John le Carre, a spy-turned-novelist who became the preeminent writer of espionage fiction in English, has died at age 89.
Le Carre’s literary agency, Curtis Brown, said Sunday that he died in Cornwall, southwest England on Saturday after a short illness.
The death was not related to COVID-19.
Born David Cornwell, le Carre worked for Britain’s intelligence service before turning his experience into fiction in works including “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy” and “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.”
A former spy with U.K. intelligence agency MI6, le Carre wrote more than 20 books in a career spanning six decades.
His tales of treachery, betrayal and duplicity made George Smiley one of the genre’s most well-known secret agents through novels by; “the pre-eminent spy writer of the 20th century,” as le Carre was once described in the New York Times.
An unwilling recipient of numerous awards, le Carre didn’t compete for literary prizes, while accolades flowed from his peers.
American writer Philip Roth called “A Perfect Spy” (1986) “the best English novel since the war,” and U.K. author Graham Greene said his 1963 breakthrough work, “The Spy Who Came In From the Cold,” was “the best spy story I ever read.”
“In the old days, it was convenient to bill me as a spy turned writer,” le Carre wrote on his website. “I was nothing of the kind. I am a writer who, when I was very young, spent a few ineffectual but extremely formative years in British intelligence.”