Ian Fleming V John Le Carre - Tuesday 29th November London

Vanity Fair & Intelligence Squared are hosting a debate next Tuesday designed to determine who is the greatest spy novelist - Le Carre or Fleming ?
Fleming's case will be made by Bond novelist Anthony Horowitz whilst Le Carre will be represented by Emmy nominated screenwriter and adapter of the BBC's 'The Night Manager' David Farr.
There are also going to be a cast of actors to bring the characters to life.
It promises to be a fun evening for literary aficionados and PussyNoMore will be in attendance.
The event is timed to start at 7pm and will take place in Westminster.
Tickets are available from www.intelligencesquared.com
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Comments

  • ggl007ggl007 www.archivo007.com Spain, España
    Posts: 1,616
    Very interesting. Will it be broadcasted in any way?
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 23,473
    Farr's got his work cut out for him. Good luck to both gentlemen.
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    Posts: 16,342
    Two of my favorite authors. Along with Graham Greene, I love to read espionage tales penned by these talented men who actually worked for British Intelligence during wartime. Each is unique and excellent in their unique approaches to the subject matter. No need for a competition.
  • ggl007 said:

    Very interesting. Will it be broadcasted in any way?

    I don't think so but if it is I'll let you know.
    In any event, PussyNoMore will endeavour to report back.
  • Birdleson said:

    No need for a competition.

    Don't worry @Birdleson. This will be a civilised affair. No chants of 'Lock them up' or 'Build that wall' from this audience.
  • DragonpolDragonpol Twitter: @Dragonpol, Writer @ The Bondologist Blog: http://www.thebondologistblog.blogspot.co.uk
    Posts: 9,488
    I'd heard about this somewhere before. I'd love to be able to attend this event but am unable to unfortunately. The literati will no doubt conspire to ensure that John Le Carre wins the day.
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 23,473
    The next debate of literary titans they do should be focused on noir, with a Chandler vs. Hammett face-off.
  • edited November 2016 Posts: 1,982
    Sounds fabulous, wish I were able to attend. I look forward to your report, @PussyNoMore!

    (PS: How about a spontaneously-erupting chant of "Shaken! Not! Stirred!! Shaken! Not! Stirred!!!")
  • Posts: 4,231

    Vanity Fair & Intelligence Squared are hosting a debate next Tuesday designed to determine who is the greatest spy novelist - Le Carre or Fleming ?
    Fleming's case will be made by Bond novelist Anthony Horowitz whilst Le Carre will be represented by Emmy nominated screenwriter and adapter of the BBC's 'The Night Manager' David Farr.
    There are also going to be a cast of actors to bring the characters to life.
    It promises to be a fun evening for literary aficionados and PussyNoMore will be in attendance.
    The event is timed to start at 7pm and will take place in Westminster.
    Tickets are available from www.intelligencesquared.com

    I think this is slam dunk, but I have bias having read the Fleming canon many times over.
    But I have sampled many of Le Carre's offerings too.

    Fleming wrote page turners. There is nothing I love reading more than Fleming, so this is David v Goliath.
    Horowitz though need be up to the job. The other side can get crabby (jealous)
    Le Carre has taken some cheapie shots at Fleming IMO
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    edited November 2016 Posts: 23,473
    I'm with you, @timmer. I enjoy them both, of course, but if I had a choice to read either gentlemen's work and only their work for the rest of my life, Fleming would win every day of the week and thrice on Sunday.

    He doesn't get the credit he deserves in the "higher" literary community, much like Arthur Conan Doyle for his work. Fleming was a beautiful writer who created some of the greatest passages I've read in fiction period, he wrote about locations better than any other, and his stories tell the journey of Bond in a way that is fascinating to read and truly extraordinary. He sought to write the best spy novel ever, but he destroyed that record and instead created an icon that still lives on today, only from his doing.

    I look forward to early next year when I and a few others are going to read the novels all in order while doing reviews of them.

    What's Le Carre said about Fleming, by the way?
  • PropertyOfALadyPropertyOfALady ‎85 Albert Embankment, ‎Vauxhall‎, ‎Lambeth‎ Community
    Posts: 1,492



    I look forward to early next year when I and a few others are going to read the novels all in order while doing reviews of them.

