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timmer will have to check out this O'Donnell author as well.
The Modesty Blaise film has always looked appealing, although timmer has yet to view it.
I really can't recommend the Eaton book, although I did manage to finish it. As a Bond fan, I just stubbornly wanted to see what she might be on about.
The Bond bits were interesting, but the rest of it - not so much.
Ipcress File is my first Deighton. I thought I really should read it, as it is a pretty famous book in the spy genre.
Oh, I need to re-read these. I haven't read them all, and of those I have I like the first one best because it introduces all the characters so wonderfully.
There are very few action women in spy literature, so none of you will be surprised to learn that teenage me found Modesty Blaise highly aspirational.
Just skip the movie. It just has about that much to do with the novels as have the Matt Helm films with their source material.
About Deighton, if you like laconic,witty and somehow convoluted written spy novels it just doesn't get better than him.
Unlike Fleming, Deighton & Le Carre, O'Donnell's Blaise books did not benefit from a good screen adaptation.
Joseph Losey's movie was an absolute abomination and bore no relationship to the source material. O'Donnell hated it and raced to get his novel out before the movie premiered. Happily he succeeded. Otherwise, the characters may have never progressed from their comic strip origins.
Despite the lack of a good movie, the Blaise books were really the true successor to Bond. Post Fleming, the market segmented clearly into two different directions - the fantasy spy category and the realistic category. Bond was clearly a fantasy and it was Blaise that took this segment to a whole different level.
Like Fleming, O'Donnell had great descriptive power, his stories shared the restless changing scenes that characterised the Bond adventures and he certainly shared Fleming's love of the benign and the bizarre.
That said, the Blaise books were much more ensemble pieces and had at their core, well developed relationships between the key characters. The relationship between Garvin and Blaise being at the heart of everything.
Also, the glamour and luxury lifestyles associated with the characters captured completely the zeitgeist of the times.
What's more, these books contain some of the most heart stopping, bone crunching action sequences ever written.
Given the success of the Bond movie franchise, why Blaise hasn't been revisited for the screen makes for one of the great mysteries of our time. Tarantino had the rights for a while and produced a place holder straight to DVD piece called 'My Name Is Modesty'. It was based on her back story and was actually not bad but the big promised production never came. Of course, parts of her story have inspired the likes of 'Kill Bill', 'Nikita', 'Lucy' and the upcoming 'Atomic Blond'. But why oh why we haven't had the real deal completely eludes me.
If any of you out there haven't read these books you are in for a treat. The best two are 'Sabre Tooth' and 'Taste Of Death' but as Agent_99 says the first one simply titled Modesty Blaise gives you a great introduction to the characters.
Deighton is phenomenal. He hits the sweet spot between Fleming and Le Carre like no other. He was, IPNSHO (In PussyNomore's Not So Humble Opinion), the greatest spy novelist of his time. His absolute best work is the Samson trilogy of trilogies but 'Ipcress File' is essential reading for spy afficionados or, indeed anybody who can read. It is one of the coolest books ever written ( PussyNoMore means cool like Miles Davis NOT cool like Justine Beaber!).
I always found the Sampson trilogies somehow overrated, since they very much sail soap opera territory with all the convenient 'everybody knows anybody' that's happening all the time. Also, Charity, the last of the books, to me was a complete letdown, since it denies the reader a true resolve. I guess that's where the novel takes its title from, since Sampson never gets to know how hoodwinked he was and is by so many people he truly loves. Still, for the reader it is highly unsatisfying, if you ask me.
Clearly 'no Solace left' in this review albeit it is unique insomuch as it's the first time I've ever heard Len's work compared to 'soap opera'.
PussyNoMore wishes he could fine more soap operas like the Samson saga !
Certainly so would I! But still I find it subpar compared to Deighton's earlier works. As I said, there are way too many convenient personal connections between people on all levels in the Sampson books. Also, take Berlin Game especially. When you have already figured out the resolve of a Deighton novel in the middle of it, you know you haven't have read one of his prime works.
I enjoyed A Taste For Death quite a lot. Memorable characters, great fantastical adventure. I have the first one, Modesty Blaise, too. Been meaning to get to it. Might have to look into Sabre Tooth as well at some point on your recommendation.
Some_Kind_Of_Hero, you won't regret it. 'Sabre Tooth' is a work of art.
In many regards, it is the first real Blaise book because 'Modesty Blaise' was, in fact a novelisation of a film treatment that O'Donnell had done for the studio and which they had ignored in favour of the drivel that made it into Losey's catastrophic movie.
