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Penguin reissues Le Carré’s Tinker, Tailer, Soldier, Spy

Last week publisher Penguin reissued John Le Carré’s exemplary spy novel Tinker, Tailer, Soldier, Spy. Deemed by some to be the greatest of its genre, the book features George Smiley, a down-trodden middle aged British Intelligence agent who is forced into retirement after his boss runs a disastrous covert op to root out a mole within their agency. Though he is neither a suave or physically agile spy, like those created by Ian Fleming or Robert Ludlum, the political upper echelon calls upon him to accomplish what his superior could not, and find the mole. Originally published in 1974, the reissue has a new introduction, in which Le Carré writes of his difficulty crafting the first draft of the novel. After months of work, he burned the entire first draft outside in his garden out of utter frustration. He then went back to the drawing board and created this bestselling spy thriller.

In a review of the reissue for the Los Angeles Times, Richard Rayner compliments the author’s “gift for plot and a zest for atmosphere.” Rayner also praises the accurate depiction of Britian’s political climate in the 1970′s and the elements of the storyline that are still relevant today.

“On the one hand, “Tinker, Tailor’ is brilliantly of its time: The novel reeks of England in the early 1970s, of a dismal freezing winter, of a time when Britain was flailing and failing at the end of Empire yet still fighting the Cold War. And losing it…On the other, the book offers insights into the nature of espionage that still ring true. Spies guard the national interest, ostensibly, and in their behavior, Le Carré argues, we see a nation’s character reflected. Is morality a question of the methods that the secret services use, or does the aim justify all?”

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