Probably the most famous of John LeCarre’s work is the Karla Trilogy, which began with this novel. It was adapted for film originally by the BBC in 1979 as a 7 part miniseries starring Sir Alec Guiness. For those who read the novels, there is some difference in the order in which the material is presented from the novels. Right off the bat, we begin with Control’s conversation with Jim Prideaux concerning the code names he’d worked out for his suspicion of a mole residing at the top of the Circus. In the novel, our story begins with Peter Guillam breaking into George Smiley’s House and taking him to see Oliver Lacon. Lacon, the same man who had fired him only 18 months prior, needs George to investigate the possibility of a mole in the Circus when the reality of that possibility becomes more pronounced.
Agent – A spy recruited by a foreign government to spy on their own country. This term should not be confused with a case officer, the intelligence service member who recruited and then handled the spy.
Babysitters – Bodyguards
Circus – MI6, the British intelligence service.
The Competition – MI5, British counter espionage service. Also referred to as the, “security mob.”
The Cousins – The CIA or any American intelligence service.
Distress Rocket – An emergency signal to a logistical support structure that a crash meeting or other prearranged measures are necessary, often involving new identities and emergency legends.
Ferrets – Tech people who find and remove bugs, cameras, or an attempt to spy on the good guys.
Honey Trap – A sexual trap intended for black mail or murder.
Housekeepers – Internal auditors or accountants who are used to insure discipline within the service.
Inquisitors – Interrogators who debrief agents or defectors.
Janitors – Headquarters staff and guards of internal secure areas.
Lamplighters – Watchers, surveillance staff, couriers.
Legend – A false biography and accompanying documents for a covert operative, be they a control officer or a mole.
Mole – A recruited agent who does not begin spying on his target for a long period of time. Usually they have worked their way up through an organization until such time as a preset target has been reached, and then activated after a period of years. In, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” for instance, Gerald was recruited in 1955 and not activated until 1972.
Mothers – Secretaries, researchers, clerical staff, most trusted by case officers.
Nuts and Bolts – Logistical support.
Pavement Artists – Specialized surveillance teams who can follow without getting caught.
Priests – The Legislative overseers of MI6. (Intelligence oversight committees etc.)
Scalp hunters – Professional thugs, handling assassinations, bribery, break ins, beatings, kidnappings etc.
Shoemakers – Forgers, they provide false identities in the form of passports, drivers licenses, etc.
Wranglers – Intelligence analysts, cryptographers, the people who look at raw reports, documents, photos, etc., and pass on authenticity, meaning, scope, etc.