John le Carré; Perfect Spy, Crime writing genius, or fabulous fraud? The Strange story of a man named Dave

Posted: January 12, 2012 in Crime Writers
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John le Carré  Writer

John le Carré

English writer John le Carré was born David John Moore. After an international education, at Lincoln College Oxford and The Shelborne School, in Berne Switzerland, where he studied German literature, le Carré became a schoolteacher, at posh English school Eton, before joining the British Foreign Service.

From 1959 to 1964 le Carré worked at the British Embassy in Bonn Germany and as Political Consul in Hamburg Germany. It is here, if we are to believe the hype, that le Carré became a spy for British Intelligence at the very height of the Cold War spying era.

It is this much vaunted experience, that gives le Carré’s work it’s authenticity. There is one problem however. le Carré denies he was ever a spy. He calls his works fabulations. He says he despises himself as a ‘fake guru’ and says that his writing is the ‘stuff off dreams not reality.’

le Carré’s pops was a confidence trickster, an associate of notorious London Gangsters the Kray Twins. Moore senior spent time in Jail. It is conceivable that the man called Dave is telling the truth regarding his spying career, or he might be engaged in an elaborate confidence trick of his own. When you are dealing with an author who has spent decades writing about deep-cover bluff and double bluff, you can never be sure what is truly real. It is no surprise then that le Carré the writer remains as enigmatic as his deeply plotted fiction.

The reader will always consider le Carré’s denials a cover story however. If he was a cold war super spy he would deny it, wouldn’t he? Wouldn’t he also hide away on a rural Cornish cliff top, eschewing media attention? Such is the life of the man called Dave.

But is le Carré a crime writer? Although he writes principally about the world of spies, his descriptions of political intrigue, moral turpitude, and criminality are linked in such baffling webs of complexity and ambiguity, it is often impossible to decide who is right and who is wrong, in the traditional sense of crime writing. le Carré is therefore the master of a genre he himself created.

The Crime Writers Association awarded le Carré their Diamond Dagger award in 1988, so clearly they consider Dave to be a crime writer, though Crimezine would suggest that le Carré might more accurately be described as a mystery writer and a damn good one at that.

So why John le Carré? Dave started writing in 1961. He was still working for the British Secret Service when his first books A Murder of Quality and The Spy Who Came in from the Cold were published. The pseudonym, literally John in the square in French, was a required condition of his continued service.

Reportedly Dave left the service when he and many other agents had their cover blown to the KGB, by British traitor Kim Philby. To date le Carré has written 22 novels, the majority are complex spy stories, but others such as 1993’s excellent Night Manager are not and no matter what Dave would have us believe, the man is a genuine legend.

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