John le Carré didn’t invent the literary spy novel. He joined a tradition, and made it new and invigorating. It’s a very British tradition, as well. No other literary culture has embraced the espionage novel as we have done. You can argue that the first proponent was Joseph Conrad with his books The Secret Agent (1907) and Under Western Eyes (1911). W Somerset Maughamwrote spy fiction, as did Eric Ambler and Lawrence Durrell (Mountolive is a spy novel, in its elaborate way) and, also, pre-eminently, Graham Greene.