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Authors' Favorite Thrillers

We asked authors David Ignatius and James Church which books and authors inspired their work.

David Ignatius: "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is a perfect, small diamond. It established the gray color palette of the modern spy novel — the world where each side's professed ideals are compromised by the cynicism of its intelligence operations. It's set in Cold War Berlin — the divided city inhabited by these spies with divided hearts. George Smiley came to be seen as the quintessential John Le Carre character, but he's really too good — too lovably, bumblingly brilliant — to be true. It's Alec Leamas, the deeply disillusioned spy who wants to quit the game but can't, who defines Le Carre's fiction for me."

Ignatius also recommends Graham Greene's novel The Quiet American, which is set in Vietnam in the early 1950s. Ignatius says, "The Quiet American tells you everything you need to know about why we got into Iraq. Every defect of American culture and policy is in that book."

James Church: "How can you not like Raymond Chandler? The plots are OK, I suppose, and the descriptions of people, but best are the descriptions of place. When I want a vacation, I go with Chandler to Southern California; and absolutely every time the book is done, I'm annoyed. No matter how many times I read Chandler, I'm annoyed when I get to the end, because I don't want to leave that place he created, or captured, or maybe only reflected like an old mirror that still remembers what it has seen." When pressed, Church reluctantly will choose a favorite: The High Window. In Chandler's third novel starring Philip Marlowe, the private detective is on the case of the disappearance of rare gold coin.

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