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John Le Carre Books In Order

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Publication Order of George Smiley Books

Call for the Dead (1961)Description / Buy at Amazon
A Murder of Quality (1962)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Looking Glass War (1965)Description / Buy at Amazon
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1974)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Honourable Schoolboy (1977)Description / Buy at Amazon
Smiley's People (1979)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Secret Pilgrim (1990)Description / Buy at Amazon
A Legacy of Spies (2017)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of The Karla Trilogy Books

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1974)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Honourable Schoolboy (1977)Description / Buy at Amazon
Smiley's People (1979)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

A Small Town in Germany (1968)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Naive and Sentimental Lover (1971)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Little Drummer Girl / A Death in the Family (1983)Description / Buy at Amazon
A Perfect Spy (1986)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Russia House (1989)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Night Manager (1993)Description / Buy at Amazon
Our Game (1994)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Tailor of Panama (1996)Description / Buy at Amazon
Single & Single (1999)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Constant Gardener (2001)Description / Buy at Amazon
Absolute Friends (2003)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Mission Song (2006)Description / Buy at Amazon
A Most Wanted Man (2008)Description / Buy at Amazon
Our Kind of Traitor (2010)Description / Buy at Amazon
A Delicate Truth (2013)Description / Buy at Amazon
Agent Running in the Field (2019)Description / Buy at Amazon
Silverview (2021)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Short Stories/Novellas

Dare I Weep, Dare I Mourn? (2016)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of John le Carr Short Story Collections

Sarratt and the Draper of Watford (1999)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Non-Fiction Books

The Pigeon Tunnel (2016)Description / Buy at Amazon
A Private Spy: The Letters of John le Carré (With: Tim Cornwell) (2022)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Anthologies

The Book of Spies: An Anthology of Literary Espionage(2003)Description / Buy at Amazon
Not One More Death(2006)Description / Buy at Amazon
Ox-Tales: Fire(2009)Description / Buy at Amazon

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.

Book Series In Order » Authors » John Le Carre

4 Responses to “John Le Carre”

  1. James Bracken: 2 years ago

    I Have Always Enjoyed John Le Carre’s
    Novels. He Ranks with Len Deighton,
    Ian Fleming, Eric Ambler, Among Others
    of Note.

  2. Dan Horan: 3 years ago

    Clearly he did not, he was at school. This extract
    records in part his early life:-
    Cornwell’s schooling began at St Andrew’s Preparatory School, near Pangbourne, Berkshire, and continued at Sherborne School. He grew unhappy with the typically harsh English public school régime of the time and disliked his disciplinarian housemaster, Thomas. He left early to study foreign languages at the University of Bern in Switzerland, from 1948 to 1949. In 1950, he was called up for National Service and served in the Intelligence Corps of the British Army garrisoned in Allied-occupied Austria, working as a German language interrogator of people who crossed the Iron Curtain to the West. In 1952, he returned to England to study at Lincoln College, Oxford, where he worked covertly for the British Security Service, MI5, spying on far-left groups for information about possible Soviet agents.

  3. Lost River: 6 years ago

    not sure how he wouldve worked for her royal majesty in second world war. He wouldve been 14 years old

    • Dave Brown: 4 months ago

      James Bond worked for his royal Majesty when he was 16 and still at Eton


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