British novelist John le Carré passed away this past weekend at the age of 89. As the Guardian newspaper reported he died of pneumonia Saturday night at a hospital in Cornwall, England. A master of the espionage novel and literary storytelling, le Carré made a life for himself as a massively successful fiction writer after a career working for the British government as a spy.
Many of his books were made into major, critically-acclaimed films, including “Our Kind of Traitor,” which starred Ewan McGregor and Damien Lewis, pictured above. (We read a digital copy of the book in its entirety on a Blackberry smartphone — remember those? — back when we used to carry one around in addition to our two iPhones, but that’s another story.) We’ve read many of his novels and seen many of the films, including “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” (we highly recommend!), “The Constant Gardener,” “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold,” “A Most Wanted Man,” “The Russia House,” and “The Tailor of Panama,” to name but a few.
Le Carré‘s spy novels drew on his own experiences in the British intelligence agencies MI5 and MI6 at the height of the Cold War. This first-hand knowledge of the spy game brought an authenticity and realism to his fiction that was seldom matched by other authors. His novels were literary and transcended a genre often associated with the airport bookshop shelves and the breezy summer beach-read. The writing was taught and sophisticated, yet accessible.
His stories were thrilling, compelling, riveting and contemporary, deeply weaving the current geo-political climate and cultural circumstances of the day into his narratives. Coincidentally, when we read the news of le Carré’s death, we were about a third of the way through one of his more recent books, “Agent Running in the Field.”
John le Carré, rest in peace. You are missed.