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Posted December 08, 2011 to photo album ""

Olen Steinhauer on George Smiley

Olen Steinhauer on George Smiley

Tinker, Tailor is, to my mind, one of the greatest novels of the 20th century –– the finest espionage novel I know of –– and is a book I return to annually as I try to rethink my approach to my own work. As with Smiley himself, this repeated examination continually yields riches and fresh insights. We all know that Smiley came along at a time when spy fiction was in dire need of a realistic protagonist, but Smiley is more than that –– he's the wise old man that we all hope is keeping watch over our security. With the 20/20 of hindsight, it seems that Smiley might have been as much a fantasy as Bond, but he's a fantasy that we can return to because of his complexity and rare intelligence. Each time Smiley polishes his glasses, we sit up and take as much notice as when James Bond slaloms down the Alps with a Walther PPK in hand. Only a writer of le Carre's power could achieve this wonderful trick, and three and a half decades later we're still noticing.

Bio: Olen Steinhauer’s first novel, The Bridge of Sighs, began a five-book sequence chronicling Cold War Eastern Europe, one book per decade. It was nominated for five awards. The rest of the sequence includes: The Confession, 36 Yalta Boulevard, Liberation Movements –– this one was nominated for an Edgar Award for best novel of the year –– and Victory Square, which was a New York Times editor's choice. With The Tourist, he began a trilogy of spy tales focused on international deception in the post 9/11 world. The second volume, The Nearest Exit won the Hammett Prize for best literary crime novel of the year. The finale, An American Spy, will be published in March 2012. Learn more at his site: http://www.olensteinhauer.com.