Posts Tagged ‘Spy”’

Book Read, and Miniseries, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”, by John Le Carre

31 May 2011

I first read Tinker, Tailor back around 1984. I distinctly remember seeing the announcements on PBS in the late 1970s pertaining to a miniseries of Tinker, Tailor, and thinking what an odd title for a book. Someone recommended the book later, and I first checked it out from the Oklahoma City library system, and then bought it.

I found the book a fantastic read. It was a bit of a thriller, set in a world I knew nothing about, but could easily imagine as real and accurate. The characters had a ring of authenticity to them, the plot was topical (the Cold War), and the book was a fast read. The jargon they used (“janitors”, as an example) was easily assimilated.

Tinker, Tailor became one of the few books that I made a point of picking up and reading every five or so years. I re-read it about two weeks ago, and found it interesting as always (and it turned out the same, AGAIN!).

At some point about ten years ago, I remembered the miniseries. I tried the local library system, it was not carried. I tried something that was then new – eBay. After a couple months, a VHS copy of the miniseries turned up, and I bought it. It was a disappointment in that the tape was an obvious bootleg; the cover art was clearly printed with a low-res inkjet printer. The video quality was lousy. I think I fell asleep trying to watch it through the noise on the tape, in a hotel room in Wichita, KS.

After my re-read this time, I remembered the miniseries again. I searched my house looking for the VHS tape with no luck. I got on the computer to look for the series at the library again (turns out they have it on DVD), but while I was searching, YouTube came to mind, and there I quickly found the complete series, seven chapters. I watched it over a couple days.

The miniseries started out oddly, with a meeting of the “service within a service”, three of them and Alleline. From there it jumps around a bit, and if you haven’t read the book, I think you would have a hard time understanding what’s going on.

Most of the major characters from the book are in the miniseries, although some roles have been collapsed, like “old McFaddean” and Mendel. Of all the characters, the three that seem physically cast to what I would have expected were Smiley, Tarr, and Westerby. The rest were not the faces I have imagined. Not to say the performances were bad, to the contrary, I enjoyed the entire miniseries.

Being TV, some of the dialog is moved around a lot, and some scenes are rearranged, and some are not in the miniseries at all. But the essence of the story is preserved.

So, the eternal argument: Book or Movie? I would say Book, for the richness of detail in the hunt for the mole Gerald. But the movie is interesting also. The two share a couple qualities: no real violence, no bad language, no blood and guts. Just a good story line where the good guys win in the end.