Book review: ‘A Private Spy: the letters of John le Carré, 1945-2020’

‘A Private Spy‘ by John Le Carré (Tim Cornwell, ed.)

A penchant for reading other people’s correspondence is one of my few vices. As a John le Carré fan-boy, I was very much looking forward to this collection, and it didn’t disappoint.

Here you will find le Carré (real name: David Cornwell) corresponding with fellow former spies; assuring Sir Alec Guinness he is perfect for the TV role of George Smiley; providing his brother with writing advice (‘You just have to show up in the gym next morning, & behave as if nobody knocked you cold the day before‘); advising Stephen Fry on places to keep a low profile; stipulating his rules of engagement with his new publisher; complaining to his agent about the quality of paper in UK hardback books (a particular bugbear of my own); reminiscing about his wayward father; and banging out novel upon novel. Le Carré comes across very much as a hard-working, likeable character.

A fascinating collection, and a must-read for all my fellow le Carré fan-boys and -girls.

Note: I will receive a small referral fee if you buy this book via one of the above links.

Richard Carter

Richard Carter is a writer and photo­grapher living in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire. He is currently working on a book about looking at the world through Darwin’s eyes.Website · Newsletter · Mastodon · Facebook

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