    Who's doing that?
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 23,473



    I look forward to early next year when I and a few others are going to read the novels all in order while doing reviews of them.

    Who's doing that?
    Some of the same group who are now doing the Bondathon with Creasy and I on the forums. We'll be done with that project by March, then the plan is to move on to the novels after that.


  • What's Le Carre said about Fleming, by the way?

    In a 1966 interview with the BBC's Malcolm Muggeridge, Le Carre was scathing in his assessment of 007.

    He said, amongst other things : " I dislike Bond. I'm not sure that bond is a spy. I think it's a great mistake if one's talking about espionage literature to include Bond in this category at all. It seems to me he is more of some kind of international gangster with , as it is said , a licence to kill...he is a man entirely out of the political context . It is of no interest to Bond who for instance , is president of the US or the Union of Soviet Republics."

    Reflecting on the interview in 2010 he said : " These days I would be much kinder. I suppose we have lost sight of the books in favour of the film versions, haven't we ? I was a young man and I new I had written about the reality in The Spy Who Came In From The Cold and that the Fleming stuff was a fantasisation of his own experiences written from the safety of New York."

    It's worthy of note that Le Carre was not disingenuous about Fleming's writing. His criticism was more about the Bond character.

    Clearly both writers are geniuses but what I find interesting about Le Carre, who has benefited from a much longer career than Fleming, is that in later years and with some of his best books - notably 'The Tailor Of Panama', 'The Night Manager' and 'A Delicate Truth' - Le Carre has injected more glamour and fantasy into his own work. And to great effect.

    Tonight will be interesting.

  • The event proved to be a huge success and brought in an audience of about a thousand.
    It was incredibly well staged by Intelligence / Vanity Fair and professionally moderated by author and former Literary Editor of The Times, Erica Wagner.

    There was a vote taken on entering were 32% declared in favour of Fleming. 43% for Le Carre and 25% said they were undecided.

    Anthony Horowitz went first and did a fabulous job advocating for Fleming. His principle thrust was to talk to the genius of his story telling and the fact that he is one of the very few writers - Charles Dickens and J K Rowling he sighted as two others - who have transcended fiction, who have created stories that capture a particular time and place, that are universally recognisable and are, it would seem, immortal.

    Both advocates had the same a cast of actors at their disposal - Simon Callow, Matthew Lewis, Alex Macqueen & Lesley Manville - to support their case and Horowitz had them read the following three passages to illustrate his points:

    1) The beach scene from OHMSS

    2) The centipede passage from Dr.No

    3) The torture scene from Goldfinger.

    The passages were brilliantly chosen and read by the cast and served as excellent examples of Fleming's masterly descriptive style and his capacity to ramp up the tension.
    Horowitz was incredibly enthusiastic throughout and nobody could have put a more informed and entertaining case for Fleming. By the time he'd finished, PussyNoMore was convinced Fleming had it in the bag.

    David Farr, the screenwriter of the BBC's adaptation of 'The Night Manager' followed and he too did a great job in putting his case for Le Carre. His principle thrust was to point to Le Carre's own experience in the intelligence service and to say that he had turned espionage into existentialism. That his canvas is betrayal of both the realm and the heart and that his greatness comes from the personal nature of the exploration.

    The three passages that he had the actors animate to illustrate his points were:

    1) Smiley's first meeting with Connie in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

    2) Axel's recruitment of Magnus Pym in The Perfect Spy.

    3) Connie's agreement to help Smiley again from Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

    Again, the passages were well chosen and illustrated the depth of his writing and whilst listening to them, PussyNoMore had to confess, he did feel the considerable weight of Le Carre.

    There followed a little toing and froing between the advocates during which Horowitz rather amusingly and quite correctly accused Farr of Bondifying Le Carre for the screen.

    Then followed a Q & A from the audience and a final vote.

    Frankly, I thought Fleming had it but the vote said otherwise. Fleming got 38%, Le Carre won with 60% and 2% remained undecided. At the end of the day the power of the London literati proved to great and had the event been staged in NYC or Hong Kong I thing Fleming would have powered through.

