Legendary spy novelist Charles McCarry is profiled in The Age, a newspaper in Melbourne, Australia. In a wide-ranging interview McCarry talks to reporter Kevin Rabaleis about his tenure in the CIA and his second career as one of this generation's most-admired novelists.
"I don't think of the books as spy novels," McCarry says. "When I began to write, in my naivety, I thought that I could write about espionage, which is an interesting world because everything is right out on the surface. In theory, at least, all secrets are known, at least in the Organisation. I just thought, probably because it is so much like fiction, that it was a natural subject for fiction and for the novel."
Since 1973, McCarry has produced 1½ million words of page-turning thrillers — so-called spy novels from a literary writer of often-prophetic perception. In The Better Angels (1979), for instance, he writes of America in the last decade of the 20th century when terrorists use passenger-filled planes as their weapons. These and McCarry's other novels of Paul Christopher and his family are essential volumes in the pantheon of contemporary American fiction, where for equivalents — as far as books with recurring characters go — one must look to John Updike's "Rabbit" Angstrom series or Philip Roth's Nathan Zuckerman books.
"I taught myself to read at the age of four," McCarry says. "I've been a voracious reader all of my life. In that sense, my books have many authors — that is, authors whom I have read in the course of my lifetime. And there are a lot of them. I'm 78 years old. I think I owe something to them. Literature, to me, is a living creature. I think that you owe it something."