Recently I was lucky enough to be granted the only New Zealand interview with superstar Swedish crime writer Henning Mankell, whose 10th and final Wallander tale, THE TROUBLED MAN (written a decade after the ninth book) is about to be released downunder. I had a very enjoyable 40mins or so discussion with Mankell, who is a very interesting guy, passionate about many things. My feature article based on the interview will be coming out in an upcoming issue of the New Zealand Listener - I will let you know when it's available.
One of the things that was clear from our interview was that Mankell really, really rates thriller writer John le Carré (pictured) as a shining example of terrific writing, regardless of genre. As someone whom the 'literary establishment' should have far greater affection for when it comes to recognising the best in literature. Not just one of the 'greatest spy novelists of our time', as he's been described, but one of the greatest novelists.
As such, I'm pleased to note the news (hat tip to Graham Beattie for the heads-up) that a biography on le Carré will be written to mark the fiftieth anniversary of THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD. Here's the press release:
Adam Sisman is to write the definitive life of John le Carré. Bloomsbury plan to publish in 2014, half a century after the worldwide success of The Spy who came in from the Cold, which Graham Greene dubbed "the best spy story I have ever read."Le Carré will provide Sisman with information and introductions, as well as access to his hitherto unseen private archive but he will have no control over the biography. Sisman will have a free hand, which is at the wish of both the biographer and his subject.
Sisman approached le Carré, whose real name is David Cornwell, last summer. Sisman says: "David Cornwell is a rich subject for a biographer. His writing is intensely personal, and permeated by strongly-held values. From the moment when his identity became public, readers around the world have speculated about the degree to which he has drawn on his own experiences in his fiction, in particular on his career with the intelligence services. His semi-autobiographical novel A Perfect Spy provided tantalising clues to his extraordinary childhood."
The book will deal openly with these subjects, and with Cornwell's personal life, including the difficulties that led to the breakdown of his first marriage, depicted in his novel The Naive and Sentimental Lover."I have admired and enjoyed David's work since I discovered him in my teens," Sisman continues, "and believe that his enormous commercial success has hindered recognition that he is writer of the highest quality, who will eventually be acknowledged as one of the finest British post-War novelists. Philip Roth rated le Carré's A Perfect Spy as "the best English novel since the war".
Le Carré's twenty-second novel, Our Kind of Traitor, was published in September 2010 by Penguin. Le Carré's agent is Jonny Geller at Curtis Brown.
Sisman has written four previous biographies, including Boswell's Presumptuous Task, which received a National Books Critics Circle award. His most recent book, a life of the historian and intelligence officer Hugh Trevor-Roper, was published in the UK in July 2010, and will be published in the US later this year. He is represented by Andrew Wylie.
You can read some of Le Carre's own thoughts on himself and his work at his website here.
Have you read any of John Le Carre's work? Is THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD an all-time classic, of any type of literature? Should thriller and crime novelists be more recognised by the 'mainstream' literary awards like the Booker Prize or Nobel Prize?