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John Le Carre Books In Order

Publication Order of George Smiley Books

Call for the Dead (1961) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
A Murder of Quality (1962) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Looking Glass War (1965) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy (1974) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Honourable Schoolboy (1977) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Smiley's People (1979) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Secret Pilgrim (1990) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

A Small Town in Germany (1968) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Naive and Sentimental Lover (1971) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Little Drummer Girl (1983) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
A Perfect Spy (1986) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Russia House (1989) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Night Manager (1993) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Our Game (1995) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Tailor of Panama (1996) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Single & Single (1999) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Constant Gardener (2001) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Absolute Friends (2003) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Mission Song (2006) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
A Most Wanted Man (2008) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Our Kind of Traitor (2010) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
A Delicate Truth (2013) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Publication Order of Short Story Collections

Ox Tales: Fire (2009) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle


John Le Carre Biography:

David J.M. Cornwell (also know as John le Carre, his artistic pseudonym) was born on the 19th of October 1931, in Poole, a coastal town in the county of Dorset, in England. John le Carre has revolutionized the spy fiction genre, creating his own niche and his own legion of followers and imitators. None of those who tried to replicate his style, however, were able to recreate the same fusion of suspense, analytic skills, rhythm and irony that the great English writer produces in each and every book. It is only by exploring his biography that we can really appreciate the style of Mr. Cronwell. The inspiration for many of his plots, in fact, comes directly from his incredible life.

The Origin of a Spy

Le Carre began to work for the secret service of Her Majesty during the Second World War, as an interpreter of classified documents. In 1947 he enrolled at the University of Bern, in Switzerland, and he then moved on with his studies in England, at the Lincoln College in Oxford, where he earned a degree in German literature in 1956. He became a professor at the Eton College but, after only two years, his passion for international politics pushed him out of the academic world and towards the British Foreign Office, where he started working. After a few years he was contacted by the MI6 and he decided to go back to his old job, becoming once again a secret agent. His cover was then blown by Kim Philby, a KGB agent, who revealed Le Carre’s identity.

It was during the 1960s that John decided to use his incredible experiences as a source of inspiration for a series of spy stories. This happened while he was still working as an agent. George Smile, one of John’s most memorable characters, was created during this phase of his career. The success was immediate and Le Carre’s star seemed destined to shine right from the start. However, when the Cold War ended, the interest for the spy fiction genre suddenly declined, and many critics though spy stories were destined to disappear precisely like the historical moment that generated them. But Le Carre, starting from 1999, carried spy fiction into a new dimension, including in his plots new elements, like the terrible crimes committed by multinational corporations in the Third World.

His style…

From the beginning, Le Carre’s stories and characters are very far from James Bond’s triumphalism. The protagonists of his books, in fact, are extremely realistic, like the settings in which the plots unfold. Le Carre describes people who are often obsessed, ambitious and selfish, characters who follow personal interests and passions more than ideals and patriotism.

His books…

The first book written by Le Carre, which is also his first major success, is titled Call for the Dead, and was published when John was still a MI6 agent. The protagonist, George Smiley, doesn’t have much in common with the other hero of the genre, James Bond. Smiley has a troubled story behind him, a failed marriage and some problems with long-term relationships. He is not attractive and he certainly doesn’t own much charm. His strength doesn’t reside in the actions on the field but in his analytical skills and in his incredibly astute mind. The story of the book is built around Fennan, a British high official who apparently commits suicide after a discussion with Smiley. George was supposed to verify Fennan’s loyalty. Many details, however, suggest the man did not kill himself: it was murder. Smiley will find himself facing tough discoveries, moments that will make him suffer. The story is masterfully directed and Le Carre’s style pushes the reader towards a universe full of doubts, where the murder hides. Furthermore, the author carefully displays the problems related to the methods adopted by secret agents, and he also indulges in engaging, subtle comparisons between individualism and socialism.

George Smiley is also the protagonist of Le Carre’s second novel, A Murder of Quality. This time the focal point of the plot is the murder of Stella Rode. The atmosphere is darker, and black soon becomes the dominant color of the investigation through which Smiley finds himself involved in international intrigues secretly outlined within the walls of an English college. The rhythm is breathtaking, the story is beautiful… the novel is a must-read.

A Movie by…

The books written by John Le Carre are absolutely perfect for film adaptations. The first script based on one of his novel was written in 1965 by Martin Ritt. The protagonist of the movie was the actor Alec Learnas. The novel on which the movie and the script were based is The Spy who Came in from the Cold, published in 1963. The world had to wait only one more year, until 1966, to enjoy the film adaptation of Call for the Dead, the first novel written by Le Carre. This time, the man behind the project was Sidney Lumet. Then, in 1969, the time came for Anthony Hopkins to star in a movie based on a masterpiece born from the talent of Mr. Le Carrè: The Looking-glass War. The year was 1969 and the man in charge was Frank Pierson.

Tinker, tailor, soldier, spy (a novel published in 1974) arrived on TV in 1970, while the sequel based on Smiley’s People was televised in 1982. When The Little Drummer Girl was released in 1984, the number of the film adaptations based on John le Carre’s work became five, and they’ll soon become seven (number six was The Tailor of Panama): A most wanted man (based on the homonymous novel), in fact, it is set to be released in 2014. The cast includes some of the biggest stars in Hollywood: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel Adams, Robin Wright and Daniel Brühl.

A little curiosity: one of the protagonists of The Tailor of Panama, released 2001 and based on a novel written by Le Carre, was Pierce Brosnan, who also played the role of James Bond, the famous literary “rival” of George Smiley. It really looks like the spy heroes always find a way to keep an eye on each other. For the record, also Jamie Lee Curtis and Geoffrey Rush starred in the movie.

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