October 19, 2010

Happy birthday, John, I mean, David!


Today is the birthday of David John Moore Cornwell, aka John Le Carre. Born this day in 1931 in Dorset, England, Cornwell worked for the Britain’s intelligence services M15 and M16 during the 1950’s and 1960’s. He began writing espionage novels under the pseudonym John Le Carre in 1961 with Call for the Dead. His third novel, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, went on to be an international bestseller, allowing Cornwell to quit the espionage business and write full time.

He’s since gone on to write some of the finest thrillers in the literature. And now, in his eightieth year, he’s still going strong. His new book, Our Kind of Traitor, is receiving rave reviews. In a review in New York Times’ Michiko Kakutani in called it, “a bullet-train of a thriller”, saying it’s “the author’s most thrilling thriller in years.”

In September Cornwell announced during a Channel 4 News interview for the book’s UK release that this would be his last TV interview. But October 11 found him giving an interview to Amy Goodman on Democracy Now. She asked him about this apparent paradox:

AMY GOODMAN: Now, we were interested because Channel 4 just said “the last interview” with John le Carré, and yet here we are. Why did you change your mind?
JOHN LE CARRÉ: I didn’t change my mind. The full text with Channel 4 was that that was my last interview in the UK. And this is the last book about which I intend to give interviews. That isn’t because I’m in any sense retiring. I’ve found that, actually, I’ve said everything I really want to say, outside my books. I would just like — I’m in wonderful shape. I’m entering my eightieth year. I just want to devote myself entirely to writing and not to this particular art form of conversation.

More books, less TV. Cheers!

Valerie Merians is the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.