Porter, Henry 1953-
Porter, Henry 1953-
Born 1953, in Worcestershire, England; married.
Sunday Times, London, England, editor; Vanity Fair, New York, NY, London editor.
Ian Fleming Award for best thriller, 2005, for Brandenburg.
"ROBERT HARLAND" SERIES
A Spy's Life, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2001.
Empire State, Orion (London, England), 2003.
Brandenburg Gate, Atlantic Monthly Press (New York, NY), 2005, published as Brandenburg, Orion (London, England), 2005.
Lies, Damned Lies and Some Exclusives (nonfiction), Chatto & Windus (London, England), 1984.
Remembrance Day (novel), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2000.
The Master of the Fallen Chairs (juvenile novel), Orchard Books (Chicago, IL), 2008.
The Watchers (novel), Orion (London, England), 2008.
Writer of a political column in the London Observer; contributor to newspapers, including the Guardian, Evening Standard, and Telegraph.
British journalist Henry Porter writes a political column for the London Observer, and, according to his Web site, has been addressing the threat to rights and liberty in Britain since 2005. When Porter and Prime Minister Tony Blair engaged in an e-mail debate, their correspondence was published in the Observer. Porter makes his home in London, but he can frequently be found in New York, as he is the London editor for Vanity Fair magazine.
Porter is the author of a number of espionage thrillers. An interview with Danuta Kean is posted on the Orion Publisher Group Web site, in which Kean notef that Porter's stories have "the ring of authenticity for a reason. ‘I know a lot of spies,’ he says as if it is the most natural thing in the world. ‘I have done some work that is not entirely journalism but not espionage,’ he adds darkly. ‘How shall we say, basically it is legal work and you get to know people.’"
Porter's novel Remembrance Day features protagonist Constantine Lindow, an Irish-born molecular biologist from Boston, who is working on a research project in London. He is to meet his brother, who is killed as Lindow watches by a bomb that destroys a bus. There is the possibility that his brother was an agent of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the carrier of the bomb; as his survivor, Lindow is suspected of being involved in the plot. The only man who believes him to be innocent is Commander Foyle, who heads the antiterrorist unit of Scotland Yard. Lindow buries his brother in Ireland, then returns to Boston where he and a female double agent enter into an affair. They locate the assassins in the Maine woods, and Lindow returns to England, where Foyle is continuing the investigation. Ronnie H. Terpening, who reviewed the book for Library Journal, praised Porter for his research, complex plot, intrigue, and use of technology, and described Remembrance Day as "a dazzling story of unusual insight that concludes with a heart-pounding manhunt."
A Spy's Life is the first volume featuring Robert Harland, a former agent with the British secret service who is now working for the United Nations (UN) as a water inspector. When a private UN plane crashes at La Guardia Airport in New York, Harland is the only survivor. Alan Griswald, who had been sitting with Harland, had been investigating war crimes against the Bosnians for the War Crimes Tribunal, and the UN secretary-general asks that Harland continue his investigation. He is soon targeted with threats and an attempt on his life. The ghosts of Harland's past reappear in the form of a son he did not know he had, the result of a 1975 affair with an agent of the Czech security service. Tomas Rath, who has damaging information, is anxious to get in touch with his father, and soon his mother appears, as does her former husband, a KGB agent who once tortured Harland. Harland is faced with a multitude of mysteries and questions of who is working for whom and who can be trusted as the plot of this thriller unfolds.
"Porter has the deft touch of a spy handler," commented a Publishers Weekly contributor. Terpening commented that the story "never flags despite a labyrinthine plot." Spectator reviewer Graham Stewart wrote: "Right to the very penultimate page, these are the doubts and fears that keep up the suspense in a thrilling, actionpacked story of deceit and double-dealing—the very essence of a spy's life."
In Empire State, the head of the U.S. National Security Agency is assassinated at Heathrow Airport in London, an airport employee and his family are found dead, migrant workers are gunned down in Macedonia, and a New York City osteopath is send two postcards showing the Empire State Building. These are the seemingly unrelated events that call for Harland to employ his skills and consider what they mean.
Harland is now working for both the UN and M16, and in Brandenburg Gate, published in England as Brandenburg, the Berlin Wall is about to come down, and the Stasi, the East German secret police, are calling back former agent Rudi Rosenharte, now an art historian, because they believe he can obtain information they need from his former lover. Rudi must cooperate, since his twin brother, Konrad, and family are being held hostage. Rosenharte travels to Trieste to meet the woman he knows is not Annalise, who committed suicide years earlier. Unaware of the imminent fall of the Wall, he does everything in his power to get his family to safety in West Berlin.
