Next up: John Le Carre’s Singe & Single.
Why the book is awesome:
Single & Single’s story revolves around the relationship between Tiger Single (a powerful and shady finance whatsit) and his son Oliver. At the opening of the book, Oliver is living in witness protection, having informed on his father to the authorities; but his father disappears (kidnapped by Russian criminals with whom he had been in business), and Oliver is drawn into the search for him by a customs agent who wants to use Tiger as part of his war on government corruption.
I have a hard time pinpointing why I like this book so much…but I think a big part of it has to do with how human it is. The goals, powers, and flaws of the characters — both good and bad — seldom seem grandiose or abstract, and yet, Le Carre does a good job of showing how these very specific, personal drives and character defects both shape and are shaped by events that play out on a grand scale in the worlds of diplomacy and finance. And Le Carre does an excellent job of using those grand-scale events as the backdrop for what are often very intimate tragedies and triumphs.
I especially like Brock, the customs agent running a network of what seem to be often irregular operatives against the “hydra” of government corruption. He fits a “bureaucratic hero” type that strongly appeals to me.
Why a TV show would be awesome:
Now more than maybe ever is a time when we could use a human angle on the kinds of financial and international events that play out in Single & Single. The average person today has a hard time putting the shadowy forces behind our current economic crises into any kind of a coherent, relatable context. We see the consequences for people on the ground who are suffering, and we have a vague idea of the kind of people at the top who are possibly to blame, but aside from viewing them as callous or detached greed robots, we don’t have a good basis for integrating them into this history we’re living. Tiger Single is not a good man, nor a sympathetic one, nor a charismatic antihero, but he is human, and that humanity is what makes him interesting.
In many ways, a Single & Single series could form a bridge between the kind of storytelling we saw on 24 and the kind we saw on West Wing. The intersection of conflict at the level of idea and value with conflict at the level of direct violence and personal loyalty and betrayal. If Homeland proves to be successful, I think that will demonstrate audience interest in this kind of approach.
The characters of Tiger and Oliver, and the Russian criminals (some sympathetic, some profoundly creepy) are all surprisingly substantial, and put together would provide enough material for a very nice ensemble cast — especially if Brock, his subordinates, and the network of corrupt officials he is hunting, were fleshed out — and there would be plenty of room to do so, and to allow the series to stretch over a semi-arbitrary number of seasons.
Why it will never happen:
People probably remember how tedious The Constant Gardner was.