British spy novelist John le Carre died on the evening of December 12, 2020 in Cornwall, England as a result of a non Covid illness at the age of 89. His family stated that le Carre had pneumonia.
Like many authors who write in a series, le Carre had a recurring main character – spymaster George Smiley, an iconic character and a decent man.
He was born David John Moore Cornwell on October 19, 1931 in Poole, England; the son of a con man who associated with gangsters and spent time in jail. Young David’s mother left the family when he was only five years old. During his military service, he interrogated Eastern Blco defectors.
He once described his upbringing as, of clandestine survival. The whole world was enemy territory.”
Le Carre used his tumultuous upbringing as inspiration when it came time to create his George Smiley adventures.
Prior to becoming an author of spy novels, Le Carre attended Oxford, taught at Eton, and was a part of Britain’s foreign service. He began his writing career while still working for the Foreign Service; which resulted in him choosing a pen name. He chose le Carre – square in French – because he liked the mysterious sound of it.
His first novel came in 1961 with “Call for the Dead” and was followed by “A Murder of Quality” and “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold”. It was at this point that le Carre left the foreign service and turned full time to writing.
Other le Carre books include “The Russia House”, “A Perfect Spy”, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”, “The Honourable Schoolboy”, Smiley’s People”, “The Tailor of Panama”, “The Constant Gardener”, “A Most Wanted Man”, “Our Kind of Traitor”, “The Pigeon Tunnel”, “A Delicate Truth”, and “Agent Running in the Field”.
Le Carre saw a number of his novels turned into films and television mini series including “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold”, “The Little Drummer Girl”, “Our Kind of Traitor”, “The Night Manager”, “A Most Wanted Man”, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”, “The Constant Gardener”, “The Tailor of Panama”, “A Murder of Quality”, “The Russia House”, “A Perfect Spy”, “Smiley’s People”, “The Looking Glass War”, “The Deadly Affair”, and “Our Kind of Traitor”.
He even made a few uncredited cameo appearances in a few them as a waiter in “The Little Drummer Girl”, a museum guard in “Our Kind of Traitor”, a diner in “The Night Manager”, a Christmas party guest in “Tinker, Tailor Soldier Spy”, and a Commander in the 1984 version of “The Little Drummer Girl”.
While he accepted the Goethe Medal from Germany; it is reported that he turned down an award from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Le Carre is survived by his second wife of nearly 50 years Jane and four sons – Nicholas, Timothy, Stephen and Simon.
feature photo credit: By German Embassy London – John le Carré giving his thrilling keynote speech, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=60053480