Friday, April 07, 2006

Thriller writers tend to come off as conservative, sometimes very. People who don't support the government in power are bad, they tend to assume in passing.

John Le Carre tended to say in his books in passing that that wasn't him, even as he was writing thrillers during the Cold War.

In "Smiley's People," Le Carre's hero George Smiley is trying to figure out why a long-retired spy got killed in Hampstead Heath, a big park in London, in a way that looks just like people from the KGB came from Moscow to do him in.

As he walks around Hampstead Heath, clue search, he notes on a metal shelter some graffiti that says, "Punk is destructive. Society does not need it."

"The assertion cased him a moments indecision. 'Oh, but society *does,*' he wanted to reply; society is an association of minorities.' " Then a few sentences later, Smiley thinks of Moscow, where the murdered spy had worked from within the government to tell the British what was happening. "Moscow, where it could take a fieldman three days to post a letter to a safe address. Moscow, where all minorities are punk."

Le Carre's books since the Cold War ended have often been written in a white heat of rage around his feeling that he did not work, his generation should not have worked to win the Cold War so selected groups and companies could make lots and lots of money.

In The Constant Gardener, a good read, he presents big pharma, the industry as being criminal in the way it tests drugs and treats people in poor countries. In other books he presents respectable UK Conservatives who know that the Cold War was won so they could make big money selling arms to the rulers of poor countries.

White hot rage such as Le Carre feels doesn't always make for the most elegant art, but the existence of the rage is inspiring. He did think the Cold War was about freedom, and freedom other than the freedom to make money, and the freedom to buy laws that make your way of making money legal.