Spectator reviewer Andrew Taylor wrote: "The resulting intrigue is stuffed to bursting with ingredients—the KGB, the CIA, Arab terrorism, an ancestral schloss with aristocratic Nazis and even Greenham Common protesters." Taylor noted that Porter's cast of characters includes Vladimir Putin, who in the story is with the KGB. Booklist contributor David Wright commented: "Porter pushes all the right buttons in this solid spy novel."
Kean wrote: "As Porter's many fans have come to expect, nothing in Brandenburg is straightforward. Not only is the plot a complex web of Cold War scheming by everyone from Western secret service agents and the KGB to Muslim terrorists, but it foreshadows the War on Terror, dissecting the complicity of the Cold War protagonists in the rise of Al-Qaeda." Kean continued: "Brandenburg has a strong sense of place. Porter's evocation of the paranoia and darkness that permeated East German society under Communism is chilling. Growing up, he spent time on German army bases, where he heard about the ‘grim frontier’ between the East and West from family and friends. ‘I'd like people to be reminded of what East Germany was like then,’ he says."
Porter is also the author of The Master of the Fallen Chairs, a fantasy for young readers. It is a story in which a painting shows thirteen chairs, eleven of which have been toppled, each signifying a death. Two chairs remain. The narrator is Kim, an orphan who lives with his guardian at Skirl, the ancient house of the Drago family. After a servant girl goes missing, to their door comes Iggy, a strange young man who claims to be a relation. He and Kim become friends in a house within a house filled with an assortment of characters both living and dead.
In reviewing the book on the London Guardian Web site, Philip Ardagh found the most intriguing character to be a great auk who was killed in 1844 and brought to Skirl to be part of its natural history collection, stuffed and nailed to a board. "Later on she's chatty—very chatty—and at pains to make it clear that she's the last of her kind," wrote Ardagh. "How is this possible?" Ardagh felt that this is a story that can be enjoyed by everyone. "There are elements of adventure, suspense, murder mystery, magic and fantasy firmly rooted by characters one cares for." His only regret was that because this appears to be the first of a series, enough is unresolved that the reader is left wanting more. The book, is in fact, the first volume of a trilogy.
A London Observer contributor, who "adored the great auk," concluded the review by writing: "This is a winter's tale for sophisticated children and their parents—full of pale skies and whirling rooks (with a friendly nod in the direction of Dickens' A Christmas Carol). And Porter writes with such imaginative zest and warmth that I felt, as I read on, as if I was pulling a chair up to a fire and would have enough to absorb me until spring."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 1, 2006, David Wright, review of Brandenburg Gate, p. 74.
Economist, June 19, 1999, review of Remembrance Day, p. 3; December 4, 1999, review of Remembrance Day, p. 4; July 7, 2001, review of A Spy's Life, p. 107.
Entertainment Weekly, April 14, 2006, Thom Geier, review of Brandenburg Gate, p. 92.
Library Journal, April 1, 2000, Ronnie H. Terpening, review of Remembrance Day, p. 131; March 1, 2002, Ronnie H. Terpening, review of A Spy's Life, p. 140; March 1, 2006, Ronnie H. Terpening, review of Brandenburg Gate, p. 79.
New Statesman, November 2, 1984, Francis Wheen, review of Lies, Damned Lies and Some Exclusives, p. 30.
Publishers Weekly, March 27, 2000, review of Remembrance Day, p. 51; March 4, 2002, review of A Spy's Life, p. 59; January 30, 2006, review of Brandenburg Gate, p. 39.
Spectator, August 21, 1999, review of Remembrance Day, p. 39; July 28, 2001, Graham Stewart, review of A Spy's Life, p. 34; July 23, 2005, Andrew Taylor, review of Brandenburg, p. 39.
Times Literary Supplement, August 13, 1999, Keith Jeffrey, review of Remembrance Day, p. 23; October 19, 2001, Sean O'Brien, review of A Spy's Life, p. 23.
Vanity Fair, April, 2006, Elissa Schappell, review of Brandenburg Gate, p. 106.
Guardian Online,http://books.guardian.co.uk/ (April 16, 2008), Philip Ardagh, review of The Master of the Fallen Chairs.
Henry Porter Home Page,http://www.henry-porter.com (April 16, 2008).
Observer Online (London, England), http://books.guardian.co.uk/ (April 16, 2008), review of The Master of the Fallen Chairs.
Orion Publisher Group Web site,http://www.orionbooks.co.uk/ (April 16, 2008), author profile.