Simon Russell Beale stars in this BBC Radio dramatisation of the first book in John le Carre's Karla trilogy.
John le Carre is the nom de plume of David John Moore Cornwell, who was born in 1931 in Poole, Dorset and educated at Sherborne School, the University of Berne (where he studied German literature for a year) and at Lincoln College, Oxford, where he graduated with a first-class degree in modern languages. He taught at Eton from 1956 to 1958 and was a member of the British Foreign Service from 1959 to 1964, serving first as Second Secretary in the British Embassy in Bonn and subsequently as political consul in Hamburg. His first novel, a story of espionage called Call for the Dead, was published in 1961. It was quickly followed in 1962 by A Murder of Quality, a mystery story set in an English public school. His third novel, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, secured him a wide reputation, and was made into a successful film starring Richard Burton. This was followed by The Looking Glass War, A Small Town in Germany and The Naive and Sentimental Lover. However, the success of his third novel was consolidated by the acclaim for his trilogy Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Honourable Schoolboy and Smiley's People. Next came The Little Drummer Girl, which was a departure from the Smiley novels, and dealt with the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East. This was followed by his most autobiographical novel, A Perfect Spy. Then came The Russia House, The Secret Pilgrim, The Night Manager, Our Game, The Tailor of Panama, Single & Single, The Constant Gardener, Absolute Friends, The Mission Song and A Delicate Truth. As well as The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, many other le Carre novels have been made into films or television series. Alec Guinness starred as George Smiley in the TV mini-series of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Smiley's People, while Denholm Elliott took on the role for A Murder of Quality. The 2011 remake of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy starred Gary Oldman as Smiley, and featured a stellar cast including Colin Firth and Benedict Cumberbatch. A Most Wanted Man (2013) starred Philip Seymour Hoffman in one of his last roles, and 2014 saw the release of Our Kind of Traitor, featuring Ewan McGregor, Damian Lewis and Naomie Harris. David Cornwell has won many prestigious prizes and awards for his novels over the years. He is an Honorary Fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford and has Honorary Doctorates at the University of Bern and Oxford University. He has won the Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger twice (for The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, which also won him the Dagger of Daggers in 2005, and The Honourable Schoolboy) and in 1988 he won the Diamond Dagger for Lifetime Achievement. He donated his literary archive, containing 85 boxes of draft manuscripts, to the Bodleian Library in 2010.
Packaged to tie in with the recent film version of this masterful spy thriller, the audio edition benefits from strong narration from Michael Jayston, an actor who appeared in the 1979 BBC television adaptation of le Carre's complex novel. The twisting plot, boiled down, focuses on retired British spymaster George Smiley, who's called back to duty to find a traitor among the "gang of four" now heading England's secret service. In the miniseries, Jayston portrayed Smiley's right-hand man, Peter Guillam. In this audio edition, he easily slips back into the loyal, dedicated Guillam, while also doing justice to the book's cast of characters. His spot-on portrayal of Smiley admirably includes both of the protagonist's sides: his quietly brilliant professionalism and his personal self-doubt and fecklessness. Jayston's characterizations are invariably effective, from gruff, lonely, and broken ex-spy Jim Prideaux to the high-flying, arrogant members of the "gang of four." Two moments-Smiley's subtle questioning of a former teammate, once famous for her now-fading memory, and the exciting, highly suspenseful exposure of the Russian spy-are particular standouts. Jayston matches both perfectly, as well as all those in between. A Penguin paperback. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
... a worthy audio version of the seminal spy drama, brilliantly
depicting the complicated moral dilemmas of post-war espionage, and
allowing Beale room to shine as the character of Smiley really
comes into his own * Herts Advertiser *
beautifully paced in a dramatisation which captures the essence of the book whilst working supremely well in its own right in the radio medium * Chichester Observer *