LeCarre’s Night Manager Debuts on AMC
John LeCarre’ is the greatest spy novelist alive today. He has been the greatest for decades. Since The Spy Who Came in from the Cold debuted in 1963, his métier has been Cold War espionage, the Russians and the British: MI6 against the KGB and all its sister agencies in Eastern Europe.
Many of his books were made into BBC series, and others became feature films. I found it remarkable that based his 1995 book of the same name, The Night Manager miniseries debuted on AMC Tuesday of this week. It’s remarkable because the story centers on a super-rich British national who runs arms and manages laundered money from the Caribbean (some of it perhaps for members of parliament or the ministry) and in the days before the first segment aired, the news about Panama’s secret banking broke (see my post on Panama).
When the Wall came down and the Soviet Empire began to crumble, LeCarre’ found himself without his default antagonist. He began to form suitable baddies in the grey world between commerce and corruption in government.
Since the last of the Cold War efforts, LeCarre’ has focused on money-laundering (Single and Single), corporate exploitation in the Third World (The Constant Gardener), and the global US-led anti-terrorist machine (A Most Wanted Man), to name three new themes. In almost all LeCarre’ plots, the individual confronts the machinery of power, some institutional juggernaut of staggering resources and will. It’s always David and Goliath, except that sometimes Goliath wins and David lies in pieces on the field. Yet even when that happens, dark and despairing as only LeCarre’ can shape it, the romantic reader may often find consolation in the loss: the cause is either Justice or Love, and besides, as long as LeCarre’ is writing, the next book may have Goliath fall.
LeCarre’ storytelling is not standard fare; his plots are often complex and usually require careful attention to details. The action is typically comprised more of intrigue rather than brute confrontation. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is a somewhat recent example of how a film based on his book can leave viewers impatient for action; it did not do well in the US box office. The much older Russia House was sublime, however, and I thought the most recent A Most Wanted Man (with the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman) was superb. Because The Night Manager as a story is already over twenty years old, the miniseries has been updated and modernized. I hope it creates a clear enough picture of money laundering and arms trading to generate political and legal action against the perpetrators.