So - after years of planning - tomorrow at 1430 in The Saturday Play slot - the great Smiley project begins with Call for The Dead. There have been some rather lovely TV trails for it. And next week at the same time comes A Murder of Quality. We will do all eight of the Smiley novels (he features lightly in one or two) over the next year or so.
Nobody has ever done all the novels in this way before.
The Radio 4 wellspring comes from the head of Radio Drama in Scotland, Patrick Rayner, whose previous works include hefty and successful adptations of Paul Temple, Simenon, Holmes et al. He approached me nearly three years ago and asked whether I might be interested in running all of John le Carré's Smiley novels. I was wildly enthusiastic (I am a fan) but had assumed that we would would never get the rights.
But we persisted - and with the help of le Carré himself - we succeeded. Indeed he has been enthusaistic about the project from day 1 and has been encouraging and helpful. Tonight on Front Row he talks to Mark Lawson about Smiley, his own career in espionage, his feelings about the cold war. It's another one of Mark's terrific interviews and is a wonderful accompaniment to the series.
Simon Russell Beale is Smiley and having heard tomorrow's play (a privilege that goes with the job) I can say that he's marvellous. He does it differently to Alec Guinness (who was so memorable in the early 80s BBC TV version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) but/and superbly. A little faster than Guinness - with terrific clarity. He captures his intellect and forensic qualities beautifully. The whole cast do the novel justice and the adaptation by Robert Forrest is very clever. Listen out for the beginning and the way he deploys George Smiley's wife - Lady Ann Smiley (played by Anna Chancellor).
I realise this blog post is of the gushing variety but I hope you will forgive me. It is treat radio.
And the rest of the Smiley novels lie ahead. Enjoy.