Nearing the end of a long and terrifically prodigious career as a writer, Le Carre assembled here the true events that undergird his novels. He revels in his encounters with world leaders and events of the 20th century. He meets Yasser Arafat amidst heavily armed bodyguards, dines with Soviet exile Andrei Sakharov, skis with the actor Alec Guinness, takes a field trip to meet African warlords, hob knobs with KGB intelligence officials, tours the killing fields of Cambodia, interviews jailed terrorists, kvetches at length about his low-life father, and generally downplays his early days as a spy for British intelligence as being insignificant.
Every one of his stories is compelling, and quite often humorous, for their air of authenticity and authority. Each vignette is assembled with the care and precision of a master novelist. Yet, because Le Carre has passed his entire life as a fabulist — first as a spy and then as a novelist — lingering above each tale is a question of whether every event is reconstructed with full honesty. Near the end of the book, Le Carre hints that he is not a totally trustworthy storyteller, and a posthumously published biography claims that Le Carre used his skills as a liar and deceiver to philander with multiple mistresses. But, you know what? It doesn’t matter: The Pigeon Tunnel is a great read. The audiobook is read by the author, who is a master of impersonations, bringing his counterparts to life as he meets them one by one.