Charles Cumming

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Charles Cumming (born 5 April 1971 in Ayr, Scotland) is a British writer of spy fiction. The son of Ian Cumming (b. 1938) and Caroline Pilkington (b. 1943), he was educated at Ludgrove School (1979–1984), Eton College (1985–1989) and the University of Edinburgh (1990–1994), where he graduated with 1st Class Honours in English Literature. The Observer has described him as "the best of the new generation of British spy writers who are taking over where John le Carré and Len Deighton left off".

In 1995, Charles Cumming was approached for recruitment by the United Kingdom's Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) but did not go on to work for them. A Spy By Nature, a novel inspired by his experience with MI6, was first published in the UK in June 2001. The novel's hero, Alec Milius, is a flawed loner in his early 20s who is instructed by MI5 to sell doctored research data on oil exploration in the Caspian Sea to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

In August 2001, Charles Cumming moved to Madrid. His second novel, The Hidden Man (2003), tells the story of two brothers investigating the murder of their father, a former SIS officer, at the hands of the Russian mafia. The Hidden Man also examines the clandestine role played by SIS and the CIA during the Soviet war in Afghanistan.

Charles Cumming's third novel, The Spanish Game (2006), marks the return of anti-hero Alec Milius, who becomes involved in a plot by the paramilitary Basque nationalist organization ETA to bring down the Spanish government. The Spanish Game was described by The Times as one of the six finest spy novels of all time, alongside Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Funeral in Berlin and The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Typhoon, published in the UK in 2008, is a political thriller about a CIA plot to destabilise China on the eve of the Beijing Olympics. The story spans the decade from the transfer of the sovereignty of Hong Kong in 1997 to present-day Shanghai. In particular, the author highlights the plight of the Uyghur Muslim population in Xinjiang, a semi-autonomous region of The People's Republic of China. The acclaimed novelist William Boyd described Typhoon as "a wholly compelling and sophisticated spy novel – vivid and disturbing – immaculately researched and full of harrowing contemporary relevance." Typhoon was listed by The New York Times as one of the 100 Notable Books of 2009.

Charles Cumming's fifth novel, The Trinity Six, a thriller about the discovery of a sixth member of the Cambridge spies ring, was published in 2011. The Washington Post named The Trinity Six as one of the Notable Books of 2011. The film rights were optioned by Scott Stuber at Bluegrass Films. Cumming has adapted the novel into a screenplay.

A Foreign Country, Cumming's sixth novel, concerning the disappearance of the first female Chief of MI6, was published in 2012. It is the first in a trilogy of novels about disgraced MI6 officer Thomas Kell. The novel is now being developed into a television series starring Colin Firth. A Foreign Country was named the first Scottish Crime Book of the Year at the inaugural Bloody Scotland Festival in Stirling in September 2012. A Foreign Country also won the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for the best thriller of 2012. A sequel, entitled A Colder War, in which Kell investigates a traitor inside western intelligence, was published in 2014. A Colder War was picked as a 2015 Spring Read by the Richard and Judy book club. The novel also won the CrimeFest eDunnit Award for Best Crime eBook of the Year. [1] [2]

The third novel in the Thomas Kell series, A Divided Spy, will be published in 2016. Cumming's novels have been translated into fourteen languages. His work is published in the United Kingdom by Harper Collins, in the United States by St Martin's Press and in Germany by Goldmann (publisher).

Charles Cumming was an Assistant Editor of The Week from 1996 to 2011. He is one of the trustees of The Pierce Loughran Memorial Scholarship fund which provides tuition fees for the Yeats Summer School in Sligo, Ireland. He is also the founder and President of the José Raúl Capablanca Memorial Chess Society. He has two children and lives in London.



  1. ^ "A Foreign Country by Charles Cumming named Scottish Crime Book of Year". BBC News. 17 September 2012. Retrieved 18 September 2012. 
  2. ^ "Too many red-heads". Bloody Scotland News. 18 September 2012. Retrieved 18 September 2012. 

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