Exclusive Interview with Spy Novelist, Charles Cumming

0a00810ae7a0746b04e24210.L._V192198214_SX200_It is our delight to put some questions to one of the best spy thriller writers working today.

Spy novelist Charles Cumming, is the author of 7 books and counting with his latest ‘A Colder War‘ the second installment of the Thomas Kell series.

Charles was kind enough to take some time during the busy launch of his book to give his thoughts on Bond and whether he might like to follow in Ian Fleming’s footsteps.

1. Which Spy novelists have influenced your writing the most including Ian Fleming?

Eric AmblerJohn le Carre has had the greatest influence, no question. I think he showed all of us how a thriller could also be a novel of behavior, a political story, a study of character. Le Carre’s is the example to which we all aspire, and a great novelist in his own right, genre aside.

Eric Ambler (right) had a big influence on The Trinity Six. Ambler would typically take an ordinary man and throw him into extraordinary circumstances, which is essentially what happens to Sam Gaddis.

2. Which Fleming novel do you think is the most true to the world of espionage?

You’d have to say Casino Royale, though there are elements in all the Bond books that are plausible enough in terms of tradecraft. But I’m sure Ian Fleming would have been the first to admit that his novels were escapist fantasies, and not in any way intended to be accurate depictions of the business of spying.

casino royale pan first UK paperback

3. Do you have a favorite Richard Chopping dust jacket?

I have a First Edition of The Man with the Golden Gun, so I would have to opt for that, just for sentimental reasons. I found it among my father’s books when he was moving house about ten years ago. He was kind enough to give it to me. Apart from Casino Royale, the other 1st edition I would love is Thunderball. The cover is extraordinarily sinister.

Thunderball Dust Jacket

4. Do you think Bond – to any degree – was a reaction to the Cambridge Spies scandal?

Interesting question. The simple answer is that I don’t know what Fleming’s views were on Burgess and Maclean’s defection in 1951. The Bond books consciously try to restore some sense of British superiority and panache in a decade which saw that gloss come off through Suez, Profumo and the Cambridge scandal, so perhaps there’s a tangential link.

Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean

Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean

5. You get one Fleming novel to take to a desert island – which one would it be?

Screen Shot 2014-06-05 at 11.31.03 AMCasino Royale. I think it’s the cleanest of the Bond books in terms of style and content – a great story, well told, with a devastating love story at the heart of the narrative.

And, of course, that great opening line – as deservedly famous as “Call me Ishmael”.

6. Would you like to write a Bond continuation novel one day?

Never say never. I think William Boyd and Sebastian Faulks did wonderful jobs with Solo and Devil May Care. If I was ever approached, my instinct would be to do it ‘in period’, as opposed to the present day. Bond works on screen in any era, but on the page he belongs in the mid-20th century.

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Incidental Intelligence


Charles Cumming is a British writer of spy fiction. He was educated at Eton College (1985-1989) and the University of Edinburgh (1990-1994), where he graduated with 1st Class Honours in English Literature. 

In 2012, Charles won the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, awarded by the Crime Writers Association for the year’s best thriller in the vein of Ian Fleming. His book A Foreign Country took home the statue. The Observer described him as “the best of the new generation of British spy writers who are taking over where John le Carré and Len Deighton left off”.

Charles’ latest novel ‘A Colder War’ is out now.

View Charles’ website

Who Should Write the Next James Bond Novel?

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