John le carré

The best TV spy drama since Smiley’s People: Apple TV+’s Slow Horses reviewed

How thriller writers must miss the Cold War! Early John le Carré and Len Deighton had it easy when trying to create a convincingly menacing enemy: the Soviets, obviously. But their successors are forced to go through all manner of desperate contortions to generate their bad guy McGuffin. They can’t do Muslims because that’s Islamophobic; they can’t do the Chinese because the entertainment industry (like everywhere) is too in thrall to the CCP. So they end up promoting paper tigers like ‘right-wing extremism’, as Mick Herron does in the first of his Slow Horses series. Herron has been rightly hailed as the new Le Carré. His black-comedy novels about a

The secret spy films made by MI6

Those attending the premiere of No Time to Die this week would perhaps be surprised to learn that the Bond films were once considered to be a national security threat. In the 1960s, with the image of Cold War espionage increasingly becoming shaped by films like Dr No, and TV series like Danger Man and The Avengers, MI6 feared that campy pulp fiction would drown out the real threat of Communist subversion. ‘The biggest single risk to security at the present time,’ one Whitehall report argued, ‘is probably a general lack of conviction that any substantial threat exists.’ ‘The master spy’, the intelligence services complained, ‘seems as much a part

John le Carré’s wild MI6 Christmas parties

In the middle of December, for reasons I’m coming to, I woke early in a posh hotel. I lay semi-dozing while my partner, Jo, was in the shower, and eventually worked out how to tune the bedside radio, an internet device, to Radio 4. The six o’clock pips sounded as a bathrobed Jo emerged, earbuds in place: on her digital radio she heard the headlines some seconds ahead of me, and as she sat on the bed, her smile faltered. What’s the matter, I asked. John le Carré’s died, she said. A heartbeat or two later, while the internet transmission caught up with the digital, the radio confirmed this. John

John le Carré’s London of exiles is alive and well

‘I’m an Englishman born and bred, almost.’ So says Karim Amir, protagonist of Hanif Kureishi’s The Buddha of Suburbia. If Karim, and by proxy Kureishi, is a funny sort of Englishman – ‘born and bred’ but not quite – then so was John le Carré, albeit in a slightly different way. Le Carré, or to give him his real name David Cornwell, died a week ago and the obits have been flowing ever since. They generally, and correctly, observe that his true subject was never spies but England (and it was always England rather than Britain). Born to a con-man father who sent him to a public school where he

Le Carré on screen: 8 adaptations that rival the novels

With the sad news of John le Carré’s (1931-2020) passing this weekend, a retrospective of some of the finest screen adaptations in the writer’s canon. For many aficionados of the genre, le Carré was the unrivalled king of the spy novel, who maintained a remarkably consistent output – his final novel (the satire Agent Running in the Field) was only published just over a year ago. We’ll be looking primarily at movie adaptations, but I’ll also briefly take in the storied history of Le Carré on the small screen. This of course includes the magnificent 1979 adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (more on this later) as well as the