In Part 1 I took a look at some of John Le Carre’s work in the 1960’s, and how he gained both the interest of the reader and also the theater goer. The 1970’s saw him elevate the Cold War spy novel to the very highest level. He released three books that are frequently referred to as the Smiley Trilogy.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy saw George Smiley at center stage. He has now risen to the upper echelons of the British Secret Service. But all is not well, a string of bungled cases and captured operatives have George Smiley and his boss, a man known simply as Control concerned. Could there be a deep penetration agent in their own ranks, a mole. The problem is, who can spy on the spy’s?

One final bungled operation sees George Smiley out on his ear, but he is certainly not gone for long. After Controls death he is asked to return and ‘clean the stables’. He must answer the question is there a mole in the organization. Smiley must literally turn the Circus as it is known in the inner circles, inside out. There is one proviso, he must do it quietly and seemingly unofficially.

In my opinion Tinker Tailor is one of the best Cold War novels of all time. The book was quickly optioned to be a TV miniseries. The casting of Alec Guinness was a master stroke. Alec Guinness fit the role like a glove.

The second book in the trilogy was the Honorable Schoolboy, and Smiley takes a bit of a backseat, the action revolves around a drunk press reporter Jerry Westerby who also moonlights of the Secret Service. The Honorable Schoolboy while well written just did not capture the attention that it deserved. Although it was a bestseller it was never optioned for a movie. The plot was a complex one, and I doubt that it would have translated well to the silver screen.

The final installment Smiley’s People was an instant hit. And once again it was turned into a TV mini series, once again string Alex Guinness as George Smiley. The circus we discover, had almost ceased to be as a result of the Mole scandal. George Smiley is once again persona non gratis. He belongs to the era of failure, the old school. Alas the new brooms that have swept the Circus clean have also succeeded in muzzling it at an operational level. Smiley is given his call to arms when two seemingly unrelated events occur. An elderly Russian émigré is run over in Paris, and an old ex agent is found murdered in London.

Smiley is asked to tie up the loose ends, but not to cause any waves. It does not take Smiley’s analytical brain long to to find a link between the two events, and a link back to his Russian nemesis Karla. With grudging agreement the bureaucrats permit Smiley to launch an ‘unofficial’ operation to try and ensnare Karla.

It is not too late to order these items from Amazon for Christmas. Curl up with the books and watch the DVD’s, you will enjoy them.

Simon Barrett

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