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Start Cumming, Charles

Cumming, Charles (5. April 1971 – dato)

Charles Cumming zählt zu den jungen, aufstrebenden Talenten im Thriller-Genre. Sein Debütroman aus 2001 „A Spy by Nature“ ist gleich auch besonders interessant, weil er lose auf eigenen Erlebnissen basiert. Charles Cumming wurde selbst vom britischen Geheimdienst angeworben. Genau jenen Prozess beschreibt „A Spy by Nature“ ausführlich und vor allem auch die späteren Konsequenzen – den Verlust der eigenen Identität und das immer tiefere Abgleiten in Intrigen und Täuschungen und die sich daraus steigernde Gefahr.

In Ihrer Realistik können Charles Cummings Bücher denn auch wohl am besten mit den Romanen von Len Deighton verglichen werden. Alltägliche Helden in sumpfigen Intrigen, nicht zu action-lastig und in moderne Story-Plots (Industriespionage, China) eingebunden. Für Fans der ruhigen, realistischen Spannung und Intrige verwoben mit aktuellen tagespolitischen Themen. (In einem seiner neuesten Roman aus 2008 etwa geht es um ein Komplott des CIA zur Destabilisierung Chinas während der Olympischen Spiele).

In England wurden die Romane von Charles Cumming bereits stark beachtet.  Immerhin beschrieb das renommierte britische Medium „The Observer“ ihn als „the best of the new generation of Britisch spy writers who are taking over where John Le Carre and Len Deighton left off“.

Neben seiner schriftstellerischen Tätigkeit schreibt der heute in Madrid lebende Autor auch selbst immer wieder Buchkritiken und Beiträge für Zeitungen und Zeitschriften.

Sein neuester Roman "Die Trinity Verschwörung" spinnt die reale Geschichte der "Cambridge Five" fort:

 Die Trinity Verschwörung auf Amazon

Sam Gaddis, dem Geschichtsdozenten und Russlandexperten wird ein lukratives Projekt angetragen: ein Buch über ein bislang unbekanntes Mitglied des berüchtigten Spionagerings der »Cambridge Five«. Mit dieser Bezeichnung waren jene fünf Agenten des britischen Geheimdienstes gemeint, die ihr Wissen bis in die frühen 1950er-Jahre an die Sowjets verraten hatten. Nun behauptet eine Journalistin, Informationen über einen sechsten Mann gefunden zu haben, der womöglich noch lebt. Sam ahnt nicht, dass seine Recherchen lebensgefährlich sind. Denn seine Enthüllungen drohen Großbritannien und Russland in ihren Grundfesten zu erschüttern. Um das zu verhindern, sind einige Leute bereit, über Leichen zu gehen ...
Das untenstehende Interview wurde vor Erscheinen des Spionagethrillers "Typhoon" mit Charles Cumming geführt.


Interview mit Charles Cumming:

Q1: Charles, in Spy Fiction writing you are among very view who really have there own real experiences within a secret service organisation; you have been approached my MI6. What are your real life experience with secret service? How and why have you been approached?

I was approached when I was about 24 by a childhood friend of my step-father’s who I met at a dinner party. At first I thought that he was putting me forward for a job in the Diplomatic Service, but it quickly transpired that I was being regarded as a potential spy. To this day I don’t really know if this was an insult or a compliment. I went to several interviews, did some exams and psychological tests, but my direct experience of the secret world is limited solely to those early stages of the recruitment process.

Q2: How strong is the influence of your own real experiences into your writing?

The influence is strong only in the sense that what happened to me as a young man is dramatised in the first third of A Spy by Nature. What you read there is more or less a verbatim account of the early stages of the SIS recruitment process. In my later books I have relied for accuracy on one or two friends who are employed by the Intelligence services and are kind enough to talk to me about their work.

Q3: Yourself, John Le Carree, Graham Greene, Somerset Maugham and Stella Rimington are the well-known spy-fiction writers who have fact-experiences with secret service in the past if you compare their and your writing to authors like Robert Ludlum, Ken Follet, Frederick Forsyth or Ian Flemming where do you see the main differences?

Probably the main difference is political and ethical. In a general sense, Le Carre, Greene and Maugham all take a more serious and realistic approach to the business of spying, while Fleming and Ludlum are more escapist and fantastical. Fleming also worked for British Intelligence during the war, but he really wasn’t interested in anything more than telling great stories with great characters. Rimington’s novels are ghost-written, so it doesn’t make sense to assign any larger political or artistic motive to her work.

Q4: Was the idea to write "A spy by nature" strongly influenced by your own experiences or was the idea of writing spy-fiction even before in your head?

