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Friday, June 19, 2009

Masters of the Thriller – Part III: John le Carré

For those who love tales of espionage, John le Carré (David John Moore Cornwall) is definitely one of the masters of this subgenre of thriller. Born in Dorset, England, the author worked for the British Foreign Service in the late 50s and early 60s, before the popularity of his third novel, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, allowed him to become a full-time novelist. Since he began writing in 1961 he has produced 21 novels, seven have become award-winning films or TV series. Books le Carré considers to be his best include Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, The Tailor of Panama and The Constant Gardener . His most recent book is A Most Wanted Man.

The most famous character in le Carré’s novels is George Smiley, who some critics have called “the anti-James Bond.” He is a major character in five of the author’s novels and makes appearances in many others. An intelligence officer in M16, Smiley is a mild-mannered man, expert at navigating government bureaucracy, who gets by on his wits. When Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was published, one reviewer called Smiley “a brilliant spy and totally inadequate man.”

In a statement on his official Web site, le Carré, however, minimizes the influence of his brief career as a spy on his writing:

“In the old days it was convenient to bill me as a spy turned writer,” says le Carré. I was nothing of the kind. I am a writer who, when I was very young, spent a few ineffectual but extremely formative years in British Intelligence. . . . Nothing that I write is authentic. . . . I am flattered that my fabulations are taken so seriously. . . . Artists, in my experience, have very little centre. They fake. They are not the real thing. They are spies. I am no exception.”

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