Espionage writer John Le Carre dies aged 89 after short illness


he writer David Cornwell, who was better known by his pen name John Le Carre, has died aged 89, the literary agency Curtis Brown has announced.

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy author, died on on Saturday evening after a short illness, Curtis Brown said.

His death was not Covid-19 related and he passed away in the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro.

A statement shared on behalf of the espionage author’s family said: “It is with great sadness that we must confirm that David Cornwell – John le Carre – passed away from pneumonia last Saturday night after a short battle with the illness.

“David is survived by his beloved wife of almost 50 years, Jane, and his sons Nicholas, Timothy, Stephen and Simon.

“We all grieve deeply his passing. Our thanks go to the wonderful NHS team at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro for the care and compassion that he was shown throughout his stay. We know they share our sadness.”

His longtime agent Jonny Geller described him as “an undisputed giant of English literature. He defined the cold war era and fearlessly spoke truth to power in the decades that followed … I have lost a mentor, an inspiration and most importantly, a friend. We will not see his like again.”

Writers paid tribute to the legendary author.

Stephen King wrote: “This terrible year has claimed a literary giant and a humanitarian spirit.” 

Paul Mason added: “John Le Carre was a genius storyteller of the 20th century. RIP. Read it all and learn.”

Born as David Cornwell in 1931, Le Carré began working for the secret services while studying German in Switzerland at the end of the 1940s. 

He joined the British Foreign Service as an intelligence officer, recruiting, running and looking after spies behind the Iron Curtain from a back office at the MI5 building 

Years ago, le Carré told an interviewer that he would never stop writing spy stories, because “as with love stories, the possibilities are limitless. That’s because, in our society, in the way we are, most of us live in a condition of secrecy: secret desires, secret appetites, secret hatreds, and a relationship with the institutions which is extremely intense and uncomfortable. These are, to me, a part of the ordinary human condition. So I don’t think I’m writing about abnormal things.”

The Night Manager starring Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie in 2016.

Last year he released his final novel Agent Running in the Field described in the Evening Standard is “as ingeniously structured as any of le Carré’s fiction, skilfully misdirecting the reader for much of the time.”