British writer of espionage thrillers.
Le Carré was educated at Sherborne before attending Bern University and Lincoln College, Oxford. He taught at Eton (1956–58) before joining the British Foreign Sevice (1960–64). The latter gave him the background and material for the series of espionage novels that made him an international best-seller. His first two books, Call for the Dead (1961) and A Murder of Quality (1962), were modest successes but he made his reputation with The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963). The story of Alec Leamas, a seedy disillusioned middle-aged spy, with its combination of psychological realism, astute plotting, and the minutiae of international espionage, is typical of Le Carré's best work. The same mood and ambience are sustained in The Looking-Glass War (1965) and A Small Town in Germany (1968). In later books, which include Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1974), The Honourable Schoolboy (1977), and Smiley's People (1980), he develops the character of George Smiley, brilliant but self-doubting éminence grise of the British intelligence organization nicknamed ‘the Circus’. In The Little Drummer Girl (1983) the espionage theme is maintained against a background of the Israeli intelligence service in the Middle East conflict. His more recent spy thrillers reflect the dawning of glasnost in the Soviet Union and the subsequent transition from Cold War to a new era of uncertainty: they include The Russia House (1989; filmed 1991), The Secret Pilgrim (1991), Our Game (1995), and The Tailor of Panama (1996).