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When not reading Fleming - I would recommend ?

edited October 2012 in Literary 007 Posts: 267
Fellow Agents,
I thought it might be fun and informative for us to share reviews and opinions on spy novels that we read when not reading Fleming and to compare, were appropriate with Bond.
I'd like to start the ball rolling by highlighting the terrific John Rain novels by Barry Eisler.
In my opinion, Rain is the best anti-hero to grace the pages of spy fiction since Fleming created Bond, O'Donnell gave us the Blaise franchise and Adam Hall launched us into the wonderful world of Quiller.
Eisler's books are a rarity. He succeeds in being highly literate whilst delivering an abundance of thrills in a style that is cool and original.
So fare, Eisler has published six Rain books and although they can be read out of sequence there is a narrative that runs throughout that make them best read in chronological order.
Start your relationship by reading the first, " Rain Fall" and meet the Jazz loving, single malt connoisseur who specialises in hits that present as death by natural causes.
The books are hip and achingly cool. The Tokyo settings and the noir atmosphere will grip you from the get go and the plot, involving a very believable take on the corruption permeating modern Japan, will both inform you and thrill you in equal measure.
In addition, spy aficionados will love the trade craft and bone crunching combat scenes they are both bang up to date and completely authentic (little wonder as Eisler is ex-CIA and holds a black belt in judo).
"Rain Fall" is a truly brilliant book and the entree to a quality series. Savour it and tell your friends - Rain is the coolest hit man to walk the streets and if he were alive, this is what Fleming would be writing today!
What recommendations have you other agents out there got for the Fleming starved reader?
Regards,
Windswept
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Comments

  • Posts: 4,182
    @Bentley, is this not a little too similar to your Who Out Bonded Bond thread? That was also a thread to recommend alternatives to Fleming.

    If you feel it's different then please explain, otherwise we will limit this to one thread. I won't close until you give feedback.

    Cheers ;-)
  • Posts: 267
    Dear NicNac,
    The other thread was about Blaise.
    This thread is to allow participants to recommend books they were inspired to read as a result of Bond and to draw comparisons.
    The two are quite different.
    Regards,
    Bentley
  • DB5DB5
    Posts: 401
    I'm currently reading Frederick Forsyth's "The Day of the Jackal." Can't put it down! For those of you who haven nver seen the 1973 Fred Zinnemann film by the same name this is IMHO one of the best movies ever made! I'd recommend watching the film first, then reading the book.
  • Posts: 267
    Dear DB5,
    A great choice.
    A fabulous book made into a fabulous film. Quite a rarity and how I wish Fleming had been shown the same respect.
    One of the things that I sometimes think goes unmentioned about TDOTJ is it's status as a genre innovator. I believe Forsyth really created what I would describe as the "Thoroughly Researched" thriller with this book and I think he was the first author to make a million from his first book!
    DB5, you've inspired me.
    Regards,
    Bentley
  • Posts: 1,817
    In the espionage trend, John Le Carré, of course. Good writer with awesome and complex stories.
  • Posts: 267
    Dear 0013,
    Le Carre is a must and I do think "The Honourable Schoolboy" is one of the greatest novels of the last century.
    That said, I have to confess, in the round, I find him a little dry. Perhaps I need a hero I can root for and Smiley just isn't that man ( or woman).
    Also, horror of horrors, I have read that Le Carre hates Bond!!
    Regards,
    Bentley
  • Bentley said:

    Dear 0013,
    Le Carre is a must and I do think "The Honourable Schoolboy" is one of the greatest novels of the last century.
    That said, I have to confess, in the round, I find him a little dry. Perhaps I need a hero I can root for and Smiley just isn't that man ( or woman).
    Also, horror of horrors, I have read that Le Carre hates Bond!!
    Regards,
    Bentley

