|First U.S. edition (1964)|
"[John] Le Carré believes that the credit balance of the writer is his childhood, citing Graham Greene. By this standard, le Carré was an early millionaire. He was born in 1931, in Dorset, to a family that he celebrates despite (or perhaps because of) its manifest dysfunctionality. With a largely absent mother, his father became the central figure in his early life. Ronnie Cornwell was 'seriously bent,' volatile, a convicted fraudster, yet also 'exotic, amusing' and lovable. He avoided military service during the war by standing as a parliamentary candidate, an Independent Progressive. The postwar period offered Ronnie a goldmine of shady activity, allowing his son to enter maturity in an unpredictable environment populated by racehorses and Bentleys, passing from St Moritz to the Savoy Grill in the company his father kept, which included the Kray twins ('lovely boys,' his aunt called them). […]
The secret world offered space for the larcenous side of his character, and satisfied the desire for a 'sense of commitment.' He has long disabused me of the sense that his family background might have been an impediment to joining the British intelligence services. The attraction of someone with a semi-criminal background was irresistible to the spooks, he says. They were looking for recruits with a broad sense of morality, individuals who were unanchored and wayward, who hankered for discipline ('his father’s a bit bent, we could use a bit of that'). If the secret service produced so many bad eggs, he tells me, it’s because they looked for them."
— Philippe Sands, FT Magazine
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