Harry Palmer is an agent with British Intelligence.
Very little is known about this blue-collar member of the espionage profession. In fact, we don't even know his name. In the four novels about this agent, his name is never mentioned once. Aliases are used but his true name never comes up.
He is named 'Harry Palmer' only in the movies made from his books. The producer, Harry Saltzman (co-producer of the first few Bond films) wanted a name for the character. Together with star Michael Caine, they came up with the most 'boring' first and last names they could think of.
We know he attended college but where and for what is not said. We know he likely hails from Burnley in Lancashire, although that is by no means certain.
Mostly we know that he served in the Army in the Intelligence field during the war and for a considerable time afterwards. It is from this service that he is just being released and hired by the autonomous bureau with the initials W.O.O.C.(P). In this new position, he is seconded under a man named Dalby for the first novel and Dawlish in the remaining ones.
Harry Palmer stands 5'11 and has blue eyes and dark brown hair. He has a dark complexion with no visible scars. He wears horn-rimmed glasses.
He lives in a small flat just south of the Thames river in London where he is constantly being reminded by the gas company, the electric company, and the phone service that paying bills is a good thing.
He is not particularly successful with women but then he doesn't seem to try that hard, taking them when he can. He enjoys an ongoing relationship with his secretary, Jean, but also enjoys, on occasion, the company of others.
The world is a rather gray place to live, apparently. Harry never gets too happy or too angry. He is often saddened by the actions of his fellow man but never seems too surprised when they occur. His wit is often biting but it snaps at himself as often as it taunts others.
Note 1: There are two additional books that are often thrown into the Harry Palmer series. An Expensive Place To Die (1966) and Catch A Falling Spy (1974) were both about unnamed British agents with attitudes similar to Harry Palmer but without any of the supporting cast members or the same organization.
Note 2: Many years after the third movie was made, Michael Caine reprised his role as Palmer in two more movies, from which no books were written. Both came out in 1995.
The first was "Bullet To Beijing". In this adventure, Palmer has been released from the W.O.O.C.(P) and is not happy about his pension. He makes ends meet by taking a job with a Russian millionaire in St. Petersburg to recover a dangerous biological binary weapon said to have been stolen by the North Koreans. It is quite hard to follow all of the twists in the storyline but it is good to see Harry back.
The second movie was "Midnight In St. Petersburg". Harry has joined with his comrade, Nikolai, from the earlier movie, in a private investigation agency. Their first major case is the disappearance of stolen plutonium. Both of these movies were made at the same time. Both did not fare too well.