Best Adventures of 1961 (7)

By: Joshua Glenn
September 11, 2016

One in a series of 10 posts identifying Josh Glenn’s favorite 1961 adventure novels. Happy 55th anniversary!


carre call

John le Carré’s crime/espionage adventure Call for the Dead.

The first George Smiley adventure is an entertaining admixture of espionage and murder mystery. Here, we meet the short, fat, badly dressed, middle-aged Smiley — an anti-James Bond, if there ever was one — and get our first inkling of what an extraordinary sleuth he is. The war has ended, his wife has run away with a Cuban racecar driver, and Smiley has wound up doing routine security checks for Maston, an unimaginative bureaucrat. When Samuel Fennan, a man Smiley has just interviewed about his wartime flirtation with communism, commits suicide, Maston berates Smiley for botching the incident. But Smiley has his suspicions. Was Fennan murdered? If so, are the East Germans involved — in particular, Smiley’s wartime comrade Dieter Frey? If so, how?

Fun fact: Call for the Dead was adapted as a film, starring James Mason, in 1966. Directed by Sidney Lumet, it was titled The Deadly Affair.


Let me know if I’ve missed any 1961 adventures that you particularly admire.