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Charles Cumming (born April 5, 1971, Ayr, Scotland) is a British writer of spy fiction. The son of Ian Cumming (1938-) and Caroline (Ramsay) Pilkington (1943-), he was educated at Ludgrove School (1979-1984), Eton College (1985-1989) and the University of Edinburgh (1990-1994), where he graduated with 1st Class Honours in English Literature. The Observer has described him as "the best of the new generation of British spy writers who are taking over where John le Carré and Len Deighton left off".

In 1995, Charles Cumming was approached for recruitment by the United Kingdom's Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). A Spy By Nature, a novel partly based on his experiences with MI6, was published in the UK in June 2001. The novel's hero, Alec Milius, is a flawed loner in his early 20s who is recruited by MI6 to sell doctored research data on oil exploration in the Caspian Sea to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

In August 2001, Charles Cumming moved to Madrid. His second novel, The Hidden Man (2003), tells the story of two brothers investigating the murder of their father, a former SIS officer, at the hands of the Russian mafia. The Hidden Man also examines the clandestine role played by SIS and the CIA during the Soviet war in Afghanistan.

Charles Cumming's third novel, The Spanish Game (2006), marks the return of anti-hero Alec Milius, who becomes involved in a plot by the paramilitary Basque nationalist organization ETA to bring down the Spanish government. The Spanish Game was described by The Times as one of the six finest spy novels of all time, alongside Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Funeral in Berlin and The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Typhoon, published in the UK in 2008, is a political thriller about a CIA plot to destabilise China on the eve of the Beijing Olympics. The story spans the decade from the transfer of the sovereignty of Hong Kong in 1997 to present-day Shanghai. In particular, the author highlights the plight of the Uyghur Muslim population in Xinjiang, a semi-autonomous region of The People's Republic of China. The acclaimed novelist William Boyd described Typhoon as “a wholly compelling and sophisticated spy novel – vivid and disturbing – immaculately researched and full of harrowing contemporary relevance.” Typhoon was listed by The New York Times as one of the 100 Notable Books of 2009.

In March 2008, Charles Cumming published an interactive online story, The 21 Steps, as part of a Penguin We Tell Stories project. Readers follow the protagonist's travels through Google Maps. Cumming's novels have been translated into six languages. His work is published in the United States by St Martin's Press. In 2009, Cumming left Penguin to join Harper Collins. His fifth novel, The Trinity Six, a thriller about the Cambridge spies, will be published in 2011.

Charles Cumming is an Assistant Editor of The Week, and regularly writes book reviews for The Mail on Sunday. He has appeared on Sky News, BBC World (interviewed by Mishal Husain), The Book Show (a Sky Arts production) and Radio 4's Today programme. He is one of the trustees of The Pierce Loughran Memorial Scholarship fund which provides tuition fees for the Yeats Summer School in Sligo, Ireland. In 2008 he was a First Story writer-in-residence at Cranford Community College, London. He is also the founder and President of the Jose Raul Capablanca Memorial Chess Society. He is married with two children and lives in London.


  • A Spy By Nature (2001), ISBN 0-14-029476-7
  • The Hidden Man (2003), ISBN 0-14-029476-7
  • The Spanish Game (2006), ISBN 0-14-101783-X
  • Typhoon (2008), ISBN 0-14-101802X

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