Rediscover: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

Today marks the release of John le Carré's A Legacy of Spies, the first novel featuring George Smiley in more than 25 years. Smiley has been a staple of spy fiction since the 1960s. He was introduced in le Carré's first book, Call for the Dead (1961), and has appeared in eight other espionage novels since. Le Carré's career-launching bestseller came in 1963 with The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. The success of this novel, about a British agent sent to East Germany as a false defector, allowed le Carré to quit his day job as an MI6 intelligence officer and write full time. Smiley and the Circus--i.e., MI6--brought morally ambiguous, realistic spy fiction to a Cold War audience more accustomed to the likes of Ian Fleming's James Bond. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold depicts Eastern and Western intelligence services as equally willing to commit cruelty in the name of national security, starring anti-heroic agents, like Smiley, with human flaws and burnt-out or misdirected moral compasses.

A television miniseries of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is being developed by AMC and the BBC (with no word on which actor will play Smiley, masterfully portrayed by Alec Guinness in TV adaptations of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Smiley's People). A Legacy of Spies (Viking, 9780735225114) promises to dig up ghosts from the Cold War as Peter Guillam, Smiley's former colleague, is summoned back from retirement to answer for events that took place in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. A 50th anniversary edition of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold was released by Penguin Books in 2013 (9780143124757). --Tobias Mutter

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