In December Le Carre’s iconic book Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy will be hitting the big screen.  I will be curious to see how this complex story can be compressed into a two hour production.

It was written in 1972 by author John Le Carre. The author kicked off his writing career with two novellas, Call For The Dead and A Murder Of Quality. They introduce the world to a character that was to figure in several  of his books, George Smiley.

Slightly overweight, and wearing expensive but ill fitting suits his appearance was the epitome of the British Government bureaucrat. When asked his job, he would make some vague reference to working for the treasury in a middle level position.

He was in fact the number two man in the British Secret Service, Le Carre calls The Circus.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy finds George Smiley in an enforced retirement, a series of intelligence disasters had brought the organization to its knees and the stables had been cleaned.

An event, the arrival of some information, changes things. Smiley is pressed once more into service at the request of ‘The Minister’. There is evidence that there is a traitor in the ranks, in Circus parlance a ‘Mole’.

Of course there is a catch, while Smiley’s investigation has ministerial blessing, it must be unofficial and will be completely deniable.

Much has been written about Le Carre and his George Smiley character. Le Carre was for a period of time a teacher at the exclusive school Eton, and that may well be where the idea for A Murder Of Quality came from. He was also involved in the British Secret Service, this leads me to wonder if Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy might not in someways have its roots on the famous Cambridge Spy scandal that rocked the UK in the 60’s and 70’s?

In 1979 the BBC produced a six part miniseries of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy in a move of sheer brilliance Alec Guinness was selected to play the part of George Smiley. So well did he play the part that on numerous occasions John Le Carre has gone on record as saying that when he envisions George Smiley he sees Alec Guinness!

US based Acorn Media have just re-released Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy as a 3 disc set. I have not been privy to the upcoming big screen version, but I will make a prediction. If watch the miniseries now, you will hate the big screen version. If you watch the big screen version and then the miniseries, you will ask yourself why you wasted your money on going to the theater!

Oh, and I will also give you a tip. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was not the end of the Smiley era. So successful was the mini series that the BBC turned Smiley’s People into another miniseries. This was another six episodes of sheer delight. Smiley once more leaves the comfort of his retirement, this time. to play the biggest game of his life.

I am not sure how many times I have read the Le Carre books featuring George Smiley, but it is many. In fact I am not sure how many copies I have bought over the years! But each time I read one of these wonderful books, I find some new nugget of gold that I had missed.

These DVD sets are must have’s. Use the Amazon links to get your own.

Simon Barrett

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