British espionage writer John le Carré has died aged 89, following a short bout with pneumonia, his literary agent has said. There was no end to the author’s greatness who gave us the likes of The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Smiley’s People, The Honorable Schoolboy and A Legacy of Spies to name but a few.
His most famous character, George Smiley, who first appeared in Call for the Dead, has been played by actors including Rupert Davies, Alec Guinness and Gary Oldman. More recently, his 1993 novel, The Night Manager became a successful BBC television series starring Hugh Laurie, Tom Hiddleston, Elizabeth Debicki, Olivia Colman and Tom Hollander.
As reported by the BBC, le Carré studied at the university of Bern, in Switzerland, and then Oxford, before entering a career in undercover intelligence. After teaching at Eton for two years he joined the Foreign Office, and was initially based at the British Embassy in Bonn. During his time there he worked in the intelligence records department, giving him access to files with insights into the workings of the secret service
His 1961 novel, Call For The Dead, meant the need for a pen name as Foreign Office officials were not allowed to publish books under their own name. So, David Cornwell became John le Carré. Le Carré said his manuscript was approved by the secret service because they “rightly if reluctantly” concluded it was “sheer fiction from start to finish”.
His career as a spy came to an end in 1964 after his name was one of many given to the Soviet Union by a double agent, an incident which inspired a plot line in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.
There will never be another John le Carré and while there have been remakes of Tinker Tailor, there will never be another like the 1979 original which starred Alec Guinness, Alexander Knox, Michael Jayston, Ian Richardson (House of Cards) and a much younger Patrick Stewart.
R.I.P. David Cornwell, aka John le Carré. You will be missed.
In: Odds & Sods