In 1964, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold became John Le Carre’s breakthrough work. The public reacted rapturously to the book’s move away from the traditional spy novel. Indeed there was so much interest that his cover at MI6 was blown and he had to resign. But the Secret Service’s loss was undoubtedly literature’s gain. Le Carre has since become one of the most famous and respected British authors of contemporary fiction.
Le Carre’s advantage over many writers in the genre is his ability to write from experience in the field and as such he is able to demonstrate authenticity and realism on every page. His style is a world away from James Bond approach to the genre; his ‘heroes’ are often tired, bored and cynical middle-aged men. The settings are more likely to be mundane suburban houses or dank, smoky offices than country estates and private islands. Rather than there being a clear distinction between good and evil, the lines are invariably blurred as to who is right and wrong.
His dozen or so Cold War novels such as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Smiley’s People are his most familiar and collectible works. First editions are typically available for under $800. However, the first of his novels, Call for the Dead, which was not an instant hit when first published, has sold for more than $8,000 at auction. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold can attain $2,000.
Understandably, since the end of the Cold War, Le Carre has had to reinvent his work. More recent books have seen a shift towards contemporary issues such as global terrorism, the corporatization of governments and the unscrupulous abuses of power by large states. But his ability to create subtle plots and intriguing characters, which made his first books so popular and widely acclaimed, remains unchanged. Whether these more recent books are as attractive for collectors remains to be seen.
Le Carre, John. Call for the Dead. Gollancz, London (1961). First UK Edition;
Le Carre, John. Call for the Dead. Walker, New York (1962). True first American edition; Dustjacket $3.50
Le Carre, John. A Murder of Quality. Walker, New York (1963). dust wrapper $3.50; First American Edition
Le Carre, John. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. Gollancz, London (1963). 1963 stated on title and copyright page; original price 18/-; First UK edition
Le Carre, John. Call for the Dead - A Murder of Quality - The Le Carre Omnibus. Gollancz, London (1964). Dust Jacket with the original price of 18-/net
Le Carre, John. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. Coward-McCann, , New York (1964). First American Edition, 1964 stated on the copyright page; no W on the copyright page and on page 138, the last two lines are reversed indicating a first issue book; first issue jacket has three short review blurbs by Graham Greene, Alec Waugh and J. B. Priestley on the back panel
Le Carre, John. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. Gollancz, London (1964). with Thirteenth impression April 1964 stated on the copyright page; dust jacket 18/- net; first British Edition
Le Carre, John. The Looking Glass War. Heinemann, London (1965). First UK Edition;
Le Carre, John. A Small Town in Germany. Coward-McCann, New York (1968). 500 copies; Copyright pages notes that this is the First American Edition.
Le Carre, John. A Small Town in Germany. Heinemann, London (1968). Priced 30s.net; first printing with statement First published 1968 on copyright page and no additional printing history; First UK edition.
Le Carre, John. The Naive and Sentimental Lover. Hodder and Stoughton, London: (1971). First UK edition; 2.25 english pound price on dust jacket flap
Le Carre, John. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Hodder and Stoughton, London (1974). 3 volumes; priced at £2.95net
Le Carre, John. The Honourable Schoolboy. Franklin Library, Franklin Center, Pennsylvania (1977). Illustrated with full-page, full-color plates by Ben F. Wohlberg
Le Carre, John. The Clandestine Muse. Janus Press, Newark VT (1986). 260 copies ; bound by Linda Kohl into marbled paper by Pam Smith in Santa Fe
Le Carre, John. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy. Franklin Library, Philadelphia (1988). Illustrations by Herbert Tauss
Le Carre, John. The Russia House. Hodder and Stoughton, London (1989). 250 copies; First British Edition
Le Carre, John. A Murder of Quality: The Novel and The Screenplay. Hodder and Stoughton, London (1991). Illustrated with colored plates;
Le Carre, John. Our Game. Hodder and Stoughton, London (1995). number line 10987654321 to the copyright page; 1000 copies
Le Carre, John. Nervous Time. Anglo-Israel Association, London (1998). 250 copies; issued without a dust jacket.
Le Carre, John. The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. Oak Tree Press, England (2008). 150 Copies; Preface written by John Le Carre