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Fleming vs Carre Debate

15th January 2017

Watch the debate that pitted two legendary spy novelists against each other

MI6 logo By MI6 Staff
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Within the fitting grandiose setting of the Emanuel Centre in London’s Westminster on November 29th 2016,  two of the most influential writers working today make the case for their respective choices for the greatest spy novelist of all time. You can now watch the 90 minute debate online. It is essential viewing for any fan of Ian Fleming's canon or the spy thriller genre.

In one corner Anthony Horowitz, the author of the latest Bond continuation novel 'Trigger Mortis', argued for Ian Fleming.  He was pitted against David Farr, who recently adapted John Le Carre’s 'The Night Manager' for our screens with global success. Accompanying them were four esteemed actors who added colour to the debate by performing readings of each author’s novels, who included Simon Callow, Lesley Manville, Alex Macqueen and Matthew Lewis. You can read Tom Cull's complete event report here.

Ian Fleming vs John le Carré

‘Fleming is one of the very few writers – Charles Dickens and JK Rowling might be two others – who have transcended fiction, who have created stories that capture a particular time and place, that are universally recognisable and that are, it would seem, immortal,’ says Horowitz. ‘George Smiley is a fascinating character. James Bond is an icon. That’s the difference.’

By contrast, pointing to Le Carré’s own experiences in the secret service, Farr says: ‘John Le Carré turns espionage into existentialism. His canvas is betrayal — of the realm and of the heart. His greatness comes from the personal nature of that exploration.’

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