|(c) Tom Jamieson, New York Times|
The fever pitch reflects renewed interest in Le Carré's fifty years plus career as a novelist of note, arguably the greatest spy fiction thriller writer. The success of the TV adaptation of The Night Manager in 2016 and the film adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, brought Le Carré's writing to a whole new generation.
While Le Carré's career has continued without pause since the end of the Cold War, by contrast Len Deighton's career has - since his last published novel Charity in 1996 - in effect trasnmuted into a well-deserved retirement (which he enjoys and which he evidently has no desire to leave). As such, their public - and online - profiles has gone in dramatically different directions over the last decade and more.
A contemporary of Len Deighton - Deighton is 88, Le Carré will soon be 86 - John Le Carré's life and writing career in a number of interesting ways contrasts with Deighton's.
- In terms of background, Deighton is from working class stock, educated at art school and worked as an illustrator before turning to fiction full time. Le Carré - or David Cornwell, his real name - is more classically English middle class, from Poole in Dorset.
- Le Carré has an espionage background, his first novel being written while still serving as an MI:5 agent in West Germany (meaning he required approval for the novel from his superiors).
- Deighton, in contrast, has no formal links with intelligence agencies, though, he once revealed to the Dossier, he met numerous 'spies' and people in the intelligence demi-monde in the sleazier parts of Soho in the sixties
- While Le Carré's writing and plotting is perhaps regarded by critics and readers alike as superb, it can often be bracketed at the more 'literary' end of the spy fiction spectrum, whereas Deighton's most famous novels - while extremely well-written - are perhaps more popular and action-packed in tone.
- The characters for which each is most well known - George Smiley in Le Carré's case, Harry Palmer and Bernard Samson in the case of Deighton - while each was a spy, they operated in very different ways. Smiley is a desk-bound intelligence officer, cerebral and rather disciplined in his approach who takes well to the office politics of the bureaucracy of The Circus.
- Harry Palmer and Samson are, in contrast, both more the field agent types, open to using violence and gun play to meet their objectives. Both are also more evidently comfortable with female company than Smiley was.
Le Carré and Deighton have each woven different, complementary strands of the spy fiction tapestry and both have added to the vitaility of the genre and its continued fascination with readers over the last half-century and more.
"In the 'eighties Bob Gottlieb was my publisher and he continued to edit (and line edit) my books even though he had left Knopf to edit the New Yorker.
Recently Bob wrote his memoirs and mentioned the differences between me and John Le Carré. He wrote that, having once pointed out an inconsistency to Le Carré in a text, he subsequently straightaway received a large batch of freshly-written pages to insert from the author.
On a separate occasion Bob told me that a man who was 'killed' on page 15 of one of my manuscripts was in fact still alive on page 100. From me, Bob wrote, he merely got a short message saying 'make it almost killed.'