Stale Beer

"Stale Beer" spy fiction "is "more realistic" in that it does not romanticize the profession... It involves dead-drops, brush-pasts, blackmail and morally iffy things. Spying is stressful and you may end up an alcoholic or worse. "

Posts for this club should be tagged: stalebeer_club.

September 15

Book: The Secret Hours

Two years ago, a hostile Prime Minister launched the Monochrome inquiry, investigating "historical over-reaching" by the British Secret Service. Monochrome’s mission was to ferret out any hint of misconduct by any MI5 officer—and allowed Griselda Fleet and Malcolm Kyle, the two civil servants seconded to the project, unfettered access to any and all confidential information in the Service archives in order to do so. But MI5’s formidable First Desk did not become Britain’s top spy by accident, and she has successfully thwarted the inquiry at every turn. Now the administration that created Monochrome has been ousted, the investigation is a total bust—and Griselda and Malcolm are stuck watching as their career prospects are washed away by the pounding London rain. Until the eve of Monochrome’s shuttering, when an MI5 case file appears without explanation. It is the buried history of a classified operation in 1994 Berlin—an operation that ended in tragedy and scandal, whose cover-up has rewritten thirty years of Service history. [more inside]
posted by Strutter Cane - United Planets Stilt Patrol at 9:52 PM - 3 comments

May 14

Book: Bad Actors

A governmental think-tank, whose remit is to curb the independence of the intelligence service, has lost one of its key members, and Claude Whelan—one-time head of MI5's Regent’s Park—is tasked with tracking her down. But the trail leads straight back to the Park itself, with Diana Taverner as chief suspect. Has Diana overplayed her hand at last? What’s her counterpart, Moscow’s First Desk, doing in London? And does Jackson Lamb know more than he’s telling? Over at Slough House, with Shirley Dander in rehab, Roddy Ho in dress rehearsal, and new recruit Ashley Khan turning up the heat, the slow horses are doing what they do best, and adding a little bit of chaos to an already unstable situation… [more inside]
posted by Strutter Cane - United Planets Stilt Patrol at 2:49 AM - 2 comments

March 29

Slow Horses: Season 1: Episode 1  Books Included   Season 1, Episode 1

Slow Horses follows a team of British intelligence agents who serve in a dumping ground department of MI5 – Slough House.... [more inside]
posted by lalochezia at 1:19 PM - 17 comments

February 14

Book: Slough House, by Mick Herron

At Slough House, Brexit has taken a toll. The slow horses have been pushed further into the cold, Slough House has been erased from official records, and its members are dying in unusual circumstances, at an unusual clip. No wonder Jackson Lamb’s crew is feeling paranoid. But are they actually targets? With a new populist movement taking hold of London’s streets and the old order ensuring that everything’s for sale to the highest bidder, the world’s a dangerous place for those deemed surplus. Jackson Lamb and the slow horses are in a fight for their lives as they navigate dizzying layers of lies, power, and death.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:11 PM - 5 comments

January 30

Book: The Catch, by Mick Herron (novella)

John Bachelor is the saddest kind of spy: not a joe in the field, not even a desk jockey, but a milkman—a part-time pension administrator whose main job is to check in on aging retired spies. Late in his career and having lost his wife, his house, and his savings after a series of unlucky choices, John's been living in a dead man's London apartment, hoping the bureaucracy isn't going to catch up with him and leave him homeless. But keeping a secret among spies is a fool's errand, and now John has made himself eminently blackmailable.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:58 PM - 1 comment

December 6

Book: Slow Horses, by Mick Herron

London, England: Slough House is where the washed-up MI5 spies go to while away what's left of their failed careers. The "slow horses," as they’re called, have all disgraced themselves in some way to get relegated here. Maybe they messed up an op badly and can't be trusted anymore. Maybe they got in the way of an ambitious colleague and had the rug yanked out from under them. Maybe they just got too dependent on the bottle—not unusual in this line of work. One thing they all have in common, though, is they all want to be back in the action. And most of them would do anything to get there─even if it means having to collaborate with one another. [more inside]
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:20 PM - 11 comments