    Nonetheless, we had a great night. Everybody behaved. Nobody shouted 'Build That Wall' or 'Lock Them Up' and we all went home happy.



  • Two extremely good, yet very different writers. I'm not surprised Le Carré won though.
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 23,473
    Great write-up, and thanks for a run-through of it all, @PussyNoMore. It's a shame the event wasn't recorded.

    I'm surprised the ending of The Spy Who Came in From the Cold wasn't chosen as one of the pieces read in the defense of Le Carré. One of my favorite passages in fiction, that leaves one suitably cold.

    I agree with you on choosing Fleming, as well. He benefits from being a far more fascinating character, and I think his writing is truly exceptional. He is shunned from some literary circles because his books are made synonymous with pulpy smut and sex-laden stories with a fair share of bizarre elements that make them seem undignified or unworthy by this sort, but Fleming was immaculate and they can all go to hell.

    Nothing against Le Carré, but Fleming sent ripples through the world and created a character who is now nearly impossible to be unaware of, like Doyle's Holmes. Le Carré has Smiley as an equivalent (his most famous character besides Leamas, maybe), though even those two characters aren't popular to those of the public like Bond is. Of course one could counter that the Bond the world knows is more influenced by the cinematic interpretation than Fleming's source character, but that take on the character has only one foundation, and that's in Uncle Ian's text.
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    Posts: 16,342
    I've going through a Le Carre kick for the past few months. He's becoming a favorite.
  • PropertyOfALadyPropertyOfALady ‎85 Albert Embankment, ‎Vauxhall‎, ‎Lambeth‎ Community
    Posts: 1,492
    I've never read Le Carre, and don't intend to, really.
  • DragonpolDragonpol Twitter: @Dragonpol, Writer @ The Bondologist Blog: http://www.thebondologistblog.blogspot.co.uk
    Posts: 9,488
    I knew and said above that Le Carre would win as a more literary writer. Predictable fare.
  • BMW_with_missilesBMW_with_missiles I've taught you to love chickens, to love their flesh, their voice.
    Posts: 1,118
    Fleming invented a legend. Regardless of the debate, he wins.
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 23,473

    I've never read Le Carre, and don't intend to, really.

    I'd give him a shot, @PropertyOfALady, if espionage writing is your thing. He's been hit and miss for the bit of him I've read, but at the very least The Spy Who Came in From the Cold is necessary reading for any lover of fiction, and I've heard wonderful things about the George Smiley books, which I'll surely read at some point, sooner rather than later.
  • Great write-up, and thanks for a run-through of it all, @PussyNoMore. It's a shame the event wasn't recorded.

    Sorry, forgot to mention, it was recorded !
    I don't know how or when it will be transmitted but it will be worth checking at www.intelligencesquared.com . Doubtless they will communicate.

  • I've never read Le Carre, and don't intend to, really.

    I'd give him a shot, @PropertyOfALady, if espionage writing is your thing. He's been hit and miss for the bit of him I've read, but at the very least The Spy Who Came in From the Cold is necessary reading for any lover of fiction, and I've heard wonderful things about the George Smiley books, which I'll surely read at some point, sooner rather than later.
    Seconded. For any literary espionage aficionado to go through life sans Le Carre would be a huge mistake.
    That said, Le Carre's literary career has spanned fifty years and not all of his books are born equal.
    PussyNoMore considers 'The Spy Who Came In From The Cold', 'A Perfect Spy', 'The Constant Gardner', 'The Tailor Of Panama', 'A Delicate Truth' and 'The Night Manager' to be formidable whilst 'The Mission Song' is an absolute stinker and others are quite forgettable.
    The 'Karla' trilogy is interesting insomuch as 'Tinker Tailor' and 'Smiley's People' are often discussed because they've been filmed whereas the middle book, 'The Honourable Schoolboy', is the best thing he's ever done and one of the finest books of the last century.
    This didn't really come out in the debate were all Le Carre was treat as being of equal merit .
    The other thing that didn't really come out last night was the absolute importance in all of this of one Leonard Cyril Deighton. After all, it was Deighton who was Fleming's true successor and who opened the door for Le Carre. Without 'The Ipcress File', PussyNoMore seriously doubts that there would've been an appetite for 'The Spy Who Came In From The Cold'. There is an excellent article about this over at www.literarybond.com
  • MrcogginsMrcoggins Don't touch That its my ......
    Posts: 2,662
    Just checked the website Video is listed as comming soon .
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 23,473
    It's great to hear it was recorded. Do keep us posted on when it releases, @PussyNoMore, as I'd love to see it as it happened, especially to hear Fleming's lovely passages read aloud. Those that ran this should do this sort of thing more often. Doyle vs. Poe, King vs. Lovecraft, Chandler vs. Hammett, Tolkien vs. C.S. Lewis; there's so many interesting debates that could come from it for those that appreciate literature and its greatest figures.
  • gt007gt007 Station G
    Posts: 1,153
    Thanks for the write-up, @PussyNoMore. Sounds like an extremely interesting event. Looking forward to the video.

