Friday, September 15, 2017

John le Carre: Why I Brought Back Guillam, Smiley And The Cold War

Nick Miller at the Brisbane Times offers on a piece on spy novelist John le Carre ad why he wrote a Legacy of Spies.

Recently, John le Carre found himself sitting in the bleak banality of an old Stasi interrogation room in Berlin. It wasn't much to look at: small, peeling linoleum, plain furniture. The horror comes from imagining the psychological torture inside those walls a generation ago.

Le Carre went to the headquarters of the secret police of the former East Germany to remind himself. Partly he wanted to check details – he hates those smug letters from readers informing him that, for example, the church in his latest novel should have faced west. For the same reason he tracked down the old Berlin safe houses he remembered from his time working for MI6 in Germany in the '60s – one he found ("much tarted up"), the others he had to go to the old Stasi files to track down, much to his amusement.

But at Stasi HQ he wanted more than just geography.

"I had time alone in those horrible little rooms," he says. "It gave me back the smells, and the fear. And also – which can easily go missing – the justification for what we did. Because this was a foul regime."

This trip down nightmare lane was not for old times' sake. Le Carre was researching his new book, A Legacy of Spies.

It's a companion piece to The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, revisiting and (literally) interrogating the events from those two classics of spy fiction. Peter Guillam, loyal lieutenant to the legendary George Smiley, is called to account over their old schemes by a new generation of spies for whom the Cold War is a story, not a life's work.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

You can also read my Washington Times review of A Legacy of Spies via the below link:

And you can read my Washington Times review of John le Carre: The Biography via the below link:


  1. Thanks for highlighting Le Carre, Paul. I hope to have time to revisit the master's novels; I'd like to begin with A Call for the Dead and work my way through all of Le Carre's novels. In many ways, to my mind, the first is one of his best. Many of the others are so complicated that I lose my way within the labyrinths. Again, thanks for the posting, Paul.

  2. RT,

    I just reread "A Call for the Dead," as i wanted to read the first about Smiley and Guillam. But I don't think it is his best.

    To me, "Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy" is his best novel.

    BTW, John le Carre is on 60 Minutes this Sunday evening.