“You think the odds look right, that they are in your favour ?
This is a billiard table. An easy, flat, green billiard table. And you have hit your white ball and it is travelling easily and quietly towards the red. The pocket is alongside. Fatally, inevitably, you are going to hit the red and the red is going into that pocket. It is the law of the billiard table, the law of the billiard room.
But outside the orbit of these things, a jet pilot has fainted and his plane is diving straight at that billiard room, or a gas main is about to explode, or lightning is about to strike.
And the building collapses on top of you and on top of the billiard table. Then what has happened to that white ball that could not miss the red ball, and to the red ball that could not miss the pocket ? The white ball could not miss according to the laws of the billiard table. But the laws of the billiard table are not the only laws in this particular game.”
- Extract from the novel ‘From Russia with Love’, by Ian Fleming.
Whether in the form of Ian Fleming’s James Bond or John le Carré’s George Smiley, spies are big business. Without Bond as ur-Spy we might never have had Smiley. But they are hardly comparable. Bond is a glamorous, libidinous, fast assassin equipped with deadly toys. Smiley is quiet, unathletic and conscientious, methodical, perceptive and wise. Where Bond is fascistic, the supreme embodiment of belief in the superiority of action over thought, Smiley is contemplative. Where Bond is a warrior, Smiley is a wizard.