The Night Manager: John Le Carre [The novel]

Posted: March 9, 2016 in England, spy story, Uncategorized, USA

night managerFrom the back cover:

At the start of it all, Jonathan Pine is merely the night manager at a luxury hotel. But when a single attempt to pass on information to the British authorities – about an international businessman at the hotel with suspicious dealings – backfires terribly, and people close to Pine begin to die, he commits himself to a battle against powerful forces he cannot begin to imagine.

In a chilling tale of corrupt intelligence agencies, billion-dollar price tags and the truth of the brutal arms trade, John le Carré creates a claustrophobic world in which no one can be trusted.

The Night Manager was written in 1993, and tells of the efforts by a small section of British Intelligence lead by Leonard Burr to bring down a ruthless international arms dealer, Richard Onslow Roper. Jonathan is involved because the exotic Madame Sophie confides in him a document listing arms deals with her lover, Freddie Hamid, who with his brothers owns a large chunk of Cairo. Jonathan passes the information on to a “friend” at the British Embassy, and becomes very close to Sophie. She is murdered, and Jonathan leaves Egypt, becoming night manager of the Hotel Meister Palace in Zurich. It is there that he meets Roper, his young mistress Jeds, and his thoroughly unpleasant entourage.

‘Roper?’ Mama Low retorted incredulously. ‘You mean you don’t know?’

‘I mean I don’t know.’

‘ ‘Well sure as hell, Mass’ Lamont, I don’t. And I sure as hell don’t ask. He’s some big company from Nassau that’s losin’ all its money. Man’s as rich as that in recession time, he sure as hell some mighty big crook.’

Burr begins to construct a background for Jonathan that will allow him to infiltrate Roper’s organisation. The action moves from Cornwall, where Jonathan “murders” a man, to Canada, where he obtains a false passport, and on to the Caribbean where he stops a kidnapping and enters the Roper organisation.

The Night Manager is a very good book and hidden within my edition’s 472 pages is a probably a great 350 page story. John Le Carre is a very clever author, he gives his readers great descriptions, memorable characters, and wonderfully convoluted plots. But sometimes the machinations of the intelligence agencies, who seem to spend more time plotting against each other than planning to bring down Roper, just hold up the action.

After the Royal & Ancients came Burr’s pet hates, and probably Roper’s too, for he called them the Necessary evils, and these were the shiny-cheeked merchant bankers from London with eighties striped blue shirts and white collars and double-barrelled names and double chins and double breasted suits, who said ‘ears’ when they meant ‘yes’ and ‘hice’ when they meant ‘house’ and ‘school’ when they meant ‘Eton’;

Le Carre’s extremely clever suave dialogue, which he puts into the mouths of  public school educated Englishmen is almost timeless, as are the arrogant characters.

Richard Onslow Roper, Major “Corky” Corkoran, and Lord Langbourne could be regarded as modern versions of the bully Flashman  in Thomas Hughes novel Tom Brown’s Schooldays. We have another literary link when Roper’s entourage of upper class Englishmen finds itself in a Central American base reminiscent of the movie Apocalypse Now and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. 

But the maddest part of Faberge was not the walldaubings or the voodoo statues, not the magic words of Indian dialect sprinkled between Spanish slogans or the rush roofed Crazy Horse saloon with its bar-stools and juke boxand naked girls cavorting on walls. It was the living zoo.

It certainly seems that John Le Carre’s view of the world has become one where  duplicitous Englishmen and Americans from intelligence agencies and big business persue personal pride and self gratification at the expense of the downtrodden. This view is certainly emphasised in some of the later novels.

A fine wordy novel, and I suspect that if the television series is edited down and the novel’s extraneous padding is removed it will be a big success.

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    I’ve always liked le Carré’s way with dialogue, too, Norman. He’s quite skilled that way. And as for the wordiness….I know what you mean. Still, the plot’s a good ‘un. Thanks for sharing.

    • Norman Price says:

      Margot after reading one of the spy series that would be somewhat unwise to review, I have moved on to Le Carre’s Our Game. Although I can’t stand the man’s current political stance I think this 1995 book is absolutely brilliant.

  2. Bill Selnes says:

    Norman: I thought you would enjoy The Night Manager. It is less bleak than the later books. I think the current TV adaptation is a striking example of effectively putting a book to film but not trying to copy the book.

  3. Norman Price says:

    Bill, one thing that I noticed from the book was accentuated by the excellent acting in the series, and a review I noticed of Mike Herron’s latest novel. Herron was compared to Le Carre with fewer posh people from Winchester and Cambridge, or Eton and Oxford.
    I know we have widespread corruption in our elites, but would the upper class public school bullies in The Night Manager really have made it in the real world inhabited by KGB thugs, and other assorted villains.

  4. […] The Night Manager: John Le Carre [The novel] by Norman Price at Crime Scraps […]

  5. crimeworm says:

    I do like your comment about hiding in your 472 page novel is probably a very good 350 page novel! I’m afraid I missed the last four episodes of the BBC adaptation – it was very good, and I had meant to watch it on iPlayer, but because you only have four weeks to watch things I invariably miss them as I forgot. And I DO hate missing one or two episodes! I wish the iPlayer kept things forever. Btw, do love the Blog, which I’ve just discovered, having followed the link from the wonderful Clothes In Books, by Moira. Your taste is somewhat similar to mine, so expect me to return!

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