The Looking Glass War
|Author||John le Carré|
|Publisher||William Heinemann (UK) & Putnam (USA)|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback) & Audio Cassette|
|Pages||246 pp (hardback edition)|
|ISBN||ISBN 0-434-41200-7 (UK hardback edition)
ISBN 0-698-10218-5 (US hardback edition)
|Preceded by||The Spy Who Came in from the Cold|
|Followed by||A Small Town in Germany|
During the early 1960s, a British intelligence organisation based in Blackfriars Road, London and referred to as "The Department," has been largely inactive since successfully running agents against the Nazis during the Second World War. Its rival is the more experienced and professional "Circus" led by "Control" and George Smiley.
The Department interprets intelligence from a source as evidence that Soviet missiles are being placed at Rostock, near the West German border. The Department's chief, Leclerc, sees it as an opportunity to re-live glory days and regain ground in its turf war with The Circus. To get aerial photographs, The Department pays a civilian pilot to "accidentally" divert his flight over the area. The man sent to collect the film is killed, and the film is lost. Further blunders are made when Leclerc's assistant, Avery, tries to retrieve the body in the hope that the film is still among his effects. When Lecerc requests assistance, Smiley and the Circus are alerted to the existence of The Department's new covert activities.
In spite of these compromising setbacks, The Department persuades the responsible Minister to allow them to send an agent into East Germany to discover the truth. Leclerc avoids involving The Circus directly, representing the whole operation as a training exercise. The Department reactivates one of its wartime agents, a middle-aged naturalised Pole named Fred Leiser. During his preparation and training, his handlers cynically describe The Department as still the large, vital and competent organisation he remembers from the war years, hiding from him that he is now their only agent, and that his equipment is obsolete.
When crossing the border, Leiser kills a young East German guard, an outrage which is widely published in the East German media as the work of Western "provocateurs". Leiser meets a young German girl and makes radio transmissions from a hotel, forgetting to change frequencies. The East Germans are aware that security has been breached, and set about locating Leiser. After informing Leclerc and his colleagues about the debacle, Smiley tactfully convinces Leclerc to abandon the operation, and to leave Leiser trapped in East Germany. Receiving no response to his further radio transmissions from the East German woman's flat, Leiser continues with his mission, following the "War Rules". He is located and captured. His fate is not spelt out.
- Fred Leiser: British spy of Polish background, main protagonist
- Leclerc: Head of "The Department"
- Adrian Haldane: Veteran intelligence operative for The Department
- John Avery: Young agent assigned to Leiser
- Jack Johnson: Wireless operator assigned to train Leiser
- George Smiley: Envoy from The Circus
As part of a series of dramatisation of Le Carre's work, the "Complete Smiley" series, BBC Radio produced a radio play of The Looking Glass War in 2009. Broadcast on Radio4, it starred Ian McDiarmid as Leclerc, Piotr Baumann as Leiser, Patrick Kennedy as Avery, and Simon Russell Beale as George Smiley. As with other plays in this series it is now available as a CD set as ISBN 978-1-4084-0086-9.
- 1965, UK, William Heinemann ISBN 0-434-41200-7, Pub date ? June 1965, Hardback
- 1965, USA, Putnam Pub. Group ISBN 0-698-10218-5, Pub date ? June 1965, Hardback
- 1965, USA, Coward-McCann, Inc., New York, Book Club Edition, Hardback
- 1966, UK, Pan, ISBN 0-330-20210-3, London, Paperwork
- 1985, UK, G. K. Hall & Co. ISBN 0-8161-4040-5, Pub date ? April 1986, Hardback (Large Print)
- 1991, UK, Hodder & Stoughton Ltd ISBN 0-340-55813-X, Pub date 21 November 1991, Hardback
- 1991, UK, Hodder & Stoughton (Coronet) ISBN 0-340-55446-0, Pub date 21 November 1991, Paperback
- 1992, USA, Ballantine Books ISBN 0-345-37736-2, Pub date ? March 1992, Paperback
- 1999, UK, Hodder & Stoughton ISBN 1-84032-108-3, Pub date 22 February 1999, Audio cassette (read by John le Carré)