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Creator / Charles Cumming

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Charles Cumming (born 5 April 1971) is a British author of Spy Fiction. Cumming was once approached by Secret Intelligence Service himself, but did not go on to work for it. His experience with SIS inspires him to write and shapes his stories.

Many critics have called him the heir apparent to Len Deighton and John le Carré in British spy fiction. Which means Stale Beer cannot even begin to describe his style.

His novels:

This author's work provides examples of:

  • Anti-Hero: Alec Milius.
    • Specifically, Milius is a drunk, womanizing paranoid pathological liar. Not for nothing Cumming's first book is titled A Spy by Nature.
  • All for Nothing: The final twists of The Spanish Game.
    • In order to redeem himself before SIS, Milius sets to bring down fascists in the Spanish government. He travels all across Spain, gets tortured, fucks a woman whom he doesn't even like—only to find out that it's all a CIA op. He essentially restores CIA's cred in Europe for free. CIA takes all the credit, while there is no redemption for Milius. However...
    • He finds out that the fascists never exist. In fact they are disinformation fed by the Basque ETA. He quickly reports this to the British, knowing that this information would render the whole CIA triumph meaningless. In the end, it is the CIA whose op is for nothing.
  • Batman Gambit: In The Spanish Game, CIA agents use Milius' desperation to redeem himself with SIS so they can order him around to bring down fascists in the Spanish government.
  • Continuity Lockout: The Spanish Game is a beautiful novel on its own, but it is really better if you read A Spy by Nature first.
  • Crapsack World: Cumming's world is populated by cheaters, paranoids, and unfaithful girlfriends.
  • Deconstructor Fleet: Cumming extremely sparingly resorts to gunfights. Instead, he writes about spies' paranoia and psychological stresses. His Alec Milius books clearly show the psychological toll of being a spy.
    • In A Spy By Nature, Milius is expressly told that no SIS officers have been killed since World War Two, and that officers are certainly not licensed to kill.
    • In Typhoon, the narrator specifically states that murder is a rare occurrence in the secret world.
  • Eagle Land: Flavor 2. Oh so very much. One of the most noticeable trait in Cumming's stories is the desire of American spies to humiliate anyone they consider enemy.
    • In The Spanish Game, the CIA goes as far as hiring a team of Fake Brit and creating a resource-intensive cover story to dupe Milius. It would have saved them lots of money to leave Milius alone, but they just can't.
    • In Typhoon, war hawks in the CIA and Pentagon plan to smuggle Uyghur terrorists into 2008 Olympic complex in Beijing. Their goal is to smear China's skyrocketing reputation at the time.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: The Spanish Game runs on this trope.
  • False Flag Operation: Two in The Spanish Game.
    • First is the British operation. Turns out it is CIA op meant to humiliate Milius.
    • Second is the Spanish dirty warriors. Turns out it is Basque ETA op meant to smear the Spanish government and cover their infiltration.
  • Foreshadowing: In The Spanish Game, Milius keeps telling readers his paranoia about CIA payback sting op. It provides some background about his past in A Spy by Nature, but after a while it gets annoying. Fortunately, these thoughts disappear once he joins SIS's anti-Spanish dirty war op. Turns out it is actually a CIA payback sting op.
  • Fridge Logic: in-universe of The Spanish Game. Milius experiences three times of Fridge Horror... which then become Fridge Brilliance.
    • First, when he realizes that his pseudo-girlfriend is actually a Basque ETA terrorist. Second, when he realizes that the new Dirty War is not real, but rather a False Flag Operation done by the ETA to discredit the Spanish government. Third, when he realizes that his whole anti-Dirty War operation is actually a scam run by the CIA. But then, he puts these three together...
  • Gilligan Cut: happens as a comic relief in Typhoon.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: Really, there are no good guys and bad guys in Cumming's books.
  • Hope Spot: Subverted in The Spanish Game. Milius, eager to return to SIS, joins an SIS operation to investigate Spanish government's dirty war against Basque ETA. He is successful, but the SIS operative turns out to be a CIA op to humiliate him as payback for the aftermath of A Spy by Nature. However, he then finds out that the dirty war is no more than ETA's False Flag Operation, and so quickly he goes to the British embassy to report that finding and nullify the CIA's triumph. At the end of the Spanish Game, Milius stands triumphant.
  • The Mole: On behalf of SIS, Milius pretends to sell out research data to a CIA-affiliated company. The data is doctored.
  • Paranoia Fuel: in-universe. As it turns out, there is really no limit on how far American spies are willing to go to piss you off, and when they do it you will never know.
  • Properly Paranoid: Milius. He has reason to be. The world's most powerful spy agency is after him for revenge.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Katherine, Milius' CIA nemesis, gives it to him at the penultimate chapter of The Spanish Game. Essentially, she tells him what a stupid, gullible, amateur spy he is, and the fact that he's dropped all his guards simply shows that there can be no redemption for Milius.
  • Revenge: Langley has been hunting for Milius' scalp after the botched spy deal in A Spy by Nature. It successfully humiliates him at the penultimate chapter of The Spanish Game...until the final chapter reveals that he has one more card to play.
  • Smug Snake: Milius himself, then Katherine.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The first part of A Spy by Nature is based on Cumming's personal experience when being recruited by SIS.