In "Agent Running in the Field" (Viking), the latest novel by master Cold War storyteller John le Carré, the tale of international intrigue involves up-to-date villains: those trying to take Britain out of the European Union.
Read the excerpt below (and listen to the audio version read by the author himself), and!
Listen to an excerpt from "Agent Running in the Field," read by the author:
From Chapter 1
Our meeting was not contrived. Not by me, not by Ed, not by any of the hidden hands supposedly pulling at his strings. I was not targeted. Ed was not put up to it. We were neither covertly nor aggressively observed. He issued a sporting challenge. I accepted it. We played. There was no contrivance, no conspiracy, no collusion. There are events in my life – only a few these days, it's true – that admit of one version only. Our meeting is such an event. My telling of it never wavered in all the times they made me repeat it.
It is a Saturday evening. I am sitting in the Athleticus Club in Battersea, of which I am Honorary Secretary, a largely meaningless title, in an upholstered deckchair beside the indoor swimming pool. The clubroom is cavernous and high-raftered, part of a converted brewery, with the pool at one end and a bar at the other, and a passageway between the two that leads to the segregated changing rooms and shower areas.
In facing the pool I am at an oblique angle to the bar. Beyond the bar lies the entrance to the clubroom, then the lobby, then the doorway to the street. I am thus not in a position to see who is entering the clubroom or who is hanging around in the lobby reading notices, booking courts or putting their names on the Club ladder. The bar is doing brisk trade. Young girls and their swains splash and chatter.
I am wearing my badminton kit: shorts, sweatshirt and a new pair of ankle-friendly trainers. I bought them to fend off a niggling pain in my left ankle incurred on a ramble in the forests of Estonia a month previously. After prolonged back-to-back stints overseas I am savouring a well-deserved spell of home leave. A cloud looms over my professional life that I am doing my best to ignore. On Monday I expect to be declared redundant. Well, so be it, I keep telling myself. I am entering my forty-seventh year, I have had a good run, this was always going to be the deal, so no complaints.
All the greater therefore the consolation of knowing that, despite the advance of age and a troublesome ankle, I continue to reign supreme as Club champion, having only last Saturday secured the singles title against a talented younger field. Singles are generally regarded as the exclusive preserve of fleet-footed twenty-somethings, but thus far I have managed to hold my own. Today, in accordance with Club tradition, as newly crowned champion I have successfully acquitted myself in a friendly match against the champion of our rival club across the river in Chelsea. And here he is sitting beside me now in the afterglow of our combat, pint in hand, an aspiring and sportsmanlike young Indian barrister. I was hard pressed till the last few points, when experience and a bit of luck turned the tables in my favour. Perhaps these simple facts will go some way to explaining my charitable disposition at the moment when Ed threw down his challenge, and my feeling, however temporary, that there was life after redundancy.
From "Agent Running in the Field" by John le Carré, published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2019 by John le Carré. Reprinted by permission. Available in Hardcover, eBook and Audio formats, available via Amazon.
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