Skip to main content

Happy Birthday, John Le Carre!


Spy novelist John Le Carre

October 19 is the birthday of espionage scribe John Le Carré, known for such works as The Spy Who Came in From the Cold [1963] and The Constant Gardener [2001].

Born in 1931 in Poole, Dorset, England, David John Moore Cornwell took the Le Carré pseudonym when he published his first novel in 1961, Call For the Dead, introducing George Smiley, easily the most famous of Le Carré’s recurring characters. Since then he has published over 20 novels.

Le Carré worked in British Intelligence

Cornwell/Carré had worked for the British Military Intelligence (MI5) and Secret Intelligence Service (SIS, also known as MI6) in the 1950s and 1960s. He began publishing his spy/thriller novels during the time Ian Fleming’s action-oriented James Bond novels were popular. As Le Carré, his books were noted for their emphasis on real life espionage and their multi-dimensional, morally complex, if unglamorous, characters. 

Le Carré autobiographical works

Two of Le Carré’s novels are considered to have autobiographical elements:

  • A Perfect Spy [1986]
  • The Naïve and Sentimental Lover [1971]

Le Carré’ movies

Numerous of Le Carré’s books have been made into movies or adapted to television, including:

  • The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, starring Richard Burton [1965]
  • The Deadly Affair, directed by Sydney Lumet [1966]
  • The Looking Glass War, featuring Anthony Hopkins [1969]
  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy a BBC adaptation with Alec Guinness [1979]
  • The Little Drummer Girl with Diane Keaton [1984]
  • The Russia House with Sean Connery and Michelle Pfeiffer [1990]
  • The Tailor of Panama starring Pierce Brosnan [2001]
  • The Constant Gardener with Ralph Fiennes [2005]

Le Carré’s work is published in 36 languages.

A Most Wanted Man by John Le Carre
 Le Carre's 2008 novel [Scribner]

His most recent novel, A Most Wanted Man, was published by Scribner (in the U.S.) in 2008.

Le Carré’ has an excellent website with a wonderful “From the Author” feature on his bio page.