    Oh yes. Of all the John Le Carre novels I have read "The Honourable Schoolboy" is probably the best simply because of its sharp attention for detail and down-to-earth approach to espionage. His recent novels, although very good, doesnt' seem to match up to his Cold War dramas. The only post-Cold War book of his which I found on par with the likes of the Karla trilogy is The Secret Pilgrim. As for his hate for Bond, it's a bit true: if not for his dedication to the Crown and his trait as a knight-errant, Bond could easily be lured to the enemy's promises of money and girls, but, as we all know Bond, it's not gonna happen.
    Anyway, as to other espionage books outside of Bond, I also like Johnny Fedora and, well, Jason Bourne. What I don't like about the literary Bourne is that instead of pushing the readers to a bottomless pit of unnecessary sequels, they should have just wrote about his life before the events of "The Bourne Identity". Instead of portraying him as an assassin he should be shown as a spy for that's what he is. Also, is this thread restricted only to works of fiction? There are a number of non-fiction books about espionage that are as thrilling as the fictional ones, like Peter Wright's "Spycatcher".
  • Posts: 267
    Dear Emilbertillo,
    Your choice of Desmond Cory's "Johnny Fedora" intrigues me.
    I've never read any of Cory's books but there are numerous comparisons made with Bond.
    Given that the first was published in 1951 the accusation that Fleming was more than inspired by Cory is constantly made.
    Are there any parallels and are the Fedora books worth reading today?
    I'd love you to elaborate.
    Regards,
    Bentley
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    edited October 2012 Posts: 22,854
    0013 said:

    In the espionage trend, John Le Carré, of course. Good writer with awesome and complex stories.

    I read The Spy That Came In From the Cold (it has been a long time, need to reread it), but My Kind of Traitor was absolute trash. I had to quit Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy because I kept nodding off and getting distracted while reading it because it was so lifeless and dull. I haven't been impressed by Mr. Cornwell thus far.
  • Posts: 1,817

    0013 said:

    In the espionage trend, John Le Carré, of course. Good writer with awesome and complex stories.

    I read The Spy That Came In From the Cold (it has been a long time, need to reread it), but My Kind of Traitor was absolute trash. I had to quit Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy because I kept nodding off and getting distracted while reading it because it was so lifeless and dull. I haven't been impressed by Mr. Cornwell thus far.
    I did like Our Kind of Traitor. Not a masterpiece but enjoyable.

    @Bentley: I have waiting on my bookshelf The Honorable Schoolboy... but I was reading something else (Vargas Llosa's The War of the End of the World) and perhaps I'll save it for the holidays.
    By the way, is not that I only read Le Carré, my favorite authors are Umberto Eco, Italo Calvino, Jorge Luis Borges, and, I must say, Ian Fleming.
  • Andy Mcnabs Nick Stone books are good. He's sort of a spy, he's worked for MI6 and the CIA before, but he's more of a mercenary. Cool books though.
  • Posts: 267
    Dear thelivingroyale,
    Interesting choice - they certainly seem to sell well maybe I'll buy one for a train journey.
    I did read his "Bravo Two Zero" and I must say it was very enthralling.
    It all makes you wonder what Fleming would have made of all of this - ex SAS men leading the best seller lists!
    Regards,
    Bentley
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 22,854
    I love Vince Flynn's Mitch Rapp novels, and have read a good amount of them. I like Ludlum's The Bourne Identity (one of the greatest espionage novels), but the rest of the Bourne books are horrid disappointments. I don't think Ludlum ever figured out that having a purposely over complex plot doesn't mean the book will instantly be a success.
  • Charles Cumming is (whisper it) occasionally better than Fleming. Especially the two Alec Milius novels. The same murky gray world of Le Carre, but brought somewhat up-to-date and better than anything Le Carre has published since Absolute Friends.

    David Ignatius is pretty awesome as well.
  • edited October 2012 Posts: 660
    Charles Cumming (should want a James Bond novel!)
    Daniel Silva
    Alex Berenson

    All have similar characters to James Bond especially Daniel Silva Gabriel Allon who is a assassin for Mossad and Wells CIA agent who can use length force
    Charles cumming character is more realistic to the real spy game of today....His latest novel is pretty good A Foreign Country but I love his Typhoon a very interesting plot
  • Posts: 100
    Not strictly spy fiction, but I would recommend Boris Akunin's Erast Fandorin series, set in late tsarist Russia. The combination of mystery, political intrigue, larger than life villains, beautiful women and infallible gambling show clear signs of Fleming influence. Thundering good reads!
  • Posts: 97
    I'm just going to add my voice to all those recommending John le Carre. If you want to confine yourself simply to the Smiley novels, start with Call for the Dead and work your way through. Of course, the apotheosis is the Karla Trilogy: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Honourable Schoolboy and Smiley's People.

