Bob, Bourbon, and Books: Tinker Tailor Solider Basil Hayden’s

This semi-regular series alternates between Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen songs that perfectly complement a good bourbon and a quality book. You can make your own suggestions and recommendations in the comments section or by tweeting @WritersBone.


Dave Pezza: We bent the rules just a tad this week. “When I Get My Hands On You” is the lead single off of The New Basement Tapes’ one-off album “Lost on the River.” Comparable to the Traveling Wilburys, this collection of artists, including Marcus Mumford (Mumford & Sons), Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Elvis Costello, Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), and Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops), were asked to create music based on a collection of uncovered, unused Bob Dylan lyrics. The album is worth checking out, if only for this single and “Down on the Bottom.” The whole collection has Bob Dylan’s fingerprints all over it. Although Dylan wrote the words, these artists managed to infuse his blues/folk simplicity and sarcastic, rueful emotion into every track. “When I get My Hands On You” fits well with our book this week, John le Carré’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, but I’m sure Daniel will subtly tell you why.

Daniel Ford: Number of men who sang this tune to George Smiley’s wife in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: 578 (“Oh, sorry George old boy, I didn’t realize you were sitting right in front of me when I called your wife a dirty whore.” “Ricky, I’ve been asking you questions for two hours.” “Spot on, sod off!”). 


Daniel: Basil Hayden’s was my first bourbon. I had strictly been a scotch man before someone slammed a bottle of this joyous brown liquid down on a picnic table in front of me while I was attending a wedding in Tennessee. This guy had asked the local liquor store owner for a good bourbon and he had recommended Basil Hayden’s immediately. The next thing I knew, I was sitting in the back of a small yacht meandering the Tennessee River while sipping this sweet, satisfying bourbon. We drank the bottle all day, which gave us a warm glow and insatiable hunger for the smoked pork ribs served during the rehearsal dinner. I don’t interact with any of the people from that wedding (with good reason), but Basil Hayden’s remains a friend for all seasons.

Dave: I hadn’t tried this bourbon until a company outing with an open bar, so obviously I ordered a top-shelf bourbon. Basil Hayden’s is a terrific upper class bourbon, a little pricey, but worth every drop. Hayden’s always tends to go down fast for me, and not because of a particular smoothness or dilution.  It has a really rounded taste and kicks just the right amount. It’ll keep you tipping the bottle, especially on a cold, snowy night. Not a bad choice as a companion for an old school spy novel.

Book (and Movie!)

Daniel: It took me a while to get into John le Carré’s style, but once I did, I devoured Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy in two lengthy sittings (there were a few good things about these Boston blizzards). It reads more like a play at times, just two or three characters at a time talking in a quiet setting. How information is revealed throughout the novel is brilliant; the readers starts with a small morsel of intelligence that grows each time he or she turns the page, so that by the time George Smiley has his eureka moment, you’re exhausted, yet hungry for more. I’m eager to read the rest of the series and find out more about our pudgy, slightly rundown hero. 

Sean Tuohy: The movie adaption shares DNA with another era. You feel as if you have taken a step through a portal into the 1970's and landed right in the middle of the Cold War. The film is filled with a lot of long shots, which makes the viewer feel as if they are peeping Toms watching deeply private interactions. You have to keep your eyes glued to the screen and pay attention, which is very easy because of the way the film is shot and acted, because otherwise, you’d miss important clues that led Smiley to crack the case.

Dave: I saw the most recent film adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy a year or so ago, and loved it.  It’s the British version of “The Good Shepherd,” but better because it stars Gary Oldman! Like most good movies, I learned that that it was based on the first of novel of John le Carré’s Karla Trilogy that follows the exploits of British intelligence officer George Smiley and his hunt for the KGB mastermind codenamed Karla. Le Carré fully immerses his readers in Cold War espionage, a subject he’s more than familiar with as a former MI6 and MI5 employee. If you’re looking for a well written, accurate, and entirely suspenseful spy novel, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy will hit all the right notes.

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