The next novel featuring George Smiley will be written by John le Carré’s son.
Readers of suspense novelist David Cornwell – more commonly referred to as John le Carré – might have believed they had witnessed the final appearance of recurring main character George Smiley after the writer passed away in 2020. However, the well-liked spy will make a comeback next fall – this instance written by Cornwell’s son.
Penguin Random House (PRH) has revealed that Nick Harkaway, also known as Nicholas Cornwell, will be publishing a new book set in the time period between The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carré. The novel currently does not have a title.
Harriet Bourton, the publishing director at Viking, expressed her fascination with Smiley’s career gaps, being a devoted admirer of John le Carré’s captivating world. She believes that Nick Harkaway is the perfect candidate to embody le Carré’s style and tone, and was deeply impressed by his storytelling abilities.
John le Carré, a former member of the British intelligence agencies MI5 and MI6, created the character of Smiley as a deliberate contrast to the popular depiction of espionage in James Bond novels. Smiley, a career intelligence officer known as “the Circus”, is portrayed as quiet and polite in nine of le Carré’s novels, starting with Call for the Dead in 1961 and ending with A Legacy of Spies in 2017. Author Margaret Atwood has praised the Smiley novels as essential for understanding the 20th century, and the character has been played by actors such as Alec Guinness and Gary Oldman on screen.
“Smiley has become a significant part of my life,” stated Harkaway. “I wrote Tinker Tailor in the first two years of my life and witnessed the growth of the Circus as I grew up. Therefore, this journey is deeply personal for me and it’s important to ensure it resonates with the le Carré audience.”
“It appears that the return of the Smiley stories is necessary at this time, as they prompt us to consider relevant questions,” he stated. “As individuals, what obligation do we have towards each other in terms of empathy? At what juncture does this empathy surpass the importance of nationality, laws, or responsibilities?”
Jonny Geller, representative for the le Carré estate, expressed, “Upon reading the initial chapters of Nick’s tale, I experienced a strange sensation that le Carré had just handed me his latest creation. David’s voice seemed to come alive from the pages.”
Harkaway is known for writing books such as The Gone-Away World and Angelmaker. The latter was up for the 2012 Arthur C Clarke award in the science fiction category. He has also written a nonfiction book about digital culture called The Blind Giant: Being Human in a Digital World. Lisa Tuttle, a science fiction reviewer for The Guardian, described his newest novel, Titanium Noir, as a “delightfully engaging mix of classic detective noir and creative speculative fiction”.
The new work will credit both Harkaway and le Carré on the cover. Harkaway expressed his initial hesitance, which could also be described as feeling terrified, when they first discussed the project. However, he believes that looking at the current state of the world, with leaders like Vladimir Putin who grew up during the Cold War, shows that we are still living in the aftermath of the 20th century and the Smiley books. The story delves into the events that shape our world and also opens up opportunities to explore our present through that perspective. Harkaway feels honored to be a part of it.
While this marks the initial attempt at continuing le Carré’s literary legacy after his death, Harkaway was also a part of the process of publishing his father’s book Silverview in 2021. The novel had been finished by le Carré before his passing. In a review for The Guardian, crime writer Mick Herron praised le Carré’s talent, stating that it stemmed from his expertise in spy fiction and was further enhanced by his skillful writing and incorporation of humanity, stealth, and sophistication in his novels.
“The author stated that the release of Silverview demonstrates that these positive qualities were maintained until the very end.”
In early 2019, Adam Sisman, who had previously written a sanctioned biography about le Carré in 2015, released a second biography titled The Secret Life of John le Carré. In this book, Sisman revealed 11 women that le Carré had been involved with romantically. The author also included a letter from le Carré, in which he confessed that his extramarital relationships created a sense of duality and tension that fueled his writing.
The George Smiley novel by Harkaway is set to release in hardcover, ebook, and audio versions in the fall of 2024. It will be among the increasing collection of “continuation novels,” including the authorized James Bond series by writers like Sebastian Faulks, Anthony Horowitz, and Kim Sherwood, as well as the later Millennium novels by David Lagercrantz and Karin Smirnoff, which extend Stieg Larsson’s original series beginning with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.