    If I was an international supervillain, I'd rather have Bond after me... ;-)
  • Posts: 97
    Seriously though, they're wonderful, wonderful books.
  • Posts: 267

    Charles Cumming is (whisper it) occasionally better than Fleming. Especially the two Alec Milius novels. The same murky gray world of Le Carre, but brought somewhat up-to-date and better than anything Le Carre has published since Absolute Friends.

    David Ignatius is pretty awesome as well.

    Dear thamesider,
    Charles Cumming is pure gold and is definitely the best Brit working in the genre today. Personally I preferred his non Milius novels particularly "Typhoon" which I rate as highly as Le Carre's "Honourable Schoolboy".
    Frankly, IFP should solicit him to write a Bond novel. He would be perfect.
    Regards,
    Bentley.
  • Posts: 267
    blakewho said:

    Not strictly spy fiction, but I would recommend Boris Akunin's Erast Fandorin series, set in late tsarist Russia. The combination of mystery, political intrigue, larger than life villains, beautiful women and infallible gambling show clear signs of Fleming influence. Thundering good reads!

    Dear Blakewho,
    What a fabulous suggestion. I've read so many excellent reviews of these books and they are oft compared to Fleming.
    I've looked at them times many on Amazon but never hit the button. You've inspired me and I'm going to take the plunge!
    Regards,
    Windswept

  • Posts: 1,817

    I love Vince Flynn's Mitch Rapp novels, and have read a good amount of them. I like Ludlum's The Bourne Identity (one of the greatest espionage novels), but the rest of the Bourne books are horrid disappointments. I don't think Ludlum ever figured out that having a purposely over complex plot doesn't mean the book will instantly be a success.

    I read it too, but only that one. It was very good, a like too long for what it is nevertheless. So you won't recommend the sequels?
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 22,854
    0013 said:

    I love Vince Flynn's Mitch Rapp novels, and have read a good amount of them. I like Ludlum's The Bourne Identity (one of the greatest espionage novels), but the rest of the Bourne books are horrid disappointments. I don't think Ludlum ever figured out that having a purposely over complex plot doesn't mean the book will instantly be a success.

    I read it too, but only that one. It was very good, a like too long for what it is nevertheless. So you won't recommend the sequels?
    They are disappointment personified. If you want a story that wonderfully finishes Jason and Carlos the Jackal's fight in a climatic head to head fight with only one man walking away, don't read the two others. I can't even tell you with a straight face how it all ends it is so bad.
  • Posts: 1,817

    0013 said:

    I love Vince Flynn's Mitch Rapp novels, and have read a good amount of them. I like Ludlum's The Bourne Identity (one of the greatest espionage novels), but the rest of the Bourne books are horrid disappointments. I don't think Ludlum ever figured out that having a purposely over complex plot doesn't mean the book will instantly be a success.

    I read it too, but only that one. It was very good, a like too long for what it is nevertheless. So you won't recommend the sequels?
    They are disappointment personified. If you want a story that wonderfully finishes Jason and Carlos the Jackal's fight in a climatic head to head fight with only one man walking away, don't read the two others. I can't even tell you with a straight face how it all ends it is so bad.
    If it's that way this will be a case of movies improving over books!
    Thank you for the warning, I better give my reading time to A Tale of Two Cities.
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 22,854
    0013 said:

    0013 said:

    I love Vince Flynn's Mitch Rapp novels, and have read a good amount of them. I like Ludlum's The Bourne Identity (one of the greatest espionage novels), but the rest of the Bourne books are horrid disappointments. I don't think Ludlum ever figured out that having a purposely over complex plot doesn't mean the book will instantly be a success.

