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[A BBC Radio 4 Full Cast Dramatization starring Simon Russell Beale]
The award-winning Simon Russell Beale stars as George Smiley in this BBC Radio 4 dramatization of John le Carres second Smiley novel. The distinguished cast includes Geoffrey Palmer and Marcia Warren. This tense, compelling dramatization perfectly captures the atmosphere of le Carres gripping, sophisticated thriller.
George Smiley is one of the most brilliantly realized characters in British fiction. Bespectacled, tubby, eternally middle-aged, and deceptively ordinary, he has a mind like a steel trap and is said to possess ''the cunning of Satan and the conscience of a virgin.''This dramatization, set in the early 1960s, sees him investigating a murder in a public school. When the wife of one of the masters is found bludgeoned to death, Smiley, out of loyalty to an old friend, agrees to look into the case. But his investigation raises a multitude of questions. Who could have hated Stella Rode enough to kill her? Why was her dog put down shortly before the murder? And what did Mad Janie see on that fatal night? To discover the truth, Smiley must lift the lid on a world of hidden passions and dangerous hatreds.
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John le Carré is the nom de plume of David John Moore Cornwell, who was born in 1931 in Poole, Dorset and educated at Sherborne School, the University of Berne (where he studied German literature for a year) and at Lincoln College, Oxford, where he graduated with a first-class degree in modern languages. He taught at Eton from 1956 to 1958 and was a member of the British Foreign Service from 1959 to 1964, serving first as Second Secretary in the British Embassy in Bonn and subsequently as political consul in Hamburg. His first novel, a story of espionage called Call for the Dead, was published in 1961. It was quickly followed in 1962 by A Murder of Quality, a mystery story set in an English public school. His third novel, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, secured him a wide reputation, and was made into a successful film starring Richard Burton. This was followed by The Looking Glass War, A Small Town in Germany and The Naive and Sentimental Lover. However, the success of his third novel was consolidated by the acclaim for his trilogy Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Honourable Schoolboy and Smiley's People. Next came The Little Drummer Girl, which was a departure from the Smiley novels, and dealt with the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East. This was followed by his most autobiographical novel, A Perfect Spy. Then came The Russia House, The Secret Pilgrim, The Night Manager, Our Game, The Tailor of Panama, Single & Single, The Constant Gardener, Absolute Friends, The Mission Song and A Delicate Truth. As well as The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, many other le Carré novels have been made into films or television series. Alec Guinness starred as George Smiley in the TV mini-series of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Smiley's People, while Denholm Elliott took on the role for A Murder of Quality. The 2011 remake of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy starred Gary Oldman as Smiley, and featured a stellar cast including Colin Firth and Benedict Cumberbatch. A Most Wanted Man (2013) starred Philip Seymour Hoffman in one of his last roles, and 2014 saw the release of Our Kind of Traitor, featuring Ewan McGregor, Damian Lewis and Naomie Harris. David Cornwell has won many prestigious prizes and awards for his novels over the years. He is an Honorary Fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford and has Honorary Doctorates at the University of Bern and Oxford University. He has won the Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger twice (for The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, which also won him the Dagger of Daggers in 2005, and The Honourable Schoolboy) and in 1988 he won the Diamond Dagger for Lifetime Achievement. He donated his literary archive, containing 85 boxes of draft manuscripts, to the Bodleian Library in 2010.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Chapter One: Black Candles
The greatness of Carne School has been ascribed by common consent to Edward VI, whose educational zeal is ascribed by history to the Duke of Somerset. But Carne prefers the respectability of the monarch to the questionable politics of his adviser, drawing strength from the conviction that Great Schools, like Tudor Kings, were ordained in Heaven.
And indeed its greatness is little short of miraculous. Founded by obscure monks, endowed by a sickly boy king, and dragged from oblivion by a Victorian bully, Carne had straightened its collar, scrubbed its rustic hands and face and presented itself shining to the courts of the twentieth century. And in the twinkling of an eye, the Dorset bumpkin was London's darling: Dick Whittington had arrived. Carne had parchments in Latin, seals in wax, and Lammas Land behind the Abbey. Carne had property, cloisters and woodworm, a whipping block and a line in the Doomsday Book -- then what more did it need to instruct the sons of the rich?
And they came; each Half they came (for terms are not elegant things), so that throughout a whole afternoon the trains would unload sad groups of black-coated boys on to the station platform. They came in great cars that shone with mournful purity. They came to bury poor King Edward, trundling handcarts over the cobbled streets or carrying tuck boxes like little coffins. Some wore gowns, and when they walked they looked like crows, or black angels come for the burying. Some followed singly like undertakers' mutes, and you could hear the clip of their boots as they went. They were always in mourning at Carne; the small boys because they must stay and the big boys because they must leave, the masters because respectability was underpaid; and now, as the Lent Half (as the Easter term was called) drew to its end, the cloud of gloom was as firmly settled as ever over the grey towers of Carne.
Gloom and the cold. The cold was crisp and sharp as flint. It cut the faces of the boys as they moved slowly from the deserted playing fields after the school match. It pierced their black topcoats and turned their stiff, pointed collars into icy rings round their necks. Frozen, they plodded from the field to the long walled road which led to the main tuck shop and the town, the line gradually dwindling into groups, and the groups into pairs. Two boys who looked even colder than the rest crossed the road and made their way along a narrow path which led towards a distant but less populated tuck shop.