January 28

The Little Drummer Girl: Full Miniseries  Books Included   Season 1, Episode 1

Based on John le Carré’s best-selling literary masterpiece of the same name and directed by visionary filmmaker Park Chan-wook, The Little Drummer Girl weaves a suspenseful and explosive story of espionage and high-stakes international intrigue. Set in the late 1970s, the pulsating thriller follows Charlie, a fiery actress and idealist whose resolve is tested after she meets the mysterious Becker while on holiday in Greece. It quickly becomes apparent that his intentions are not what they seem, and her encounter with him entangles her in a complex plot devised by the spy mastermind Kurtz. Charlie takes on the role of a lifetime as a double agent while remaining uncertain of her own loyalties. AMC [more inside]
posted by myotahapea at 8:39 AM - 14 comments

December 19

Any interest in overthinking 'The Little Drummer Girl'?

This question refers specifically to the recent miniseries adaptation of the 1983 John le Carré novel of the same name. [more inside]
posted by myotahapea at 9:45 AM - 5 comments

February 6

Movie: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

British agent Alec Leamas refuses to come in from the Cold War during the 1960s, choosing to face another mission, which may prove to be his final one.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:27 PM - 5 comments

November 5

recommend appropriate pieces

We've watched The Sandbaggers, Smiley's People and Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy, The Americans. What else could we include? [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:51 PM - 6 comments

October 16

The Sandbaggers: Opposite Numbers  Season 3, Episode 8

A major arms control treaty is in the works. The foreign service is for it, so Burnside is against it. What can he do? Work with the KGB who also want to scuttle the treaty behind the back of the Politburo? Tricky tricky... [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:02 PM - 5 comments

September 27

The Sandbaggers: Who Needs Enemies  Season 3, Episode 6

Burnside gets his annual medical exam. He needs a break. Hey, that post in Madrid just became vacant...
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:32 PM - 2 comments

September 25

The Sandbaggers: Sometimes We Play Dirty Too  Season 3, Episode 5

A Briton in Prague has died in a 2 am car wreck after leaving a party at midnight. He was also an excellent intelligence source. The crash scene was only five miles from the party. Where was he for the two hours?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:42 PM - 2 comments

September 23

The Sandbaggers: My Name Is Anna Wiseman  Season 3, Episode 4

Burnside is approached by an old colleague to place a long-term mole in the Soviet Union. [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:26 PM - 3 comments

September 20

The Sandbaggers: Unusual Approach  Season 3, Episode 3

Burnside takes a working holiday to Rhodes with Peele and Wellingham. Willie Caine fills in as D-Ops, and fields a request - and some snark - from the CIA. [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:39 AM - 3 comments

September 17

The Sandbaggers: To Hell With Justice  Season 3, Episode 2

D-Int takes a working holiday to Malta. Is everything on the up-and-up? [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:54 PM - 2 comments

September 14

The Sandbaggers: All In A Good Cause  Season 3, Episode 1

Acting on a tip from D-Int, Burnside starts investigating whether Jeff Ross’s wife is being targeted by MI5. [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:19 PM - 3 comments

September 10

The Sandbaggers: Operation Kingmaker  Season 2, Episode 6

C tenders his resignation. Who will replace him? And who does Burnside want? And there's another resignation to follow... [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:01 PM - 5 comments

June 3

The Night Manager: Episode 1.6  Season 1, Episode 6

Series finale. Roper and his team return to Cairo for the deal, reuniting Pine with an old enemy. Pine risks it all to put his plan in motion. A discredited Burr makes one last stand.
posted by kanewai at 2:47 AM - 12 comments

May 23

The Night Manager: Episode 5  Season 1, Episode 5

Roper realizes someone close to him has betrayed him, and begins to narrow down the suspects. Jonathan tries to send a message. Jed tries to help. In London, Angela finds herself blocked and menaced. [more inside]
posted by ubiquity at 10:31 AM - 6 comments

May 16

The Night Manager: Episode 4  Season 1, Episode 4

Pine finds himself in the middle of an arms deal, and in other arms as well. Things start to heat up in London, as some of the bad guys are revealed. [more inside]
posted by ubiquity at 8:36 AM - 7 comments

May 15

The Sandbaggers: A Question Of Loyalty  Season 2, Episode 4

Burnside has to deal with defector problems: one coming over, and maybe one going over?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:55 PM - 5 comments

