Best 1996 Adventures (1)
September 2, 2020
One in a series of 10 posts identifying Josh Glenn’s favorite 1996 adventure novels.
John le Carré’s espionage adventure The Tailor of Panama.
In this unusually light-hearted le Carré novel, Andy Osnard, an unscrupulous Thatcherite MI6 agent sent to Panama City to gather intelligence, seems to draw inspiration from Graham Greene’s darkly comedic 1958 spy novel Our Man in Havana, in which a vacuum-cleaner salesman sells made-up military intelligence to MI6. Discovering that Harry Pendel, a successful tailor and British expat, has something to hide, Osnard coerces him into a scheme involving a fictitious network of revolutionaries known as the silent opposition. (This detail could be read a nod to another Greene novel, The Quiet American.) Harry’s invented stories wind up getting his friends into hot water; his wife, meanwhile, discovers what’s been going on. In the end, the UK and US governments must decide whether to use Harry’s fantasies as an excuse to invade Panama and topple the government…. This one is not every le Carré fan’s cup of tea, but I find it comical and poignant.
Fun facts: John Boorman directed the 2001 adaptation, making the excellent decision to cast Geoffrey Rush as Pendel, and Pierce Brosnan — in a gleefully wicked performance subverting the work he was doing simultaneously in the James Bond franchise — as Osnard.
JOSH GLENN’S *BEST ADVENTURES* LISTS: BEST 250 ADVENTURES OF THE 20TH CENTURY | 100 BEST OUGHTS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST RADIUM AGE (PROTO-)SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TEENS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TWENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST THIRTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST GOLDEN AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FORTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FIFTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SIXTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST NEW WAVE SCI FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SEVENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST EIGHTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST DIAMOND AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST NINETIES ADVENTURES (in progress) | 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | NOTES ON 21st-CENTURY ADVENTURES.