British author John le Carré, writer of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Night Manager, has died aged 89, his literary agent has said. A literal titan in the world of espionage novels, Le Carre died after a short battle with pneumonia and was not COVID19 related.

His agent Jonny Geller, chief executive of the Curtis Brown Group, announced the news in a tweet late on Sunday night.

Born David John Moore Cornwall in Poole, Dorset, in 1931, le Carré was educated at the universities of Bern, in Switzerland, and Oxford, before embarking on his undercover intelligence career.

He became an MI5 (Security Service) officer in 1958 and later transferred to MI6 (Secret Intelligence Service), working under the cover of second secretary at the British Embassy in the German city of Bonn before becoming an author. So he knew the subject on which he wrote well. A little too well for some members of the intelligence community who feared his stories may become too realistic.

He hit the big time when his highly acclaimed third novel, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, made him arguably the most famous writer of spy novels in the world at the time. His tense, gritty and lean style, frequently cynical and never too fantastical, was opposite what other spy authors such as Fleming had done.

His greatest character, George Smiley, appeared in several novels including 1974’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. This was adapted for an all time great television mini-series starring Alec Guinness, and for a big screen movie starring Gary Oldman in 2011. He went on to appear in a number of novels including Smiley’s People, published in 1979.

The Night Manager, published in 1993, was le Carré’s first post-Cold War novel which detailed an undercover operation to bring down a major international arms dealer. The acclaimed novel was adapted into an equally acclaimed television adaption by the UKs BBC, starring Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie and Olivia Colman. Many class it as Hiddleston’s audition for 007 that, at the time, made him a favorite to succeed Daniel Craig in the role.

The Tailor Of Panama, a story of a corrupt British agent sparking a US invasion of Panama based on the spy fantasies of a former convict, was adapted by John Boorman and starred the, at the time, current James Bond alongside Jamie Lee Curtis.

His success rate in adaptions is impressive.  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) have all been TV or movie adaptions.

David is survived by his beloved wife of almost 50 years, Jane, and his sons Nicholas, Timothy, Stephen and Simon.