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Spy Writers On George Smiley

Updated December 08, 2011

For many, John le Carré’s character George Smiley changed the genre of spy fiction. While apparently unassuming and unglamorous, Smiley is also unpredictable and, as these novelists underline, unforgettable.

George Smiley, a Spy among Spies
Olen Steinhauer on George Smiley
Philip Kerr on George Smiley
William Boyd on George Smiley
George Smiley, a Spy among Spies

George Smiley, a Spy among Spies

When John le Carré introduced the character of George Smiley in his 1961 novel Call For the Dead, he was hardly the figure of a deadly secret agent. On the first page, le Carré wrote he was  “short, fat, and of a quiet disposition” and someone who “appeared to spend a lot of money on really bad clothes.” Not exactly 007. But in the last 50 years, George Smiley has quietly and utterly changed the landscape of the spy novel. We asked several prominent novelists to tell us what Smiley, and by extension John le Carré, means to them.