John le Carre First Edition BooksJohn Atkinson Books
If you wanted someone to write novels about espionage then who better than John le Carre who worked for MI5 and MI6?
David Cornwell has been writing under the pen name John Le Carre for almost 60 years, and is responsible for some of the greatest novels of our time.
His work has been turned into 10 feature films, 4 radio series, and 6 television series.
Central to a good portion of his novels is the character George Smiley.
Smiley was actually created as an intentional foil to Ian Fleming’s James Bond; a character Le Carre believed depicted an inaccurate and damaging version of espionage life.
Short, overweight, balding, and bespectacled, Smiley is polite and self-effacing and frequently allows others to mistreat him, including his serially unfaithful wife; these traits mask his inner cunning, eidetic memory, mastery of tradecraft, and occasional ruthlessness.
His genius, coupled with other characters’ willingness to underestimate him, allows Smiley to consistently achieve his goals and ultimately become one of the most powerful spies in England.
In all Smiley features in 9 novels spanning 56 years including Call for the Dead, A Murder of Quality, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, The Looking Glass War, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Honourable Schoolboy, Smiley’s People, The Secret Pilgrim, and only a couple of years ago A Legacy of Spies.
Both The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy were both turned into multi-Academy Award nominated films.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Honourable Schoolboy, and Smiley’s People became more commonly referred to as the ‘Karla Trilogy’, with Karla being Smiley’s nemesis – a Soviet master spy who in turn employs a mole named Gerald, which was in fact based on the real life British Intelligence officer Kim Philby – who turned out to be a double agent working for the KGB, and actually cost Le Carre his job in the Secret Service.
It isn’t all about the George Smiley though. John Le Carre has penned a further 16 novels with works of note being The Constant Gardner and The Night Manager. The latter being turned into a 6-part BBC mini-series in 2016 that won critical acclaim as well as numerous Emmy Awards and Golden Globes. It was sold to over 180 countries due to its initial success in the UK.