Charles Cumming was born in Scotland in 1971. 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.
In 1995, Charles 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 MI5 to sell doctored research data on oil exploration in the Caspian Sea to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
In August 2001, Charles 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 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. TYPHOON was listed by The New York Times as one of the 100 Notable Books of 2009.
In 2008, Charles also published an interactive online story, The 21 Steps, as part of the Penguin ‘We Tell Stories’ project. Readers follow the protagonist's travels through Google Maps.
THE TRINITY SIX, a thriller about the discovery of a sixth member of the Cambridge spy ring, was published in 2011.
A FOREIGN COUNTRY, which concerns the disappearance of the first female head of MI6, was published in the UK in March 2012 and in the US in August 2012.
Charles Cumming's novels have been translated into nine languages. His work is published in the United States by St Martin's Press.
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.