On my first British morning, a dank one like all that followed, I took the tube to Leicester Square and walked up Charing Cross Road. It was surprisingly quiet, the rush hour over and the musty bookstores along Charing Cross not yet open for business.
In five minutes, less, I reached Cambridge Circus, one of those disorienting agglomerations where several London thoroughfares converge and then meander off again. And there it was on the right between Charing Cross Road and Shaftesbury Avenue, a sturdy-looking Edwardian edifice, red brick garnished with beaded stonework.
Naturally, no sign or nameplate identified the place. The Circus is so sensitive a location, its creator has written, that its occupants never allow their taxis to pull up at the entrance. They disembark in front of the ornate theater across the street instead, or at Foyle’s bookstore a block north. But I had spent weeks reading and taking notes and poring over detailed street maps. I had also, after a series of transatlantic and domestic faxes resulting in a phone call at a certain time on a certain day, consulted with John le Carre.