"I think I shall die if ever I have to watch one of those beastly rugger games again. The noise is fantastic," said one. He was tall with fair hair, and his name was Caley.
"People only shout because the dons are watching from the pavilion," the other rejoined; "that's why each house has to stand together. So that the house dons can swank about how loud their houses shout."
"What about Rode?" asked Caley. "Why does he stand with us and make us shout, then? He's not a house don, just a bloody usher."
"He's sucking up to house dons all the time. You can see him in the quad between lessons buzzing round the big men. All the junior masters do." Caley's companion was a cynical red-haired boy called Perkins, Captain of Fielding's house.
"I've been to tea with Rode," said Caley.
"Rode's hell. He wears brown boots. What was tea like?"
"Bleak. Funny how tea gives them away. Mrs. Rode's quite decent, though -- homely in a plebby sort of way: doyleys and china birds. Food's good: Women's Institute, but good."
"Rode's doing Corps next Half. That'll put the lid on it. He's so keen, bouncing about all the time. You can tell he's not a gentleman. You know where he went to school?"
"Branxome Grammar. Fielding told my Mama, when she came over from Singapore last Half."
"God. Where's Branxome?"
"On the coast. Near Bournemouth. I haven't been to tea with anyone except Fielding." Perkins added after a slight pause, "You get roast chestnuts and crumpets. You're never allowed to thank him, you know. He says emotionalism is only for the lower classes. That's typical of Fielding. He's not like a don at all. I think boys bore him. The whole house goes to tea with him once a Half, he has us in turn, four at a time, and that's about the only time he talks to most men."
They walked on in silence for a while until Perkins said:
"Fielding's giving another dinner party tonight."
"He's pushing the boat out these days," Caley replied, with disapproval. "Suppose the food in your house is worse than ever?"
"It's his last Half before he retires. He's entertaining every don and all the wives separately by the end of the Half. Black candles every evening. For mourning. Hells extravagant."
"Yes. I suppose it's a sort of gesture."
"My Pater says he's a queer."
They crossed the road and disappeared into the tuck shop, where they continued to discuss the weighty affairs of Mr. Terence Fielding, until Perkins drew their meeting reluctantly to a close. Being a poor hand at science, he was unfortunately obliged to take extra tuition in the subject.
The dinner party to which Perkins had alluded that afternoon was now drawing to a close. Mr. Terence Fielding, senior housemaster of Carne, gave himself some more port and pushed the decanter wearily to his left. It was his port, the best he had. There was enough of the best to last the Half -- and after that, be damned. He felt a little tired after watching the match, and a little drunk, and a little bored with Shane Hecht and her husband. Shane was so hideous. Massive and enveloping, like a faded Valkyrie. All that black hair. He should have asked someone else. The Snows for instance, but he was too clever. Or Felix D'Arcy, but D'Arcy interrupted. Ah well, a little later he would annoy Charles Hecht, and Hecht would get in a pet and leave early.
Hecht was fidgeting, wanting to light his pipe, but Fielding damn well wouldn't have it. Hecht could have a cigar if he wanted to smoke. But his pipe could stay in his dinner-jacket pocket, where it belonged, or didn't belong, and his athletic profile could remain unadorned.
"No thanks, Fielding. I say, do you mind if I...''
"I can recommend the cigars. Young Havelake sent them from Havana. His father's ambassador there, you know."
"Yes, dear," said Shane tolerantly; "Vivian Havelake was in Charles's troop when Charles was commandant of the Cadets."
"Good boy, Havelake," Hecht observed, and pressed his lips together to show he was a strict judge.
"It's amusing how things have changed." Shane Hecht said this rapidly with a rather wooden smile, as if it weren't really amusing. "Such a grey world we live in, now.
"I remember before the war when Charles inspected the Corps on a white horse. We don't do that kind of thing now, do we? I've got nothing against Mr. Iredale as commandant, nothing at all. What was his regiment, Terence, do you know? I'm sure he does it very nicely, whatever they do now in the Corps -- he gets on so well with the boys, doesn't he? His wife's such a nice person...I wonder why they can never keep their servants. I hear Mr. Rode will be helping out with the Corps next Half."
"Poor little Rode," said Fielding slowly; "running about like a puppy, trying to earn his biscuits. He tries so hard; have you seen him cheering at school matches? He'd never seen a game of rugger before he came here, you know. They don't play rugger at grammar schools -- it's all soccer. Do you remember when he first came, Charles? It was fascinating. He lay very low at first, drinking us in: the games, the vocabulary, the manners. Then, one day it was as if he had been given the power of speech, and he spoke in our language. It was amazing, like plastic surgery. It was Felix D'Arcy's work of course -- I've never seen anything quite like it before."
"Dear Mrs. Rode," said Shane Hecht in that voice of abstract vagueness which she reserved for her most venomous pronouncements: "So sweet...and such simple taste, don't you think? I me...
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Book Description Paperback. Condition: Very Good. The book has been read, but is in excellent condition. Pages are intact and not marred by notes or highlighting. The spine remains undamaged. Seller Inventory # GOR006575470