John Le Carré is the pen-name of David Cornwell who was born in Poole, England in 1931.His father was a con man who made money from fraudulent real estate deals and was constantly in and out of prison. He ran away from home at 16, bluffed his way into college, and then joined the British secret service.
He thought it would be exciting but he said that it was “spectacularly undramatic.” So he decided to entertain himself by writing novels. To keep his identity secret, he chose the pen name John le Carré. He said, “I wanted something three-syllabled and exotic.”
Spy novels at the time were full of sexy, daring heroes, but Le Carré created a new kind of spy novel about spies who are tired, lonely men who don’t trust their own government any more than they trust their enemies.
Le Carré’s third novel, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963), was so successful that he quit his job as a spy and began to write full time, but he has continued to use things he learned from spying in order to write his books.
To do research, he often travels alone to various cities, checks into cheap hotels, and carries out surveillance, interviewing the local police and politicians without ever disclosing that he’s actually just a novelist.