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Glasgow Based Author Pays Tribute to ‘Gold-Standard’ John Le Carré

By Kevin Craigens

Glasgow based crime writer, Theresa Talbot says that John le Carré was the ‘gold standard’ for crime writers.

With published novels such as The Lost Children, the broadcaster turned author, has high praise for the works of the former Intelligence Officer.

“The fact that his books are still among the favourites today for many crime writers, not just readers, it made him the one to watch. They hold him up as the gold standard,” Talbot said. “He certainly wasn’t a one-book wonder, and even today The Spy Who Came In From The Cold is on other writers’ top 3 all-time favourite crime books. I think his longevity speaks for itself, to how good a writer he was.”

In 2011 le Carré, whose real name was David Cornwell, was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize for his contribution to fiction. He asked to be withdrawn from consideration as he ‘didn’t compete for literary prizes’.

The spy master was so well respected by his peers that news of his passing saw tributes pour on to Twitter on honour of the man and his work.

John le Carré began writing his novels while he was an Intelligence officer for MI5 and MI6, which meant he had to use a pen-name to publish his work.

“He was the first to write a spy novel that wasn’t glamorous, there was nothing like that about the protagonist in The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.” Talbot said. “There was so much realism, it was really gritty and obviously with his background in MI6, John le Carré didn’t have to do too much research so it was all there, he was just so authentic.”

Le Carré’s protagonist in the 1963 novel, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, Alec Leamas, was portrayed as an aging man hard on his luck, in a dangerous profession and longing for retirement.

The third book of the George Smiley series, it won several awards and became the first to win both “Best Crime Novel” from the Crime Writers Association and the Edgar Award for “Best Mystery Novel” from the Mystery Writers of America.

Host of the Tartan Noir Podcast, Theresa Talbot spoke about the simplicity of le Carré’s work and how he was so influential to many writers over the years. 

le Carré didn’t sugarcoat the life of a spy in his books says Talbot.

Kilmarnock raised author, Graeme Macrae Burnet, recently spoke on the Tartan Noir Podcast about le Carré’s The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.

“I’m Immediately captivated by the amazing economy of le Carré’s prose,” he said. “He writes with such great sparsity and he tells his story with such great efficiency.”

John le Carré passed away at the age of 89, from pneumonia, in his hometown of Cornwall. His family said in a statement: “We all grieve deeply his passing. Our thanks go to the wonderful NHS team at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro for the care and compassion that he was shown throughout his stay. We know they share our sadness.”

Since his first book, Call For The Dead, was published in 1961, le Carré had written 26 books, his last, Agent Running In The Field, was published in 2019.

A number of his works have been made into films, such as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and A Most Wanted Man, while The Night Manager was made into a TV series, co-produced by the BBC and le Carré’s sons who own production company The Ink Factory.

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