Once O'Donnell realised what was afoot he raced to get his book out and thank God he did.
That said, when you read the first two back to back you can see that 'Sabre Tooth' really benefits from being conceived as a novel. It is deeper in all respects and the story line is just amazing.
Enjoy - PussyNoMore wishes he was reading it for the first time. He's read it thrice and is seriously considering picking them up again.
A final thought for those that may be interested in Blaise but can't see themselves investing their time in a full length novel. There are two short story collections titled 'Pieces of Modesty' and 'Cobra Trap' that would allow you to experience what you are missing.
'Cobra Trap' is perhaps the better of the two with the caveat that there is a big spoiler in one of the stories. Perhaps the BIGGEST spoiler ever!
A spoiler for which novel?
As such he was really looking forward to the release of 'The Force' , Winslow's latest - a much trumpeted NYPD crime opus about crooked cops, the screen rights for which were sold for a record amount.
Having just finished it, PussyNoMore has to proclaim it a disappointment. It has few redeeming features and falls well below Winslow's normal high standard.
PussyNoMore remains a Winslow enthusiast but would ask him to try harder with his next effort!
The story basically bookends ‘The Spy Who Came In From The Cold’ and grips like a vice.
What’s more it was great to be back with the old team from ‘The Circus’.It felt like putting on an old, much loved suit.
One word of caution however. If you have’nt read the Karla trilogy and TSWCIFTC, don’t start with this one. It won’t be impossible to comprehend but you will find it difficult.
Now that Deighton has retired, Le Carre really is in a class of his own. He is a genius and we are so lucky to have him.
It can’t be recommend highly enough. For those who don’t know Gunther, he is a German PI who went private in Berlin after serving in World War 1 and a period as a police detective.
The books are a phenomenal melange of crime, espionage, war and historical drama played out between 1936 and 1958. They are characterised by incredible research and great stories all told in a fluid, Chandleresque style.
Gunther is a unique anti-hero and in this, his latest, he is found, on the run in, on the French Riviera by an old nemesis who is now head of the Statsi. The price he seeks to extract in return for Gunther’s survival is that he perform an assassination.
Phenomenal stuff. Kerr is in the same league as Fleming, Deighton, Le Carre and Herron.
I've picked up a few of the Modesty Blaise novels myself in secondhand bookshops of late. Happy reading!
You are both demonstrating consummate good taste.
There is an interesting article over at literary007.com that PussyNoMore would thoroughly recommend.
Evidently some n’er -do - well is proposing that it was Blaise who was Bond’s true successor!
I reckon the author is on to something there. I've read a number of books with heroes claimed to be bigger and better than Bond, with wilder plots, beastlier villains and nastier torture (including Jameses Mayo and Leasor), and apart from Modesty Blaise I can't remember a thing about any of them.
(Very nice article, BTW.)
Agent_99, it is so interesting to hear your perspectives.
PussyNoMore is probably of a different vintage to your good self and was around when these things were first published and remembers how exciting the whole Blaise thing was.
O’Donnell was a fabulous writer and a very generous man.
He loved his creations and it showed in his work. Pussy re-reads them from time to time and they stand up brilliantly. The only thing that is dated a little is Willy’s accent but actually, this is exactly how true cockneys spoke at that time and Peter captured it brilliant.
Good timing on more than one level; it's just the right age (IMHO) to be introduced to this world of very exciting, but actually mostly harmless, sex and violence, and it was a period when you could pick up paperbacks from the 60s, 70s and 80s for 10p at jumble sales, so I soon had a vast and motley collection.
I got rid of a lot during various house moves but always hung on to Modesty. Also Adam Diment; I didn't go a bundle on them but the covers and titles are so wonderful/dreadful.
What did you think of the film version, @PussyNoMore? I've been slowly collecting the books and have ordered a DVD of the 1960s film version. I know there was another one in 2002.
PussyNoMore hates few things in life but this abomination of a movie is one of them.
It had nothing at all to do with O'Donnell's script or characters. Peter detested it as did the fans.
Defenders of the movie call it a camp classic. PussyNoMore calls it a crass piece of nonsense.
Ironically, the 2002 straight to DVD piece, 'My Name Is Modesty' isn't too bad. It's a low budget affair that Miramax rushed out to retain the Blaise movie rights but it is a faithful interpretation of Modesty's back story. O'Donnell also quite liked it.
As previously mentioned, there is an article about this and more up on literary007.com and Pussy finds himself in total harmony with that author's opinions.