John le Carre death: Stephen King leads tributes to ‘literary giant’ behind The Night Manager and The Little Drummer Girl

Celebrated author’s spy novels enjoyed multiple successful adaptations to TV and film

Roisin O'Connor
Monday 14 December 2020 07:25
The Little Drummer Girl BBC trailer

Tributes are being paid to author John le Carré, who has died aged 89 after a short illness.

The spy novelist’s death was not related to Covid-19, his family said.

Carré, whose real name was David Cornwell, was behind best-sellers including Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.

A number of his works were adapted for the screen, including The Night Manager, which was made into a BBC series starring Tom Hiddleston, Olivia Colman and Hugh Lauie, and BBC mini-series The Little Drummer Girl, starring Florence Pugh, Alexander Skarsgård and Michael Shannon.

A statement shared on behalf of his family said: “It is with great sadness that we must confirm that David Cornwell - John le Carré - passed away from pneumonia last Saturday night after a short battle with the illness.”  

Author Stephen King led tributes on social media, commenting: “John le Carré has passed at the age of 89. This terrible year has claimed a literary giant and a humanitarian spirit.”

The account of publisher Penguin wrote: “We are sad to share the news that the great chronicler of our age, John le Carré, has passed away.”

“John le Carré … if there is a contemporary writer who's given me richer pleasure I can't for the moment name them,” wrote Stephen Fry.

“I suppose the best one can do to honour his great life & talent is go back to “Call For The Dead” and reread all his books. The very opposite of a chore.”

BBC news presenter Simon McCoy wrote: “I remember asking the boss of GCHQ if he preferred Bond or Bourne. “Neither,” he said. “Le Carré every time” he added. He was the spy’s writer.”

Journalist Dan Rathner said: “No writer captured the cloak and dagger subterfuge of the Cold War better than John Le Carré. I interviewed him for 60 Minutes over 30 years ago, and I remember a sharp mind and penetrating eyes. His work will be read for generations. May he rest in peace.”

Author Mark Harris wrote: “RIP John Le Carré, a master plotter and superb writer who reinvented the spy novel—again and again and again. I loved his books, and though he could miss sometimes, he never succumbed to nostalgia, ignored the changing world, or shied from speaking truth to power.”

Harris also noted that Le Carré was “unusually well-served by TV and film”.

“All good or great: Martin Ritt's The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (TV AND movie), Smiley's People (TV), The Constant Gardener, The Night Manager (TV),” he tweeted.

Seth Meyers said: “RIP John le Carré. So many great books and for my money Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is the gold standard for espionage fiction.”

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