Writer whose spy novels chronicle how people’s lives play out in the corrupt setting of the cold war era and beyond
John le Carré, who has died aged 89 of pneumonia, raised the spy novel to a new level of seriousness and respect.
He was in his late 20s when he began to write fiction – in longhand, in small red pocket notebooks, on his daily train journey between his home in Buckinghamshire and his day job with MI5, the counter-intelligence service, in London. After the publication of two neatly crafted novels, Call for the Dead (1961) and A Murder of Quality (1962), which received measured reviews and modest sales, he hit the big time with The Spy Who Came in from the Cold [ . . . ]
This weekend two people who I admired very much died. Jan Morrisand Hamish MacInnes. Both were in their 90’s, both had lived quite extraordinary lives, and I was fortunate enough to spend some time with both of them. Jan Morris was the author of Venice, one of the best travel books I ever read. It made me want to go to Venice and when I went there, with Helen, in 1967, it made being there even better.
Before she underwent gender reassignment (or ‘changed sex’ as Jan always called it) she was James Morris, the reporter for the Times on the Everest expedition of 1953, and it was he who not only broke the story of Hillary and Tensing’s success, but made sure the news got through on the day of the Queen’s coronation. Continue reading →