    As everyone here, I was quite sure Le Carre would win. Fleming is quite frequently snubbed not only by literary circles, but also by the general public opinion. On the other hand, Le Carre is constantly being referred to as the greatest spy novelist by the media, a title that inevitably transcends into public opinion.

    Fleming and the literary Bond has been inevitably and perhaps too heavily linked with the cinematic franchise. The somewhat outlandish situations described by Fleming are overshadowed by the significantly more outlandish cinematic counterpart and I think a lot of people - especially those who haven't read the books in a long time - can't distinguish what's Fleming and what's from the films. Whereas Le Carre is more down to earth and, therefore, more serious and of higher literary value - in the minds of said literary circles.

    I must admit I haven't read Le Carre yet, whereas I've read Fleming's Bond novels two or three times each. I've only experienced Le Carre through the screen adaptations of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and The Night Manager. I do have to agree with Horowitz's comment that The Night Manager looked quite influenced by Bond.
  • Thanks for these reports, @PussyNoMore. I was especially impressed by your mentioning the point that Horowitz accused Farr of "Bondifying" LeCarre for the screen. If this had been a formal debate, I think that point would have carried a lot of weight. Instead, we had the attendees voting, and obviously the vote was rigged. While each writer has points in his favor, I think this really came down to a question of, "Which writer is more suited to the current mood?" Fleming loses bigly on this point. His material was totally OF the sixties. Le Carre's themes of betrayal are much more in tune with the world we know today. Therefore, in a poll of modern readers, Le Carre has the edge.
  • gt007 said:



    Fleming and the literary Bond has been inevitably and perhaps too heavily linked with the cinematic franchise. The somewhat outlandish situations described by Fleming are overshadowed by the significantly more outlandish cinematic counterpart and I think a lot of people - especially those who haven't read the books in a long time - can't distinguish what's Fleming and what's from the films. Whereas Le Carre is more down to earth and, therefore, more serious and of higher literary value - in the minds of said literary circles.

    This is a great point and one that Horowitz made during his advocacy.

    I must admit I haven't read Le Carre yet, whereas I've read Fleming's Bond novels two or three times each. I've only experienced Le Carre through the screen adaptations of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and The Night Manager. I do have to agree with Horowitz's comment that The Night Manager looked quite influenced by Bond.

    It is ironic that some of Le Carre's works have some Bondonian elements to them and PussyNoMore does think he's paced his work up a bit in later years. 'A Delicate Truth' was a humdinger.
  • Le Carre's themes of betrayal are much more in tune with the world we know today. Therefore, in a poll of modern readers, Le Carre has the edge.

    A great point.

  • ggl007ggl007 www.archivo007.com Spain, España
    Posts: 1,616

    Le Carre's themes of betrayal are much more in tune with the world we know today. Therefore, in a poll of modern readers, Le Carre has the edge.

    A great point.

    I agree. And don't forget that you are not PC if you like a guy with a licence to kill...

    Thanks for the report, @PussyNoMore. Good to know it will be released sometime!
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