The Pigeon Tunnel

The Pigeon Tunnel

Stories From My Life

Book - 2016
Average Rating:
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"From his years serving in British Intelligence during the Cold War to a career as a writer that took him from war-torn Cambodia to Beirut on the cusp of the 1982 Israeli invasion to Russia before and after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, John Le Carré has always written from the heart of modern times. In this, his highly anticipated memoir, Le Carré is as funny as he is incisive, reading into the events he witnesses the same moral ambiguity with which he imbues his novels."--
Published: New York, New York :, Viking,, [2016]
Copyright Date: ©2016
ISBN: 9780735220775
0735220778
Branch Call Number: B LEC
Characteristics: vii, 310 pages ;,24 cm

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megaculpa
May 31, 2017

A treasure-trove for fans of le Carre (aka David Cornwell), as he relates encounters and events that inspired so many of his characters and stories. The chapter on his parents is more amusing and bizarre than any of his novels.

This book’s title refers to a sporting facility at a Riviera resort that Cornwell visited when he was a teenager. Pigeons were raised on the hotel roof and let loose through tunnels that ran under the lawn to a seaside cliff. As the birds emerged from the tunnel, tourists would fire at them with rifles. Pigeons that weren’t shot would return to their coop on the roof, unwittingly surrendering themselves to be sacrificed in future rounds of entertainment.

Cornwell thinks this a suitably grisly metaphor for the espionage racket and he considered using it as a title for any number of his spy novels, finally resurrecting it for this memoir.

s
SRZ37
May 24, 2017

Loved this book. Would like to have had a lot more! David Cornwell's life has defied all expectations in class-bound England and he has found a way to make it enthralling without compromising his innate need for privacy.

s
StephenB
May 05, 2017

Excellent. A collection of highly polished anecdotes of varied length and interest, some concerning the British secret service, some about famous figures from the worlds of literature, film, or politics, and some more personal. The author's personality seems to come through strongly. I think most readers who enjoy Le Carre's fiction would also like this book.

j
JLMason
Jan 07, 2017

David Cornwell (aka John Le Carre) tells his “autobiography" as a set of short story vignettes organized by topic not by timeline. He focuses mainly on the events, travels, and encounters that inspired the stories, settings, and characters in his books. And what a fascinating life he has led, told by a master storyteller with intelligence and wry, self-deprecating humour. He recounts his stories as one who is able to be part of a situation yet observe it with detachment, from his early days as a minor spy in the British embassy in Bonn during the cold war to his encounters with celebrities and world leaders as he becomes famous and his books are made into movies. One learns who inspired certain characters in his books and that he traveled widely, sometimes to dangerous places, to research locales to ensure authenticity. But he is very selective in what he tells, keeping information about his personal life to a minimum until near the end where he shows the only real emotion in the book when he unleashes bitterness and resentment about his conman, reprobate father and the mother who abandoned him. How much of his life story is remembered correctly, how much is embellished, how much has been left out: the storyteller does not give away his secrets. A fine and enjoyable read.

e
EmilyEm
Dec 19, 2016

The writer of acclaimed spy novels relates anecdotes of his long writing life. His life stories are told with deprecation and humor—good reading if you’ve enjoyed his books and the movies made from them.

s
StarGladiator
Oct 31, 2016

20-starred review!
I was expecting a good read, but was surprised at what a truly fascinating read Mr. Cornwell's memoirs are - - just the several pages on Allen Dulles and the German intelligence are highly enlightening, as are many of the other recondite facts and events recounted by a fellow traveler [one who also is disgusted at criminal banks and corrupt intelligence services].
Interesting details on British politics, which along with Thai and Japanese politics must count as the world's murkiest and most sophisticated, given the layers of oligarchs - - royals - - and political classes.
Droll wit welcomed . . .
[My only criticism of this book and David Cornwell is to be found on p. 131, when Cornwell is interviewing a Russian gangster, and Cornwell repeats the mythology of the robber baron who ages into a benevolent saint. FYI, Mr. Cornwell, the Lusitania was sunk by a sub from the shipyards of Andrew Carnegie, sold to the Kaiser when Carnegie was supposedly, according to the so-called media, on a world peace tour pleading peace with the Kaiser. Sadly, Cornwell probably would believe the [mostly Koch brothers-financed] NPR when they falsely reported that a billionaire philanthropically moved $1 billion in stocks into his foundation - - not a charitable act, but to avoid taxation, and to hide and shelter his ownership, wealth and activities. See if you are able to determine the net worth, sometime, of Andrew Carnegie Rockefeller?]

Bunny_Watson716 Sep 13, 2016

Listen to a variety of English actors read from John le Carre's novels: https://www.theguardian.com/books/ng-interactive/2016/sep/03/tinker-tailor-writer-spy-the-many-lives-of-john-le-carre-in-his-own-words#videos

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