Monday, 19 April 2010

Charles MCarry

I first heard of Charles McCarry from a BBC 4 radio programme about crime/thriller writers, and I just had to check him out as he sounded so interesting. Not that one should judge a book by a speaker’s voice but I was charmed.

Going straight to Amazon, though having sworn I would always use the library first, I bought Christopher's Ghosts and The Tears of Autumn. Call it instinct but I just felt that I would want to keep his books and I was right. They are both engaging mainly because they are set in different decades but with the same central character. Part of their charm is that they weren’t written chronologically and this makes them more interesting as it allows the author to add information rather than repeating it. Especially irritating to readers who have started with the author’s first novel and then have to read the same thing again and again. This way it is like a friendship learning new things all the time.

McCarry served in the United States Army where he was a correspondent for Stars and Stripes; he has been a small-town newspaperman, and was a speechwriter in the Eisenhower administration. From 1958 to 1967 he worked for the CIA, under deep cover in Europe, Asia, and Africa though his cover was not as a writer or journalist. He has been compared to Graham Green and John Le Carre and there are definite similarities - the intelligent, sensitive loner who nevertheless suffers from questions of conscience about the work he does. The main protagonists don't emerge unscathed from either their actions or those of others and their humanity is very strongly conveyed. The stories and situations seem plausible, fascinating and frightening. Writers who have been involved in intelligence work, and can actually write as well, somehow give a real feeling of authenticity to their stories.

I think it is a form of magic to be able to take one on a 'trip' - without a mushroom or hallucinogenic – transporting you to another dimension purely in your imagination.

I am hooked, line and sinker.

One of the perks of being part of Les Soeurs Anglaises, is that we get to develop relationships with seriously first class projects and businesses that have long been on our "favourites" list. Among these is Daunt Books: their original Edwardian bookshop with long oak galleries and graceful skylights is situated in Marylebone High Street, London but also have shops in Chelsea, Holland Park, Hampstead and Belsize Park and have recently set up their website where you can order various books arranged by country, offering maps and guides, along with the best history, biography and fiction. New titles, from poetry to non-fiction, are added every day and they have researched a bespoke list of titles for Les Soeurs Anglaises on which participants of our workshops can get a 10% reduction.

If screenwriting and films are more your kettle of fish, check out the Lexi Cinema in Kensal Rise, London. They show an eclectic range of mainstream films and arthouse with new and old releases. The building still includes its original Edwardian features, it has been transformed into a perfectly delightful 77 seater cinema house combining the past and present with a club atmosphere.

Finally, the charming Polly Leonard, editor of Selvedge Magazine is to publish a story in May next issue an article about bookbinder extraordinaire, Rachel Hazell who will be leading a workshop for us in August. Selvedge and Les Soeurs Anglaises will be collaborating for this event and we feel fortunate to have the backing of such a prestigious and informative magazine.


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