A selection of British spy thriller author John le Carre’s famous novels

The author, a former British intelligence officer whose real name was David Cornwell, wrote 25 novels and one memoir in a career spanning six decades, selling 60 million books worldwide. John le Carre, who has died aged 89, penned 25 novels over a literary career dating back to 1961, selling some 60 million copies worldwide. 

Here is a selection of his best-loved work:

‘The Spy Who Came In From The Cold’ (1963)

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Le Carre’s third novel, written while the young David Cornwell was still working for British intelligence, was an instant bestseller. 

Set against the atmospheric backdrop of Cold War Berlin, it recounts how Alec Leamas, an exhausted MI6 agent nearing retirement, is persuaded to cross the Wall for one final mission. 

The black-and-white movie adaptation of 1965 had Richard Burton in the starring role.

‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ (1974)

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Gary Oldman as master spy George Smiley in the film adaptation of John Le Carre’s ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’. Image: IMBD

A molehunt set in the treacherous corridors of “the Circus”, as Le Carre dubbed MI6 in his novels. 

The novel was the first of a 1970s trilogy in which George Smiley — Le Carre’s shy, monkish hero — takes on and outwits his Soviet rival, Karla. 

It was adapted for television, with Alec Guinness as Smiley, and cinema, most recently in 2011, with an all-star cast including Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, John Hurt and Benedict Cumberbatch.

‘The Little Drummer Girl’ (1983)

Le Carre took time out from the Cold War for this novel about an Israeli spy chief who manipulates Charlie, a beautiful radical English actress, into becoming a double agent to lure a Palestinian terrorist. 

It was made into a poorly received feature film in 1984 with American Diane Keaton in the central role.

‘A Perfect Spy’ (1986)

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Turned by a charismatic Czech spymaster, Magnus Pym is a British double agent on the run from MI6. 

The action switches from present to past amid a cast of extraordinary characters, with one especially notable: Pym’s trickster father, based on Le Carre’s own conman dad. 

“Writing ‘A Perfect Spy’ is probably what a very wise shrink would have advised me to do,” the author later said.  

‘The Night Manager’ (1993)

Searching for a new theme after the end of the Cold War, Le Carre hit his stride with this story of a secret mission to bring down a British arms dealer. 

Adapted as a TV mini-series in 2016, with Tom Hiddleston as Jonathan Pine, a former British soldier who goes undercover, and Hugh Laurie as his target, Richard Onslow Roper, “the worst man in the world”.

‘The Constant Gardener’ (2011)

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Ralph Fiennes in the 2005 film adaptation of ‘The Constant Gardener’. Image: Supplied

A hugely popular tale of Third World bureaucracy, corruption and Big Pharma.

The 2005 movie adaptation in 2005 starred Ralph Fiennes as British diplomat Justin Quayle and Rachel Weisz, who won an Oscar as his ill-fated activist wife. 

By © Agence France-Presse

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