The Sandbaggers: It Couldn't Happen Here  Season 2, Episode 5

Could it? An American senator is murdered. Ross believes it was done by reactionaries in the FBI. There may not be any evidence, but it does seem odd that the Secret Service doesn’t seem to trust the FBI either. Events in West Germany reveal there may be a cabinet minister who has been giving information to the USSR. [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:44 PM - 5 comments

May 8

The Night Manager: Episode 3  Season 1, Episode 3

While he continues to recuperate in Roper's villa, Pine starts to dig up secrets about the other members of the household. Meanwhile, Burr and Steadman seize on an opportunity to recruit a new asset.
posted by kanewai at 1:07 PM - 6 comments

April 30

The Night Manager: Episode 2  Season 1, Episode 2

Burr makes her pitch to Pine. Pine leaves the hotel under unfortunate circumstances. A holiday excursion for Roper and his friends almost ends in disaster. [more inside]
posted by ubiquity at 8:39 AM - 8 comments

April 28

The Night Manager: Episode #1.1  Season 1, Episode 1

Ex-soldier Jonathan Pine, the night manager at the Nefertiti hotel in Cairo, is approached by Sophie Alekan, a guest who is the kept woman of businessman Freddie Hamid, and who asks him to copy some documents for her.
posted by kanewai at 12:19 PM - 9 comments

April 25

Movie: Ronin

A freelancing former US intelligence agent tries to track down a mysterious package that is wanted by both the Irish and the Russians. [more inside]
posted by valkane at 2:06 AM - 44 comments

April 22

The Sandbaggers: Decision By Committee  Season 2, Episode 3

Burnside receives his annual report and finds that his career prospects have suddenly dimmed. Willie Caine and Karen Milner returning from a conference in Sri Lanka when their flight is hijacked by terrorists and forced to land in Turkey. Burnside struggles to put together a rescue mission when the rest of the government has decided not to act.
posted by Grimgrin at 6:21 PM - 4 comments

April 15

The Sandbaggers: Enough of Ghosts  Season 2, Episode 2

Geoffrey Wellingham is kidnapped in Brussels. Complicating matters, in his office is a paper detailing co-operation between the SIS and South African intelligence. Against orders from Peele, Burnside dispatches both Sandbaggers to Belgium to try and track him down. Despite both Sandbaggers being on station, most deem it to be a futile operation given the past history of hostages being murdered. [more inside]
posted by Grimgrin at 5:41 PM - 7 comments

April 8

The Sandbaggers: At All Costs  Season 2, Episode 1

One year after the disastrous mission in last season's finale. The head of the Bulgarian Secret Service offers detailed information on active agents abroad, but demands that a Sandbagger makes the trade, that night. Burnside fears a setup, but ultimately the prospect of the information being offered is too tempting and the mission goes ahead.
posted by Grimgrin at 6:09 PM - 6 comments

April 1

The Sandbaggers: Special Relationship  Season 1, Episode 7

An East German photo technician who has been spying for the SIS, becomes convinced he's under surveillance. Laura Dickens is sent into East Berlin to bring him out, together with a cache of photos of a new missile base. [more inside]
posted by Grimgrin at 6:38 PM - 8 comments

March 25

The Sandbaggers: A Feasable Solution  Season 1, Episode 6

A British engineer specializing in missile engines goes missing in Cypress. Around the same time a Russian engineer specializing in guidance systems goes missing in Syria. Willie Caine is sent to Cypress to investigate after a SIS officer stationed in Cypress is gunned down. Meanwhile Burnside and Laura Dickens begin a relationship.
posted by Grimgrin at 7:57 PM - 4 comments

March 18

The Sandbaggers: Always Glad to Help  Season 1, Episode 5

The Ministry of Defence asks the SIS to send a diver to investigate a Russian merchant ship that they suspect has been outfitted to launch espionage operations against NATO and French naval bases. Sir Geoffrey Wellingham asks the SIS to organize a coup in the middle east. A Russian defector walks into the British embassy in Ankara. Dickens, Caine, and Burnside are left with very little time to sort through murky and contradictory information about internal and external plots. [more inside]
posted by Grimgrin at 5:08 PM - 6 comments

