(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

John le Carré began writing espionage novels in the early 1960’s, when the major figure in the field was Ian Fleming, creator of the cartoonishly superhuman James Bond. Le Carré’s fiction stands in sharp contrast, emphasizing the drudgery, boredom, and moral ambiguity in the decidedly unglamorous world of the real-life agent, who is more often a bureaucrat than an adventurer. Although many credit him with inventing the realistic espionage tale, le Carré denies such an achievement, acknowledging such predecessors as W. Somerset Maugham with his Ashenden stories. By creating some of the most believable characters and plausible situations in the genre, le Carré has perhaps had the most influence on the development of espionage fiction. In addition to being the best-selling espionage novelist, he has been acclaimed for turning a form of entertainment into an art form, for finding the poetry in the labyrinthine machinations of his plots. He has been judged more than a genre writer by many critics, deserving of inclusion in such serious company as Iris Murdoch and John Fowles. According to Andrew Rutherford, le Carré offers “exciting, disturbing, therapeutic fantasies of action and intrigue; but in his best work he also engages with political, moral and psychological complexities, demonstrating the capacity of entertainment art to transcend its own self-imposed limitations.”