Final John le Carré novel, Silverview, to be published in October – The Guardian

John le Carré

Finished before his death in December, le Carré gave his blessing to publish the novel, which follows a bookseller who becomes embroiled in a spy leak

Wed 19 May 2021 23.00 AEST

Silverview, a final full-length novel by John le Carré, in which the late author delves into “the soul of the modern Secret Intelligence Service”, will be published this October.

Le Carré, the author of seminal thrillers including The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, died in December aged 89. Born David Cornwell, he had been working on Silverview, his 26th novel, alongside A Legacy of Spies and Agent Running in the Field. He had completed the full-length manuscript of the book when he died.

“The book is fraught, forensic, lyrical, and fierce, at long last searching the soul of the modern Secret Intelligence Service itself. It’s a superb and fitting final novel,” said his youngest son Nick Cornwell, a novelist who writes under the pen name of Nick Harkaway. “This is the authentic le Carré, telling one more story.”

Silverview is the story of Julian Lawndsley, who has left a high-flying job in the City to run a bookshop in a small English seaside town. But after only a few months, he is visited by a Polish émigré living in Silverview, the big house on the edge of town, who seems overly interested in his new business. When a spy chief in London is warned of a dangerous leak, his investigations lead him to Julian’s seaside retreat.

Jonny Geller, le Carré’s literary agent, said it had been extraordinary to read the book after his death, and “very emotional not being able to pick up the phone and call him straight away” to talk about it.

“I knew that it existed and that he’d been working on it,” said Geller. “It went back quite a few years. I think he got distracted by his memoir The Pigeon Tunnel and slightly put this aside. And then after that, he had the idea to resurrect George Smiley with A Legacy of Spies. So I think things just got pushed, and it was only really in the last few months before he died that the conversation came back to this.”

Geller said that le Carré “gave his blessing” to publish the novel to his sons who, along with an archivist, are currently cataloguing his archive of unpublished work. Silverview was the only complete, full-length novel left unpublished at the time of his death, but Geller said that “we’re finding more and more stuff and there are other projects we’re thinking about, because he was writing something else at the time of his death. But as soon as we read Silverview, we thought, ‘We’ve got to let other people see this.’”

“It’s absolutely classic le Carré, elegant, beautifully done, loads of twists, and actually quite a fundamental comment on the intelligence services,” he added. “Reading le Carré’s novel after his passing feels like a gift he has left us. Silverview is as urgent and alive as any of his past work.”

Publisher Viking will release the book on 14 October, in the week that would have marked le Carré’s 90th birthday. It described Silverview as “the mesmerising story of an encounter between innocence and experience and between public duty and private morals”, in which le Carré “seeks to answer the question of what we truly owe to the people we love”.

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