John Le Carre biography, plus links to book reviews and book excerpts from books by John Le Carre.

Author Biography  |  Books by this Author  |  Readalikes

John Le Carre
Author photograph by Simone Casetta

John Le Carre

John Le Carre: jon L-KAR-ay

John Le Carre Biography

John Le Carré is the pen name of David Cornwell. Cornwell was born in Poole, Dorset (in the South-West of England) in 1931. His father, Ronnie, made and lost his fortune a number of times due to elaborate confidence tricks and schemes which landed him in prison on at least one occasion. This, according to Cornwell, was one of the factors that led to his fascination with secrets. His father was also the inspiration for the lead character in 'The Honourable Schoolboy' (1977).

Cornwell's mother left home when he was five or six years old - he did not see her again until he was 21.

He attended Sherborne School - a British boarding school, but was unhappy and dropped out at the age of 16. For a little under a year (in 1948-1949) he studied German at the University of Berne in Switzerland; he then did his military service in Austria.

It seems that it was while he was in Switzerland that his fascination with espionage began - the story goes that it was triggered by a meeting with a British diplomat who may or may not have been in intelligence. In 1952 Cornwell continued his education at Lincoln College, Oxford, studying modern languages. He had to leave in 1954 when his father went bankrupt. He took a job teaching at a boy's prep school (the term prep school in England usually refers to a school for children aged approximately 8-12). However, he was able to return to Oxford a year later and graduated with first class honors in 1956. After spending two years teaching French and German at Eton (a boy's boarding school for ages 13-18) he joined the Foreign Service and within three years was posted to Bonn, West Germany as the second secretary to the British embassy.

He started his first novel, Call For The Dead, while employed in the operational section of MI5. He was encouraged in this endeavor by Lord Clanmorris (who himself wrote crime novels under the pen-name of John Bingham). Lord Clanmorris was one of the two men who inspired le Carré's most famous character - George Smiley; history doesn't appear to relate who the second person was.

He moved from M15 to M16 and was posted in Berlin at the time the Wall was erected. 'The Call of The Dead' was published in 1961 and was lauded by Graham Greene who said it was the best spy story he had ever read. It also introduced the character of George Smiley.

Cornwell wrote under a pseudonym because it was not acceptable for members of the Foreign office to publish under their own names.

For his second book he took a completely different tack and wrote a murder mystery set in a boy's school (with George Smiley in the role of investigator) - 'A Murder of Quality' was published in 1962.

He returned to espionage for his third novel 'The Spy Who Came In From The Cold' (1963), and following its success he was able to take up writing full time. 'The Spy Who Came In From The Cold' is the story of Alex Leamas, a frustrated British agent, who was the total antithesis of Ian Fleming's fast driving, womanizing James Bond - Fleming being the leading writer of spy stories at that time. In 1964 he won the Somerset Maugham Award, an award established by Maugham to enable British authors under the age of 35 to enrich their writing by spending time abroad.

His next book was The Looking Glass War (1965), followed by A Small Town In Germany (1968). In 1971 he wrote The Naive and Sentimental Lover, followed by Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1974) - which reintroduced George Smiley. This was followed by The Honourable Schoolboy (1977) and Smiley's People (1979); these three books are often known as the Karla trilogy for the Soviet spymaster, Karla, who features prominently in the books.

In 1983 he wrote The Little Drummer Girl which explored the cause of Palestinian liberation. This was followed by A Perfect Spy in 1986 and The Russia House in 1989.

These were followed by The Secret Pigrim (1991), The Night Manager (1993), Our Game (1995), The Tailor of Panama (1996), Secret & Secret (USA title: Single & Single) (1999), The Constant Gardener (2001) and Absolute Friends (2003), The Mission Song (2006), A Most Wanted Man (2008) and Our Kind of Traitor (2010).

Le Carré has been married twice. First to Ann Martin in the 1950s; and the second time to Valerie in 1972. He has four children, 3 from his first marriage - Simon, Stephen, Timothy; and Nicholas. He lives with his wife, Valerie, in Cornwall, England.


Copyright BookBrowse.com 2010

Link to John's website

This biography was last updated on 08/20/2010.

A note about the biographies
We try to keep BookBrowse's biographies both up to date and accurate. However, with over 2500 lives to keep track of it's inevitable that some won't be as current or as complete as we would like. So, please help us - if the information about a particular author is out of date, inaccurate or simply very short, and you know of a more complete source, please let us know. Authors and those connected with authors: If you wish to make changes to your bio, please send your complete biography as you would like it displayed so that we can replace the old with the new.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Books by this Author

Books by John Le Carre at BookBrowse

Recommended in Detail at BookBrowse

Absolute Friends
Absolute Friends

by John Le Carre

An epic tale of loyalty and betrayal set in the West Berlin of the 1960s through to the present day of terrorism and new alliances.
Read More

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

All the books below are recommended as readalikes for John Le Carre but some maybe more relevant to you than others depending on which books by the author you have read and enjoyed. So look for the suggested read-alikes by title linked on the right.
How we choose readalikes

  • Author Image Not Available

    John Altman

    John Altman is a musician and freelance writer living in New York City. A graduate of Harvard, he comes from an extended family of writers, including the novelists Karen Bender, Aimee Bender, and Robert Anthony Siegel.

    ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    The Constant Gardener

    Try:
    A Gathering of Spies
    by John Altman

  • Author Image Not Available

    William Brodrick

    William Brodrick, in a career change that reverses that of his character Father Anselm's, was an Augustinian friar before leaving in order to become a practicing barrister. His novels include The Sixth ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    Absolute Friends

    Try:
    The 6th Lamentation
    by William Brodrick

We recommend 27 similar authors

View all 27 Readalikes

Non-members can see 2 results. Become a member
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Hundred-Year House
    The Hundred-Year House
    by Rebecca Makkai
    Rebecca Makkai's sophomore novel The Hundred-Year House could just have easily been titled ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Valley of Amazement
    by Amy Tan
    "Mirror, Mirror on the wall
    I am my mother after all!"


    In my pre-retirement days as a professor ...
  • Book Jacket: A Man Called Ove
    A Man Called Ove
    by Fredrik Backman
    Reading A Man Called Ove was like having Christmas arrive early. Set in Sweden, this debut novel is ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Arsonist
by Sue Miller

Published Jun. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  132Tomlinson Hill:
    Chris Tomlinson

All Discussions

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.