John le Carré is writing a new novel featuring his famed spy George Smiley

John le Carré's forthcoming novel is "A Legacy of Spies"
John le Carré’s forthcoming novel is “A Legacy of Spies”
(Sang Tan / Associated Press)

John le Carré, the master of the Cold War thriller, is bringing back his most famous spy, George Smiley, in a new book.

Smile, the intelligence officer who was a pivotal character in Le Carré’s “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” and “The Honourable Schoolboy,” will make his first appearance in more than 25 years in “A Legacy of Spies,” which Viking will publish Sept. 5.

The novel will be narrated by Peter Guillam, Smiley’s friend and colleague who has also appeared in many of Le Carré’s books, Viking said in a news release. It will cover many of the same Cold War themes that the author’s previous novels did.


The novel will be set partly in the present day. “Intelligence operations that were once the toast of secret London,” Viking says, “are to be scrutinized under disturbing criteria by a generation with no memory of the Cold War and no patience with its justifications.” The narrative interweaves present and past, and involves characters including Guillam, Alex Leamas, Jim Prideaux and Smiley.

Smiley and Guillam first appeared in Le Carré’s debut novel, “Call for the Dead,” which was published in 1961. They returned two years later in “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold,” and were also featured in the author’s most famous novel, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” published in 1974.

Smiley made his last appearance in the 1990 novel “The Secret Pilgrim.”

“A Legacy of Spies” will be the 24th novel by the 85-year-old author, whose books are currently hot material for film and television adaptations.

“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” was adapted as a movie in 2011, featuring Gary Oldman as Smiley and Benedict Cumberbatch as Guillam.

Last year, AMC ran a BBC miniseries based on Le Carré’s 1993 thriller “The Night Manager.” The series won two Emmys and three Golden Globes.


Another BBC/AMC adaptation of a Le Carré novel is already in the works. In January, the networks announced a miniseries adaptation of “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold” to be written by screenwriter Simon Beaufoy (“The Full Monty,” “Slumdog Millionaire”).