John Le Carré Profile and Books

John le Carré is the penname for David John Moore Cornwell who was born in 1931 in Poole, Dorset, England. He started writing under a penname because Foreign Office officials were not allowed to publish under their own names.

Cornwell had a difficult childhood. His mother abandoned the family when he was 5 years old and he didn’t see her again till he was 21. His father was a con-man and confidence trickster and an associate of the notorious Kray twins and was jailed for insurance fraud.

Cornwell’s early education started in the English public school system, but he didn’t like the discipline and left. He later studied foreign languages in Switzerland where he joined the British Army Intelligence Corps, working as a German language interrogator of people defecting to the west. He went to study at Oxford where he worked for MI5 spying on far-left groups to identify possible Soviet Agents. Later for MI5 he ran agents and conducted interrogations. He later transferred to MI6 and worked in Bonn and Hamburg.

With the huge success of his third novel – ‘The Spy Who Came In From The Cold’ in 1963, he left MI6 to become a full-time writer. His novel – ‘A Perfect Spy’ published in 1986 comes close to being an autobiography.

His novels, through to the late 1980s are about the cold war. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, his novels have continued to portray his views of the weaknesses of Western politics.

Cornwell has received many literary awards and many of his books have been adapted for film and TV.

He has four sons and 10 grandchildren.


  • Call for the Dead (George Smiley #1)  (1961)
  • A Murder of Quality (George Smiley #2) (1962)
  • The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (George Smiley #3)  (1963)
  • The Looking Glass War (George Smiley #4) (1965)
  • A Small Town in Germany (1968)
  • The Naïve and Sentimental Lover (1971)
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (George Smiley #5) (1974)
  • The Honourable Schoolboy (George Smiley #6) (1977)
  • Smiley’s People (George Smiley #7) (1979)
  • The Little Drummer Girl (1983)
  • A Perfect Spy (1986)
  • The Russia House (1989)
  • The Secret Pilgrim (George Smiley #8) (1990)
  • The Night Manager (1993)
  • Our Game (1995)
  • The Tailor of Panama (1996)
  • Single & Single (1999)
  • The Constant Gardener (2001)
  • Absolute Friends (2003)
  • The Mission Song (2006)
  • A Most Wanted Man (2008)
  • Our Kind of Traitor (2010)
  • A Delicate Truth (2013)
  • A Legacy of Spies (George Smiley #9) (2017)


  • The Good Soldier (1991)
  • The United States Has Gone Mad (2003)
  • Afterword (2014) – an essay on Kim Philby
  • The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from my Life (2016)

Short stories

  • Dare I Weep, Dare I Mourn? (1967)
  • What Ritual is Being Observed Tonight? (1968)
  • The Writer and The Horse (1968)
  • The King Who Never Spoke (2009)


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