Thursday, January 16, 2020

Charlie M: Brian Freemantle

I have wanted to read the Charlie Muffin series for years. The books in this series about a British intelligence agent were published between 1977 and 2013. Charlie M is the first in the series, and I only had an ebook copy, so I finally broke down and read the book in that format in October 2019. It was all I had hoped for.

Description of Charlie M at Open Road Media:
Charlie Muffin is an anachronism. He came into the intelligence service in the early 1950s, when the government, desperate for foot soldiers in the impending Cold War, dipped into the middle class for the first time. Despite a lack of upper-class bearing, Charlie survived twenty-five years on the espionage battle’s front line: Berlin. 
But times have changed: The boys from Oxford and Cambridge are running the shop again, and they want to get rid of the middle-class spy who’s a thorn in their side. They have decided that it’s time for Charlie to be sacrificed. But Charlie Muffin didn’t survive two decades in Berlin by being a pushover. He intends to go on protecting the realm, and won’t let anyone from his own organization get in his way. 
Charlie Muffin does not fit in with the rest of the men he works with. They look down on  him and consider him "a disposable embarrassment, with his scuffed suede Hush Puppies, the Marks and Spencer shirts he didn’t change daily and the flat, Mancunian accent." And they underestimate his abilities.

Charlie's boss, Sir Henry Cuthbertson, has learned that an important Russian KGB official, General Valery Kalenin, wants to defect. He and his team start plotting to set up the defection, excluding Charlie. The CIA finds out about the scheme and insist on being part of the plan. Things start to go badly with Cuthbertson's scheme, and they are forced to use Charlie in the end.

As you can probably tell from the description, the Charlie Muffin books are closer to the Nameless Spy series by Len Deighton than the James Bond type of espionage. This is the kind of Cold War spy fiction I enjoy, and I hope the rest of the series is as entertaining.

There is a very unexpected ending (at least for me) and I don't know exactly how the series can continue, but there are 15 more books in the series, so somehow it does.

The ebook I read features an interesting biography of Brian Freemantle with photographs from the author’s personal collection.

See also Col's review at Col's Criminal Library.


Publisher:   Open Road Media, 2011 (orig. publ. 1977)
Length:       207 pages
Format:      ebook
Series:       Charlie Muffin, #1
Setting:      UK, Germany, Russia
Genre:        Espionage fiction
Source:      On my Kindle since 2013.


Margot Kinberg said...

This is a series I'm not really familiar with, Tracy, so it's great to hear about it from you. And it's even better to know you enjoyed this as much as you did. It's interesting, too, that you would mention the Nameless series. I like that character and the books, so it sounds as though this is something I might like.

TracyK said...

I am intrigued by this author, Margot. I knew of this series, but he wrote a lot of other books and I want to try some of those too.

pattinase (abbott) said...

What is the spy novel you have most enjoyed. My reading group wants to read one. SO it would have to be one that had some discussable elements.

TracyK said...

That is a very hard question to answer and I have too many favorites. Most of the spy fiction I really like is older and might be hard to find copies (although maybe ebooks would be available?). My two top authors are Len Deighton and Charles McCarry. For McCarry, THE MIERNIK DOSSIER and THE TEARS OF AUTUMN are wonderful, but from the early 1970s. For Deighton, THE BERLIN GAME (1983), start of a series, is my favorite. For current authors, there is Mick Herron, SLOW HORSES, about a group of "failed" spies. Or Olen Steinhauer, THE TOURIST, first book of a trilogy. But it might be safer to stick with someone like Le Carre. A lot of his books are very long though. A PERFECT SPY has tons of discussable elements but is very very long. THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD is shorter.

Clothes in Books said...

I always associate these books with Col, who I think might have sent me a copy. I think I liked it well enough, but didn't move on to the rest of the series, and didn't blog on it.

TracyK said...

I found this first one to be even better than I expected, Moira, but I have read that the series varies ... although that may depend on the reader. I expect I will read them all as as long as they are on the short side. The later ones appear to be longer.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Tracy, I'm familiar with Brian Freemantle's work, though I have not read any of his books. It's interesting that many journalists turned authors write convincing thrillers, spy fiction and historical fiction that are a pleasure to read, probably because of their wealth of experience reporting for the newspapers they worked for. British writer Anthony Grey instantly comes to mind.

TracyK said...

I agree, Prashant, journalists often do prove to be good writers of fiction also. I will have to look into Anthony Grey.

I am getting a late start with the Charlie Muffin series but I hope to be able to read through all of the series eventually.

col2910 said...

Ha, thanks for the reminder that I never ever got around to the next in the series. Ridiculous really. Glad you enjoyed it and thanks for linking to my review.

TracyK said...

Col, I have so many series that I read one or two and never go further with, even though I enjoyed the books. Too much on offer nowadays. I hope I won't do that with the Freemantle series. The one drawback is looking for the copies.