David John Moore Cornwell worked for the British security services in the 1950s and 1960s. He worked at both MI5 and MI6 during his service, with distinction. He conducted interrogations, tapped telephone lines, and was rumored to have been involved in direct actions. When notorious, infamous double agent Kim Philby, a traitor, and member of the Cambridge Five group of KGB spies blew his cover, his career as a frontline spy was over. So he adopted the pen name of John Le Carré and began to write.
His third novel, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, was a fictional examination of the mole hunt for a Philby-type traitor within British Intelligence. It became a best-seller and allowed him to retire fully from MI6 and write full-time. He would become known as “…a sophisticated, morally ambiguous writer…” who eschews standard ideas of good guys and bad guys. He is considered one of the greatest novelists of the postwar era, and possibly the greatest espionage writer of all time.
Many of his novels have been adapted for film or television, including The Looking Glass War (1965), Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1974), Smiley’s People (1979), The Little Drummer Girl (1983), The Night Manager (1993), The Tailor of Panama (1996), The Constant Gardener (2001), A Most Wanted Man (2008), and Our Kind of Traitor (2010). Fellow novelist Philip Roth said that A Perfect Spy (1986) was:
“…the best English novel since the war.”
Now Apple TV+ is to tell the story of his life in a new feature documentary, titled The Pigeon Tunnel, to be directed by The Fog of War and The Thin Blue Line filmmaker Errol Morris. The documentary will cover more than sixty years and feature Cornwell giving his final interview before his death in December 2020.
The Pigeon Tunnel is set to premiere on Apple TV+ on October 20th.
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