Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Honourable Scribbler

As the story goes, John le Carré--who was born David Cornwell on this date in 1931--joined the British Foreign Service as a young man. He was later recruited by the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), but found spy work to be “spectacularly undramatic.” According to Wikipedia, in the early 1960s, his “career as a secret agent was destroyed by Kim Philby, a British double agent, who blew the cover of tens of British agents to the [Soviet Union’s] KGB.”

However, the spy world’s loss was the book world’s gain, as Le Carré--who’d apparently penned his first novel (Call for the Dead, 1961) while still an intelligence operative, using the Le Carré pseudonym to conceal his true identity--turned into a full-time author after the publication of his Edgar Award-winning third novel, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963). Since then, 19 Le Carré novels have been published, including his newest, The Mission Song. And together with Graham Greene, Le Carré is acclaimed as a one of the foremost espionage novelists of the 20th century, his stories achieving status as literature, rather than genre fiction--and none of them being dismissed as “spectacularly undramatic.”

Please join us today in wishing Cornwell/Le Carré the very happiest of 75th birthdays.

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