What a Le Carré on! Biographer reveals the spy writer’s 11 affairs – including several with wives of his friends
- John le Carré claimed infidelities were like a ‘necessary drug for my writing’
- His first marriage fell apart after he had an affair with the wife of spy colleague
Spy writer John le Carré was a serial love cheat who had at least 11 affairs – including several with wives of his friends – his biographer has revealed.
The former MI6 officer, real name David Cornwell, claimed infidelities were like ‘a necessary drug for my writing, a dangerous edge of some kind’.
Mistresses included an au pair who looked after his young son, the wife of a spy colleague in Bonn, a journalist and a former model.
His first marriage fell apart after the Bonn affair in the early 1960s, when he was writing his breakthrough novel The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.
After marrying second wife Jane, he tried to persuade the ex-model to move in with them as a ménage à trois, claiming her ‘input’ was important to his work.
John le Carré (pictured in 2011 at the UK premiere of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) had at least 11 affairs in in his lifetime and described them as ‘like a necessary drug for my writing’
Le Carré (pictured) died in 2020 aged 89, and his biographer, Adam Sisman, has revealed the author and former MI6 officer’s promiscuity in his new book with the approval of his surviving sons
So many women shared his bed that one neighbour in West Cornwall kept a tally of more than 50 conquests.
Writing in yesterday’s Times Magazine, biographer Adam Sisman recalls how the author told one lover, ‘I must go and lie to my wife’, before rising from the hotel bed and phoning Jane.
‘He was serially unfaithful.’ Sisman adds. ‘I was able to identify 11 women with whom he had affairs during the first 30 years of their marriage, and I am aware there were plenty more.’
Most conquests were younger than him – in one case by 40 years – and several were fictionalised in his novels.
Sisman adds that one pal told the writer ‘he would need a different woman for each book, advice David appears to have taken to heart.
‘Another friend noted, “He only notices women when they are married”.’ If women were a challenge, men were rivals.
‘Several of the women with whom he had affairs were married to friends of his; this might happen by accident once, or even twice, but with David it happened again and again.’
Sisman says he decided not to reveal Cornwell’s affairs in his original 2015 biography.
But after the author’s death in 2020 aged 89, his widow’s death weeks later, and with agreement from surviving sons, he decided to include details in his new book The Secret Life of John le Carre as the ‘pursuit of women was a key to unlock his fiction’.