October 29, 1925 - August 26, 2009

Dominick Dunne: October 29, 1925 - August 26, 2009

Permalink Leave a Comment

Erich Kunzel

September 2, 2009 at 6:07 pm (In memoriam, Music)

Today, the Washington Post notes the passing of conductor Erich Kunzel. Kunzel was the music director of the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra from the time it was founded in 1977.

Round-Up_Cover In 1990, Erich Kunzel and the Telarc label scored a huge hit with Round-up, a compilation of classic film scores by the likes of Elmer Bernstein(The Magnificent Seven), Alfred Newman (How the West Was Won), Franz Waxman (The Furies Suite), Jerome Moross (Big Country), and Dmitri Tiompkin (Gunfight at the OK Corral and High Noon, with the latter featuring Frankie Laine singing “Do Not Forsake Me, O My Darling.”) . On Round-Up, the saga of the American West seems to come brilliantly to life. In addition, the recording itself is of demonstration caliber.

Here, Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops play The Magnificent Seven:

Up until quite recently, Howard County Library owned Round-Up. At this point in time, however, it appears to have dropped out of the catalog. Fortunately, Amazon still has an active listing for it; I have requested that  the library re-purchase this peerless product.

Erich Kunzel   March 21, 1935 - September 1, 1990

Erich Kunzel: March 21, 1935 - September 1, 1990

Permalink Leave a Comment

I knew that some day soon I would wake up to this news…

August 26, 2009 at 12:01 pm (Current affairs, In memoriam)

Nevertheless, the news of Ted Kennedy’s passing came as a jolt.

For some of us who came of age in the 60’s, it feels like the end of an era.

Edward Moore "Ted" Kennedy:  February 22, 1922 - August 25, 2009

Edward Moore "Ted" Kennedy: February 22, 1932 - August 25, 2009

Permalink 3 Comments

Frank McCourt

July 20, 2009 at 1:11 am (books, In memoriam)

We have lost a true original. Many of us in the Columbia area had the privilege of hearing Frank McCourt speak this past February. He was wonderful.

I’ll never forget listening, with my husband, to Angela’s Ashes, read by McCourt himself. We were on a car trip, and at one point – I think it was the bit about the false teeth – we nearly had to pull over, we were both laughing so hard…

Here is a gracious tribute by Lourdes of Lost in Books.

Francis "Frank" McCourt  August 19, 1930 - July 19, 2009

Francis "Frank" McCourt: August 19, 1930 - July 19, 2009

Permalink 1 Comment