28 August 2017

An Upsetting Tap on the Shoulder

In a conversation with novelist John Le Carré arranged and recorded by the New York Times Book Review, the espionage historian Ben Macintyre spoke of being recruited for the British secret service MI6 by a man calling himself “Major Halliday”:
It was the typical sort of tap on the shoulder. It was quite amusing, really. A don that I didn’t know terribly well came barreling up and he said, “What are you doing after university?” I said, “I don’t really know.” And he said, “Well, there are some parts of the Foreign Office that are different from other parts of the Foreign Office. In a sense, they are different from the Foreign Office itself.” He went on for about five minutes. Of course, I knew exactly what he was saying, although he never actually said it.

So I went along to Carlton House Terrace [where MI6 had an office]. And there was very clearly more than one Major Halliday, because other people I know were recruited by a completely different Major Halliday. Mine had on socks and sandals, which was quite upsetting at the time.
Le Carré’s new novel is A Legacy of Spies. Macintyre’s latest is Rogue Heroes.

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