Before my SIS interviews in 1995, I had read a couple of Le Carre’s novels – The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and A Perfect Spy – but I certainly wasn’t an aficionado of the genre. The truth is that I had always wanted to be a writer and was just waiting for the right story to come along. It happened to be a story about a young man who becomes an industrial spy. So I became a “spy novelist”, without really knowing what that meant in broader terms. I might just as easily have written a novel about the Spanish Civil War, or olive oil makers in 18th century Tuscany.

Q5: In "A spy by nature" you mixed classic spy-elements with the new form of industrial espionage. Where do you see the tendencies in present-day spy-fiction writing?

I didn’t have much idea what I was doing when I sat down to write A Spy by Nature. I had a vague notion that I wanted to blend the accuracy and the mood of le Carre’s fiction with the confessional, ‘lad’ literature that had been popularised by Nick Hornby. I wanted Alec Milius to be honest about himself and his feelings; I wanted him to be ‘real’ and knowable, particularly to other young men like him. But that was about it. I didn’t really give any thought to suspense or pace. That’s why the book is so unusual in structure.

Q6: Alec Milius appeared again in "The Spanish Game", the Sequel to "A spy by nature". Will we see him again in the future or do you prefer to develop new characters in each new book?

He will definitely come back, in the concluding instalment of a trilogy. It will be set mainly in the United States. Alec will have a young son, and a wife, who knows everything about his past. Both A Spy By Nature and The Spanish Game are about a man trying to come to terms with the limits and then the implications of his own personality.

Q7: When thinking of a new book. What is influencing you to get the new starting idea and how do you then do all the research?

With my new book, Typhoon, it was a desire to write about China, because that was becoming a hot topic in the media and I wanted to learn more about it. Also, I didn’t want to add to the pile of books about Iraq and Afghanistan. Then it was a question of going to China and finding my story. A journalist on The Times told me about Xinjiang and the persecution of the Uighur-Muslim population and that immediately caught my attention. Xinjiang is also rich in oil and gas deposits, which fitted with what was going on in Iraq at the time. I went back to China three times, read a lot of books and talked to many, many people. Research is an ongoing process which only ends when the manuscript is sent to the printers.

Q8: Do you go to all the locations that you write about or is some know-how based on desk-research

Most of the locations in my novels exist in the real world, with small modifications. You can actually take a walking tour of all the bars and restaurants in The Spanish Game, for example, if you follow an article I’ve written at www.undergroundmadrid.com. However, there are two scenes in Typhoon which are based on desk research. One of them takes place in a market in Urumqi and was based on descriptions provided by an Uighur exile living in London and by a British ex-pat who had lived in Urumqi. The second scene takes place at an army barracks in Turpan, which I have never visited, and is therefore a product of my imagination.

Q10: You also write book-reviews. What does Charles Cumming read himself? If you think of spy-fiction you would recommend to readers. What would be the 3 thrillers that are must-reads in your opinion?

My favourite three thrillers are The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, The Ghost by Robert Harris and The Queen of the South, by Arturo Perez-Reverte. The latter was a big influence on the structure of Typhoon: using a third party narrator, not directly involved in the action, to tell another person’s story. I tend not to read very much fiction, largely because I don’t have very much time and also because I’m usually working on a book and don’t want another author’s voice in my head.

Q11: What´s fascinanting you with the genre of spy-ficiton? are there any writers that you think have influenced your writing or started the idea of writing spy-fiction on your own or was it maily based on your MI6 experiences?

The writers that have influenced me are mainly American novelists, and they aren’t so-called ‘genre’ writers. At university I was a big fan of John Updike, then later of Philip Roth and Richard Ford. The British novelists I particularly admire are Martin Amis and John Fowles. I recently re-read some of William Boyd’s early short stories, which I first came across at school, and realised how much they had influenced my style.

Q12: "A spy by nature" has been sold to Kudos, who want to make a movie out of it. What is the recent status of the project? Are you involved in writing a movie-script?

As most people know, the process of developing a film is only slightly quicker than the movement of tectonic plates. Suffice to say, A Spy By Nature is still a long way from being a movie. I’m not involved in writing the script. A screenplay was written about two years ago, but it was not at all good.

Q13: What would be your favourite spy-movie?

I loved the last two Bourne movies, but I also think The Russia House is very under-rated. Great acting, great characters, a complex, satisfying story and beautiful locations.

Q: Are you already working on your next book?

Yes. It’s a thriller about the Cambridge Spies, but with a 21st-century twist. I’ve written out a complete synopsis, which I have never done before, so I know exactly what will happen at every stage of the story. It should save a lot of time when I finally sit down to write it!


2001: A Spy by Nature
2003: The HiddenMan
2006: The Spanish Game
2008: Typhoon
2013: Die Trinity Verschwörung