    I read it too, but only that one. It was very good, a like too long for what it is nevertheless. So you won't recommend the sequels?
    They are disappointment personified. If you want a story that wonderfully finishes Jason and Carlos the Jackal's fight in a climatic head to head fight with only one man walking away, don't read the two others. I can't even tell you with a straight face how it all ends it is so bad.
    If it's that way this will be a case of movies improving over books!
    Thank you for the warning, I better give my reading time to A Tale of Two Cities.
    The novels and films are so different from each other that you couldn't even begin to compare. No Carlos, Marie is a completely different personality (and ethnicity), and no big plot lines from the books but the amnesia situation Bourne goes through. Ultimatum is years after the others where Jason is older, so that is cool, seeing him face off against an equally old Carlos, both men realizing they are out of their depth. There are some brilliant moments in Supremacy and Ultimatum, but overall, especially with most of the former and the ending of the latter, they are unbelievably sub par.
  • Posts: 1,817
    @0BradyM0Bondfanatic7 Yes, indeed. While reading Identity, it struck me the fact that Marie was so different.
    The most important thing is that Ludlum is nowhere near Fleming's level!
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 22,854
    0013 said:

    @0BradyM0Bondfanatic7 Yes, indeed. While reading Identity, it struck me the fact that Marie was so different.
    The most important thing is that Ludlum is nowhere near Fleming's level!

    Like I said, it was like Ludlum felt complex plots were gold. I love you Robert, and rest in piece, but you were dead wrong. Fleming is the perfect mesh of great description, instruction, and knew how to pace things without letting the plot take over.
  • Posts: 1,817
    By the way, what other authors do you like?
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 22,854
    0013 said:

    By the way, what other authors do you like?

    Spy fiction wise, or just in general?
  • Bentley said:

    Dear Emilbertillo,
    Your choice of Desmond Cory's "Johnny Fedora" intrigues me.
    I've never read any of Cory's books but there are numerous comparisons made with Bond.
    Given that the first was published in 1951 the accusation that Fleming was more than inspired by Cory is constantly made.
    Are there any parallels and are the Fedora books worth reading today?
    I'd love you to elaborate.
    Regards,
    Bentley

    I find it amusing that people compare Johnny Fedora to James Bond, really. Let's see: they're both orphans, they came from wealthy families, they both worked for the Crown even though they're not really British (Johnny Fedora's actually Spanish-Irish), though Johnny worked freelance... but that's where the similarities end as far as I can see. Whereas James Bond was ahead of his time, and as a lamentation to the declining power of the British Empire after WWII, Johnny doesn't want to move on from WWII. In the first novel "Secret Ministry", Nazis smuggled drugs to Britain to destabilize the nation. The Nazis continue to become the antagonists until "Undertow" (the first of five novels pitting him against his archenemy, Feramontov) came in. If there ever is a thinking man's James Bond, it has to be one of the other spies Michael Caine portrayed in film: Len Deighton's Unnamed Spy, or Harry Palmer in the films.
    Speaking of Len Deighton, I am now re-reading his excellent Game, Set, Match Trilogy featuring Bernard Samson. I just finished "Berlin Game" and is currently halfway through "Mexico Set". Bernard Samson trumped Napoleon Solo as my fourth favorite fictional spy.
  • Posts: 267
    Fellow Agents,
    I have to confess, I don't find a lot to like in Ludlum's work.
    Probably "The Bourne Identity" was his best but even that I found way too long and convoluted and I have to say, I found his literary skills somewhat limited.
    It's probably not written in stone but I do think when a thriller runs to that sought of length, it stops thrilling (exception "Honourable Schoolboy").
    In my opinion, Ludlum is not remotely in Fleming's league and one of those rare instances were the films are way better than the books.
    Changing the subject, has anybody out there read any of Olen Steinhauer's Milo Weaver books?
    I read the first in the trilogy, "The Tourist", and found it good but complex. It also had a certain Flemingesque feel about it. Evidently Clooney has optioned it for the big screen and sees it as a franchise.
    Regards,
    Bentley
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