A Delicate Truth
by John LeCarre (Viking Adult 2013)
In my view, a fiction writer has a fundamental responsibility to reflect the era they write about. The majority of contemporary novelists balk at accurately depicting the criminal element that has seized control of our western democracies. Most 21st century spy thrillers are a hollow glorification of the War on Terror, celebrating the virtue and bravery of patriotic intelligence operatives who keep us safe from so-called fanatical Islamic fundamentalists.
Not Le Carre. Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, the British author used his gift for characterization to write masterful thrillers in which we made the intimate acquaintance of British and Russian spymasters, moles and bureaucratic government careerists with all their flaws and foibles. With the advent of the War on Terror, his more recent novels revolve around the privatization and criminalization of British intelligence, under the influence of the CIA and thuggish security contractors like Blackwater, who have no official accountability whatsoever to the taxpayers who pay their salaries.
Most of LeCarre’s recent thrillers end on a pretty bleak note. Owing to the mafia-like grip the sociopathic elite and their hired mercenaries have over British and US intelligence, the good guys almost always lose.
A Delicate Truth ends somewhat more optimistically. The plot revolves around the cover-up of a failed extraordinary rendition (i.e. the kidnapping of a suspected terrorist to a country where he can be legally tortured). A program that clearly hasn’t ended under Obama, despite his campaign promises. The heroes are two would-be whistleblowers who try to expose the cover-up because they’re too naïve to appreciate the total depravity of the forces arrayed against them.
I think I can detect the influence of real life whistleblowers Edward Snowden and Julian Assange in LeCarre’s new note of cautious optimism.