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Meet the spy who is harder than James Bond


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carnage and culture


Matthew Dunn, a former field officer with MI6, has lifted the lid on the Secret Intelligence Service to create a fictional spy.


Neil Tweedie, and Thomas Harding


18 October 2011



There is a scar on Matthew Dunns right hand, a deep gash running down the edge from the little finger, as if at some point he has had to defend himself from the strike of a blade. A memento, perhaps, of the clandestine operations during his career as a field officer at the sharp end of the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6. Has he ever come close to losing his life in the service of Queen and country? His fingers drum the table.[/size]


Can we pause there for a second? Tap, tap, tap.



The answer is, yes. Tap, tap.



Let me think how to answer that ----. Pause.


Well leave it as Yes.


We are sitting in his new home in the south of England, hidden in autumnal woodland at the end of a long and winding drive. The house is virtually empty of furniture, the kind of place in which George Smiley might conduct one of his gently menacing interrogations. So, about that scar?


It was earned during an operation that almost went wrong but didnt. A knife wound? Well, it was sharper than a gun. Not a DIY injury then? I would have done a better job of stitching it up if it had been.


Dunn is 42 and our newest spy writer. Like le Carré and Fleming before him he is the real thing, a former member of SIS turned fictional chronicler of the secret world. His, though, is a more muscular creation than Smiley, or even Bond. Meet Will Cochrane, a one-man weapon of mass destruction; 007 is a cocktail-sipping lush compared with Cochrane, a man who treats bullets in the stomach as others would an attack of dandruff.

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