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The Spy Who Wrote a Whole Lot of Books

Posted 12/16/20 by Eric P

On December 12, 2020, David John Moore Cornwell died. Your first reaction may be “That’s too bad, who’s that?” Until you find out that he was also known as John le Carré, in which case your reaction may be, “My dad loved his books!”

Fairly or not, like much genre fiction, spy novels don’t always get respect. But le Carré’s prodigious literary output is an exception. His agents aren’t jet-setting martini-drinking playboys like James Bond but rather world-weary bureaucrats like your uncle who works in the Jersey City auditor’s office.

It helped that le Carré was not only a talented writer and a keen observer of human nature but an actual former spy. As a young man he did the espionage thing for the MI-5 and MI-6 intelligence agencies; the strictures of his employers were the reason he was required to publish under a pen name in the first place.

Graham Greene called his novel The Spy Who Came in From the Cold – which featured George Smiley, the unglamorous civil servant who would figure in nine of le Carré’s books – “the best spy story I have ever read.” Philip Roth said his book A Perfect Spy was the finest post-war English novel. Stephen King called le Carré a “literary giant.” And Ian McEwen described le Carré as “the most significant novelist of the second half of the 20th century in Britain.”

As is often the case when a notable artist passes, this is a chance to revisit his work – or to finally find out what all the fuss was about. The library can help you with that:

Cover of Call for the Dead

Call for the Dead

eBook   |   BOCD   |   Large Print   |   eAudio   |   Hoopla audio
Cover of A Murder of Quality

A Murder of Quality

eBook   |   eAudiobook   |   BOCD   |   hoopla audio
Cover of The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

eBook   |   eAudiobook   |   hoopla audio   |   BOCD
Cover of The Looking Glass War

The Looking Glass War

eBook   |   BOCD   |   hoopla audio
Cover of A Small Town in Germany

A Small Town in Germany

eBook   |   hoopla audio
Cover of The Naïve and Sentimental Lover

The Naïve and Sentimental Lover

eBook
Cover of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

eBook   |   eAudiobook   |   hoopla audio
Cover of The Honourable Schoolboy

The Honourable Schoolboy

eBook   |   hoopla audio
Cover of Smiley’s People

Smiley’s People

eBook   |   hoopla audio   |   Large print
Cover of The Little Drummer Girl

The Little Drummer Girl

eBook   |   hoopla audio   |   Large print
Cover of A Perfect Spy

A Perfect Spy

eBook   |   hoopla audio
Cover of The Russia House

The Russia House

hoopla audio
Cover of The Secret Pilgrim

The Secret Pilgrim

hoopla audio
Cover of The Night Manager

The Night Manager

eBook
Cover of Our Game

Our Game

Cover of The Tailor of Panama

The Tailor of Panama

Cover of The Constant Gardener

The Constant Gardener

eBook
Cover of Absolute Friends

Absolute Friends

eBook
Cover of The Mission Song

The Mission Song

eBook   |   BOCD
Cover of A Most Wanted Man

A Most Wanted Man

hoopla audio
Cover of Our Kind of Traitor

Our Kind of Traitor

BOCD   |   Print
Cover of A Delicate Truth

A Delicate Truth

eBook   |   Hoopla audio   |   BOCD   |   Large print
Cover of A Legacy of Spies

A Legacy of Spies

eBook   |   eAudiobook   |   Large print   |   BOCD
Cover of Agent Running in the Field

Agent Running in the Field

eBook   |   eAudiobook   |   Large print   |   BOCD

Between the inherent drama of espionage – Lies! Secrets! Envelopes! – and le Carré’s gift for characterizations and relationships, his books became favorites for screen adaptations. Sure, the heroes in his novels are often described as poorly dressed and overweight, while in movies they tend to look more like, well, movie stars. But the films are great entertainments, whether you like your movies to be about plotty procedurals or mid-life crises.

Cover of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979)

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979)

Cover of The Constant Gardener

The Constant Gardener

Cover of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

Cover of A Most Wanted Man

A Most Wanted Man

Cover of Our Kind of Traitor

Our Kind of Traitor

Cover of The Night Manager

The Night Manager

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