March 11

The Sandbaggers: The Most Suitable Person  Season 1, Episode 4

After the deaths of two Sandbaggers, Burnside and Caine seek new agents for the special section. The only suitable new recruit, Laura Dickens, will be the first woman to be recruited as a Sandbagger. While shorthanded Burnside has to deal with two crises, as the #2 Algerian SIS officer is murdered in Gibraltar and Jeff Ross alerts Burnside possibility that the SIS may hae been compromise. The CIA has discovered that Colin Grove, a highly placed operations officer, has been seeing a psychiatrist that may be a KGB spy. [more inside]
posted by Grimgrin at 5:53 PM - 11 comments

March 4

The Sandbaggers: Is Your Journey Really Necessary  Season 1, Episode 3

Jake Landy, Sandbagger 2, is killed when a mission goes wrong. After the mission Alan Denson, Sandbagger 3 decides to leave the service and marry his girlfriend. Burnside attempts to sabotage Denson's relationship in order to keep him in the Sandbaggers. Meanwhile, the SIS is called to investigate a homosexual relationship being carried on by a highly placed officer in the UK embassy in Paris, who's brother is a leader in the opposition party in Westminster.
posted by Grimgrin at 5:22 PM - 10 comments

February 26

The Sandbaggers: A Proper Function of Government  Season 1, Episode 2

The chief scientific advisor of the British government is spotted in Vienna when he is supposed to be on vacation in Scotland. While investigating the possible defection, Burnside attempts to get approval to assassinate an East African head of state in retaliation for the murder of British citizens.
posted by Grimgrin at 5:10 PM - 8 comments

February 19

The Sandbaggers: First Principles  Season 1, Episode 1

Neil Burnside (Roy Marsden), The Director of Operations for the Special Intelligence Service, notices he's being tailed on his way to work. The tail turns out to have been set by the new chief of Norway's intelligence service, Lars Torvik, seeking to train his agents on MI6 personnel. Torvik asks for Burnside to assist in training his agents in exchange for intelligence the Norwegians are in the process of gathering. When the Norwegian operation goes wrong, Torvik asks the Burnside to put together a dangerous rescue mission in Soviet territory, but soon becomes frustrated by Burnside's apparent lack of action. [more inside]
posted by Grimgrin at 5:50 PM - 16 comments

May 15

Smiley's People: Part 6  Rewatch   Season 1, Episode 6

The green light is given, and Esterhase's team moves in on Grigoriev. Will he help them unlock Karla's secret? Can George finally bring down his nemesis and redeem his career, his Western values, his very being? This is George Smiley's last chapter. [more inside]
posted by carsonb at 12:10 PM - 3 comments

May 7

Smiley's People: Part 5  Season 1, Episode 5

George Smiley finally has the whole story, and now must work to put a plan in place. Circus Chief Saul Enderby takes Maude for a spin around the "garden," earning his cold shoulder from Part 4 and blessing him with his totally-deniable approval of the plan to snare Karla (as well as free access to the Reptile Fund). Commence file-digging with Peter Guillam, target-shadowing with Toby Esterhase, and totally ignoring Oliver Lacon at dinner. [more inside]
posted by carsonb at 12:29 PM - 6 comments

April 30

Smiley's People: Part 4  Season 1, Episode 4

Sleepless and relentless, Smiley races across West Germany and finally tracks down Otto Leipzig. He's still a step behind Karla for now, but with a flurry of aliases and feints and a little—OK a lot of help from Peter Guillam (Michael Byrne) all of the bits scattered by the death of General Vladimir are finally being swept up into one place. [more inside]
posted by carsonb at 11:05 AM - 12 comments

April 23

Smiley's People: Part 3  Rewatch   Season 1, Episode 3

George drinks his way through three interviews while piecing together the story that General Vladimir died trying to get to him. Bernard Hepton and Beryl Reid reprise their roles from Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy as Toby Esterhase and Connie Sachs, respectively, and then Smiley ventures overseas in search of Otto Leipzig and the Ginger Pig's confession. [more inside]
posted by carsonb at 10:55 AM - 8 comments

