Peter Wright "spycatcher" made me think this stuff is more true than not. UCL (london) is next door to the kind of grey curtained (bomb-proof chain mail apparently) anonymous doors and blocks which we are told once housed outlier farms of the more elite services in the seventies. The big place down on the Thames up-ended all this, as did GCHQ's remake.
(Duncan Campbells writing on how the british state listened in pervasively to all telephone calls in the days of the microwave backbone up the spine of the UK is also worth reflecting on)
The atmosphere of the remake of 'tinker tailor' was really good. the grimy, flare-trouser, italian-design feels of the place was spot-on for time. I am less sure it was spot-on for what the secret services were like inside, but it felt like it should be: its what we want to believe. I've stayed in those grotty kings-cross hotels, they are alas, all too true.
I love all his books, but the later ones are frankly bloated. He's returned to small. His biography about his amoral father ("the perfect spy" is of course about the same family dynamic and probably has echoes of reality all through it) but you can't call autobiography novels, so thats out.
I thought "the russia house" was a better film adaptation than "the little drummer girl" and I thought "the night manager" was terribly adapted. All three are much the same as books I find.
"the constant gardener" is in some ways, the most depressing. I think it very probably speaks more truth than we would want.
The film has the better supporting cast by far, but the original series is worth watching just for that portrayal. Watch his face as he slowly puts on his glasses during the beginning of the interrogation scene with Ricki Tarr for example.
 with the possible exception of another great performance by Ian Richardson
Edit: I very much enjoyed the film too, including Gary Oldman. But the miniseries captured the bleakness of the era, had time to explore more of the detail, and left more things implicit rather than explicit. All styles of production that I personally enjoy.
The old TV series had a superb ensemble cast. The new one in some ways let itself down. Hungary for Czechoslovakia. Turkey for Hong Kong. Peter Guillaim has a gay lover. Minor changes but also.. why?
For example (warning: potential spoilers, though you'd have to be pretty super attentive to detail if you ended up noticing this the first time through the film):
Fortunately, it is (or was) on Netflix so I was able to do that.
I probably watched it at least a dozen times and with every viewing I would still manage to find some new little meaningful detail I had missed before. If I can't find anything new that interests me on Netflix (not hard), I'll usually just queue it up again. Great film.
Which building are you thinking of? The nanotechnology building (image below) does have a grey metal curtain infront of it, but just as a sunshade.
There definitely are buildings around, but I think they are (usually) more discreet
Can you expand on this? As someone who loved the series and the book it'd be interesting to hear a different viewpoint.
Trouble was it took a subtle suspenseful novel and turned it into a formulaic and predictable US TV series. It was uninspiring TV wallpaper but in fancy locations. Quality source and cast let down by horrible direction and story adaptation. The best I can say is it wasn't terrible. Nor was it a patch on the old or new BBC adaptations of Tinker Tailor.
I grant that it far from le Carré's best novel, but it was a damn sight better than this!
The Serialization just bigged it up too much.
The only reason you can read it without it seeming Bondish is that Le Carre manages to make all that strangely bland, if not outright dull.
The TV adaptation could have made it feel more le Carre, by adding more depth to the supporting characters, and more of the tradecraft and blurred grey areas.
Ian Flemming's older brother Peter worked with with people like Colin Gubbins who was head of the SOE for most of the war.
It catches Le Carre at the precise moment when the final scales fell away from his eyes, and he found himself unable to defend even partially the corporatist state that his characters had inhabited and defended at such personal moral cost for the better part of half a century.
Edit: Lol, apparently this precise article was posted in 2016...when I posted this precise comment: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10862489
the BBC Alec Guinness adaptation is wonderful(as is the house of cards, but thats a different beast.) The unabridged audiobooks are read by the person who played Peter Guillam
For me, I think his best "novel" is his autobiography. The Pigeon Tunnels is a series of brilliantly engaging short stories, but with out the tenancy for an anticlimactic ending.
It also vividly illuminated the background for baader meinhof, and to a certain extent the 70/80s Palestinian conflict (and how its relevant to the UK now, thanks to the useful idiot that is corbyn.)
Start with The Labyrinth Makers and go on from there. It introduces the key characters, Dr David Audley and Major Butler.
Read the books before I watched the recent Tinker Tailor film.
I think they utterly miscued the description of Jim's capture (if you please excuse the spoiler). In the book, I thought that part really helped to anchor the scale and scope of the trilogy.
My nod goes to "The Little Drummer Girl".