John Le Carré, thriller writer most famous for stories of cold war intrigue, has passed away at the age of 89. His family confirmed the news of his passing on Sunday and stated that he had died of pneumonia at the Royal Cornwall Hospital on Saturday night.
“We all deeply grieve his passing,” they wrote in a statement.
Le Carré gained notoriety for his novels such as “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold”, “The Night Manager”, and
TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY.” Most of his works were made into television series, movies, and more, with actors Richard Burton, Alec Guinness, Ralph Fiennes, and Gary Oldman among those given the honor of playing Le Carré roles.
Le Carré was born as David Cornwell in 1931 and he began working for the secret services while studying German in Switzerland at the end of the 1940s. After teaching at Eton he joined the British Foreign Service as an intelligence officer, recruiting, running, and looking after spies behind the Iron Curtain from a back office at the MI5 building on London’s Curzon Street. Inspired by his MI5 colleague, the novelist John Bingham, he began publishing thrillers under the pseudonym of John le Carré. His background and knowledge made him the perfect candidate to craft the stories that would go on to become best-sellers around the world.
Le Carré’s 1961 debut, “Call for the Dead”, marked the first appearance of his most enduring character, George Smiley. His huge breakthrough came with his third novel, “The Spy Who Came In From The Cold
.” Smiley makes an appearance in that novel but takes a backseat to Alec Leamas, a fifty-something agent who is sent to East Berlin. Smiley returned for three novels in the 1970s, In “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”, he unmasks a mole in the highest echelons of the British secret service, while in “The Honourable Schoolboy” he confronts a money-laundering operation in Asia. Le Carré’s final novel arrived in 2017 with “A Legacy of Spies” being the last hurrah for Smiley.
Actor Gary Oldman, who portrayed George Smily in the film adaptation of
, paid tribute to the late author with the following statement: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
“For me, John Le Carre’ was many things. He was, of course, a very great author, the true “owner” of the serious, adult, complicated spy novel—he actually owned the genre. All who follow are in his debt. His characters were drawn deftly and deeply, nuances too many to count, and for me, inhabiting George Smiley remains one of the highpoints of my life.”
R.I.P. to a true literary legend that has certainly left behind a body of work that will continue to be treasured for years to come. Le Carré is survived by his wife Valerie Jane Eustace and his four sons Nicholas, Simon, Stephen, and Timothy.