John le Carré 1931–
(Pseudonym of David John Moore Cornwell) English novelist and short story writer.
Le Carré is an enormously popular writer of spy fiction. His novels are praised for their insight into human motivation and personality, and are noted for their credible plots and realistic characterizations. Le Carré's protagonist, British agent George Smiley, is considered by many critics to be a refreshing contrast to the suave, superhuman heroes of other contemporary spy fiction. Le Carré portrays Smiley as an ordinary, somewhat lonely middle-aged man who often battles his superiors and bureaucratic red tape in addition to Soviet agents.
The authenticity of le Carré's work derives from his career in the British Foreign Office. From 1960 to 1963, le Carré served as Second Secretary in the British Embassy in Bonn, West Germany, and in 1964, as Consul in Hamburg, he was involved in intelligence activities throughout West Germany. Call for the Dead (1961), le Carré's first novel, received positive reviews for its gritty realism and nonglamorous depiction of cold war espionage. Le Carré's third novel, The Spy Who Came In from the Cold (1963), was both a critical and popular success and placed him in the forefront of spy fiction. The "Smiley" trilogy—Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1974), The Honourable Schoolboy (1977), and Smiley's People (1980)—are other bestselling works.
In The Little Drummer Girl (1983) le Carré abandons the cold war and Smiley for the Middle East conflict. The Little Drummer Girl is the story of an English actress who is recruited and trained by Israeli agents to help capture a high-ranking Palestinian terrorist. It is controversial because the heroine begins to sympathize with the Palestinian cause, which many equate with terrorism. In general, however, The Little Drummer Girl received favorable and provocative reviews and has affirmed le Carré's universal status as a powerful and entertaining novelist.
(See also CLC, Vols. 3, 5, 9, 15 and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 5-8, rev. ed.)