April 16

Smiley's People: Part 2  Rewatch   Season 1, Episode 2

Straight from the briefing with Lacon, Strickland, and Mostyn, George steps out onto the Heath in the light of day and attempts to reconstruct the General's movements from the night before. Then, from the week before. He had two proofs. [more inside]
posted by carsonb at 9:28 AM - 21 comments

April 9

Smiley's People: Part 1  Rewatch   Season 1, Episode 1

George Smiley is once again retired from The Circus, living peacefully in his Bywater Street home. But a letter from Paris sets in motion a chain of events that, once again, calls George back into the game. If a rogue elephant... charges at me out of the thicket of my past and gives me a second shot at it, I intend to shoot it dead—but with the minimum of force. [more inside]
posted by carsonb at 9:47 PM - 12 comments

April 2

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Part 7 - Flushing Out The Mole  Season 1, Episode 7

Smiley springs his trap and then goes about picking up the pieces and putting The Circus back together. Poor George! Life is such a puzzle to you, isn't it? - Lady Ann
posted by carsonb at 11:28 AM - 18 comments

March 26

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Part 6 - Smiley Sets a Trap  Season 1, Episode 6

With a new light cast on the aftermath of Operation Testify—who told Jim Prideaux to forget it, man... forget it! and move on with his post-Circus life—George Smiley knows who in the Merlin/Witchcraft circle to approach first. But before he heads down that path, a bit of follow-up is in order with old-boy lamplighter and drunkard footie newsman Jerry Westerby. [more inside]
posted by carsonb at 4:36 PM - 21 comments

March 19

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Part 5 - Tinker Tailor  Season 1, Episode 5

George Smiley conducts two interviews, first with old hand Sam Collins, the duty officer on the night Jim Prideaux was shot, then with Prideaux himself. Between the two testimonies a clearer picture is painted of the events of that night, the fateful, failed Operation Testify, as well as its fallout.
posted by carsonb at 9:49 PM - 22 comments

March 12

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: How It All Fits Together  Season 1, Episode 4

In search of more information about Operation Testify, George sends Peter back to The Circus for the archived file. Waylaid mid-operation by the three of them and Alleline, Peter is read in on and then interrogated about some ultra-ultra-sensitive Witchcraft material. Patrick Stewart makes a brief, silent, and rather intense appearance during Smiley's relation to Guillam of the time in Delhi when he met Karla in the flesh. [more inside]
posted by carsonb at 10:55 AM - 12 comments

March 4

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Part 3: Smiley Tracks The Mole  First Watch   Season 1, Episode 3

Smiley sends Guillam to The Circus headquarters at London Station to covertly follow up on Ricky Tarr's story, while he visits Oxford to pick the brain of former Head of Research Connie Sachs. Connections begin to appear as they compare notes, and George fills Peter in on Merlin, Witchcraft, and Percy Alleline's insufferable angling for Control's chair. There are three of them, and Alleline. Control's words. [more inside]
posted by carsonb at 10:54 PM - 7 comments

February 26

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Part 2  First Watch   Season 1, Episode 2

Four men in a room quickly filling with smoke: George Smiley, newly un-retired right-hand man to The Circus chief, Peter Guillam, disgraced head Scalphunter for The Circus, Oliver Lacon, Intelligence Service overseer, and Ricky Tarr, officially absent without leave, on the Wanted list, recently resurfaced Circus spook extraordinaire. Ricky has a story he thinks might change all their lives. [more inside]
posted by carsonb at 7:13 PM - 3 comments

February 19

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Part 1  Show Only   Season 1, Episode 1

Two to six men in a room filled or quickly filling with smoke. There is terse, slow conversation, interrogations mostly, punctuated by short, uneventful drives on the streets of Cold War-era London. Spies! George Smiley (ret.), played elderly and formidable and ironically reticent by Sir Alec Guinness, looms and frowns at the goings-on and pieces together the legend of a mole, right at the top of The Circus. [more inside]
posted by carsonb at 12:27 PM - 15 comments

July 27

Movie: A Most Wanted Man

A Chechen Muslim illegally immigrates to Hamburg, where he gets caught in the international war on terror. As the clock ticks down and the stakes rise, the race is on to establish his true identity: oppressed victim or destruction-bent extremist? Philip Seymour Hoffman's last starring role. Based on John le Carré's novel.
posted by scody at 11:27 AM - 6 comments