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The Unfortunate Englishman by John Lawton

The Unfortunate Englishman

Part of the Joe Wilderness Series Series
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A Maxim Jakubowski selected title.

The second Joe Wilderness spy novel from Lawton, possibly one of the most under-appreciated British espionage writers. Following mishaps in Then We Take Berlin, Wilderness is now locked up and out of action until his father in law, a senior agent in MI6 has him sprung and sent back to Berlin in 1963, with the city of and its spy community in turmoil as the Berlin Wall is being erected with agents stranded on both sides. Surely an opportunity, alongside the likely prisoner exchange, for Joe to make a side profit involving ten thousand bottles of the finest Bordeaux wine. Nowhere as heroic as Le Carre or Deighton, Lawton confronts the absurdities and weaknesses of his highly fallible characters alongside the dangers of the Cold War. Endearing and all too human, as if Smiley was both morally flexible and at times a figure of fun! ~ Maxim Jakubowski

If you like John Lawton you might also like to read books by David Downing and Benjamin Black.

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The Unfortunate Englishman by John Lawton

Having shot someone in what he believed was self-defence in the chaos of 1963 Berlin, Wilderness finds himself locked up with little chance of escape. But an official pardon through his father-in-law Burne-Jones, a senior agent at MI6, means he is free to go - although forever in Burne-Jones's service. His newest operation will take him back to Berlin, which is now the dividing line between the West and the Soviets. A backstory of innocence and intrigue unravels, one in which Wilderness is in and out of Berlin and Vienna like a jack-in-the-box. When the Russians started building the Berlin wall in 1961, two 'Unfortunate Englishmen' were trapped on opposite sides. Geoffrey Masefield in the Lubyanka, and Bernard Alleyn (alias KGB Captain Leonid Liubimov) in Wormwood Scrubs. In 1965 there is a new plan. To exchange the prisoners, a swap upon Berlin's bridge of spies. But, as ever, Joe has something on the side, just to make it interesting, just to make it profitable. The Unfortunate Englishman is a thrilling tale of Khrushchev, Kennedy, a spy exchange...and 10,000 bottles of fine Bordeaux. What can possibly go wrong?


'All these adventures arrive gift-wrapped in writing variously rich, inventive, surprising, informed, bawdy, cynical, heartbreaking and hilarious. However much you know about postwar Berlin, Lawton will take you deeper into its people, conflicts and courage... spy fiction at its best.' Washington Post

'Lawton's gift for memorable atmosphere and characters, intelligent plotting and wry prose put him solidly at the top of anyone's A-list of contemporary spy novelists.' Seattle Times

'Both books are meticulously researched, tautly plotted, historical thrillers in the moUld of World War II and Cold War fiction by novelists like Alan Furst, Phillip Kerr, Eric Ambler, David Downing and Joseph Kanan.' Wall Street Journal on THE UNFORTUNATE ENGLISHMAN and THEN WE TAKE BERLIN

'Intricate plotting, colourful characters, and a brilliant prose style put Lawton in the front rank of historical thriller writers.' Publishers Weekly

'A sublimely elegant historical novelist as addictive as crack but overlooked by too many readers for too long.' Daily Telegraph on A LILY OF THE FIELD

'Lawton's up there with Philip Kerr and Alan Furst. Yes, he's that good.' The Sun on THEN WE TAKE BERLIN

'While Lawton's previous novels were distinguished by their precise and elegant prose, Then We Take Berlin offers, courtesy of its Cockney protagonist, a cruder but equally effective vernacular style underpinned by mordant black humour.' Irish Times on THEN WE TAKE BERLIN

'Lawton builds a wonderfully convincing picture...writing with remarkable authority... as usual with Lawton's books, it's rather more than the sum of its parts.' Spectator on THEN WE TAKE BERLIN

About the Author

John Lawton

John Lawton is the director of over forty television programs, author of a dozen screenplays, several children's books and seven Inspector Troy novels. Lawton's work has earned him comparisons to John le Carre and Alan Furst. Lawton lives in a remote hilltop village in Derbyshire.

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Book Info

Publication date

5th May 2016


John Lawton

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Grove Press an imprint of Atlantic Books


368 pages


Action Adventure / Spy
Thriller / Suspense
eBook Favourites

Espionage & spy thriller



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