In the world of espionage fiction, few names stand out quite like John le Carre's, and today that world is in mourning, as it has been announced that the legendary author has passed away. The news has been confirmed by his family, who have informed the press that he died of pneumonia on Saturday night at the Royal Cornwall Hospital. The author of books such as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Constant Gardner was 89, having celebrated his last birthday this past October.
Born David John Moore Cornwell, the writer grew up in 1930s England, the son of a father who was a criminal and a mother who abandoned his family. He first got his taste of the espionage world while a part of the Intelligence Corps of the British Army in the 1950s – stationed in Austria and serving as an interrogator for individuals crossing the Iron Curtain. After returning to England, he studied at Lincoln College in Oxford while also secretly operating for the British Security Service a.k.a. MI5, specifically working to infiltrate far-left groups and investigate potential Soviet spies. He became an MI5 officer in 1958 before transferring to the foreign intelligence service a.k.a. MI6 two years later – and all of the experiences wound up creating a key foundation for his career as an author.
It was in 1961 that the first John le Carre novel was published - specifically Call For The Dead, which was the book that introduced the author's most famous character: George Smiley. Ultimately the book was one of 10 novels about Smiley that le Carre got published – the most recent being A Legacy of Spies, which hit bookstores in 2017. Most of his career was spent writing fiction, primarily in the spy genre, but he also penned multiple short stories and multiple non-fiction books, including the autobiographical titles The Naive And Sentimental Lover and A Perfect Spy.
John le Carre not only saw success in the literary world, but also in Hollywood. His third book, 1963's The Spy Who Came In from the Cold, was adapted as a film directed by Martin Ritt starring Richard Burton in 1965, and that proved to be the first of many cinematic takes on his work. Sidney Lumet made a version of the aforementioned Call For The Dead as 1967's The Deadly Affair, and other notable big screen efforts include Fernando Meirelles' The Constant Gardner (starring Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz), Tomas Alfredson's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (which saw Gary Oldman play George Smiley and earn his first Academy Award nomination), and Anton Corbihn's A Most Wanted Man (starring Philip Seymour Hoffman).
Most recently director Park Chan-wook developed a miniseries adaptation of the 1983 novel The Little Drummer Girl, which starred Michael Shannon, Alexander Skarsgard, and Florence Pugh and first aired in late 2018 in both the United Kingdom and United States.
We here at CinemaBlend send our best wishes to John le Carre's family and friends, whose passing was reported by Deadline, and in celebration of his career, encourage you to hit the comments section with your favorite books of his and/or adaptations.