November’s classic crime (well, espionage)

In honour of the latest James Bond, Skyfall, which I saw early in the month, and my discovery of Modesty Blaise, I’ve decided to devote this month’s round-up of classic crime to the genre’s close relative, spy fiction.

1965 Doubleday edition of Modesty Blaise

Starting with Modesty, my Google research led me to the Modesty Blaise news blog, which coincidentally enough features some news on the radio adaptation of A Taste for Death, the book I reviewed last week.

Moving on to Mr Bond, you may have watched Skyfall and wondered where he buys his clothes. For that, you want The Suits of James Bond

Bond’s Barbour jacket in Skyfall is a limited edition by To Ki To, designed by Tokihito Yoshida, in olive waxed cotton, cut similarly to a lounge coat. It has three large buttons on the front, with the top button placed further apart. Further up the lapels there is a tab and smaller button (which has been removed), but the tab is held back with a button under the lapel.

We clearly pay our spies too much.

The Puzzle Doctor also went to the movies, and reviewed Skyfall for us.

Silva’s plan is bat-guano crazy. All I can say is – the emergency train distraction. How did he know? Unless he had a bucketload of other bonkers backups…

Pretty much agree with that.

Sergio at Tipping My Fedora has listed his top 20 spy films this month.

I love spy stories, topical and historical, whether at the cinema or on TV, radio and in print for their unrivalled ability in the mystery genre to reflect the existential malaise of their times and just for the sheer possibilities for excitement, atmosphere and surprise in the plots.

But enough of this newfangled cinema business. Back to books.

Assignment Tokyo: One of the Asian spy thrillers selected by Pulpcurry this month. Sam Durell was also profiled on Existential Ennui.

Pulpcurry celebrated Bond’s 50th by posting a selection of espionage covers, largely Pan James Bond paperbacks. He followed up with a page on spy thrillers set in Asia.

The Cold War was in full swing and those Reds were getting up to all kinds of nefarious activity behind the bamboo curtain, everything from kidnapping, sabotaging America’s space program, developing bubonic plague, drug running, to assassination.

King Louis XIV, the Sun King, is a book collector who blogs at Existential Ennui. At the beginning of the month he told us about an exclusive collection of Adam Hall memorabilia. Adam Hall created the Quiller spy series (one of which, The Quiller Memorandum, I will be reading as part of the CWA top 100). The collection included:

ELLESTON TREVOR’S PERSONAL COPY OF THE FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX SHOOTING SCRIPT: a one-off edition made by Twentieth Century Fox for Elleston Trevor, plus sixty-four black-and-white photographs taken by Trevor on location in Arizona, and A4 cast photos, nine of them – including James Stewart and Richard Attenborough – signed.

In his article on the spy thrillers of Desmond Cory, King Louis describes the series of books starring Johnny Fedora

Half Spanish, half Irish, a former Spanish Civil War combatant, Chicago gangster and F.B.I. counter-espionage agent – not to mention a talented piano player – Fedora is essentially freelance, hired by British Intelligence on a case-by-case basis – often assisted by Sebastian Trout of the Foreign Office – and pitted against Nazi spies, trained killers and Soviet agent provocateurs, against whom he proves highly lethal.

And finally, what about an American spy? Sam Durell.

In 1955, two years after Ian Fleming’s James Bond made his debut in Casino Royale, America gained its very own globetrotting secret agent: Sam Durell of the Central Intelligence Agency.

About pastoffences

Past Offences exists to review classic crime and mystery books, with ‘classic’ meaning books originally published before 1987.
This entry was posted in Classic mystery book review, Espionage, Information Received, Thriller and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to November’s classic crime (well, espionage)

  1. Great roundup – and thanks for including me in it!


  2. Margot Kinberg says:

    Rich – A very helpful round-up – thanks! There are some terrific posts there.


  3. Sarah says:

    Thanks for this Rich. I’ll check out some of the sights. I’ve just finished reading Deighton’s Spy Hook/Line/Sinker trilogy which I hope to review in December. Nov was a manic month. I’m hoping things slow down now.


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