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Charles Cumming (born 5 April 1971) is a British writer of spy fiction.
Early life and education
Cumming was born in Ayr in Scotland, the son of Ian Cumming (b. 1938) and Caroline Pilkington (b. 1943).
Cumming's first novel, A Spy by Nature, inspired by his experience with MI6, was 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, 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–Afghan War.
His 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 China. The 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.
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, his 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. It 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. The novel won the CrimeFest eDunnit Award for Best Crime eBook of the Year.
The third novel in the Thomas Kell series, A Divided Spy, was 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.
Cumming was also an Assistant Editor of The Week from 1996–2011.
Cumming has two children and lives in London.
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.
- A Spy by Nature (2001), ISBN 0-14-029476-7, the first Alec Milius novel
- The Hidden Man (2003), ISBN 0-14-029477-5
- The Spanish Game (2006), ISBN 0-14-101783-X, the second Alec Milius novel
- Typhoon (2008), ISBN 0-14-101802-X
- The Trinity Six (2011), ISBN 0-312-67529-1
- A Foreign Country (2012), ISBN 0-00-733783-3, the first Thomas Kell novel
- A Colder War (2014), ISBN 0-00-746747-8, the second Thomas Kell novel
- A Divided Spy (2016), ISBN 0-00-746751-6, the third Thomas Kell novel
- The Man Between (2018), ISBN 0-00-820031-9, published in the US as The Moroccan Girl (2019)
- "Charles Cumming | British Council". www.britishcouncil.ru. Retrieved 2018-02-01.
- "A Foreign Country by Charles Cumming named Scottish Crime Book of Year". BBC News. 17 September 2012. Retrieved 18 September 2012.
- "Too many red-heads". Bloody Scotland News. 18 September 2012. Retrieved 18 September 2012.