Last Book Read...

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  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 32,229Chief of Staff
    IMG-20200628-185134.jpg


    IMG-20200628-185142.jpg

    Sorry, am not a great photographer. Hope you can make out the order! As you can hopefully see, "Dark Forces" should be read before "Island" but it doesn't matter enormously- it shouldn't be a spoiler to say that the Nazis lost WW2!
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 18,927MI6 Agent
    Ben Macintyre: The spy and the traitor

    Ben Macintyre's books are always informative and exciting, and this is probably one of his best. It's about Oleg Gordievsky, the KGB agent who secretly worked for the MI6 in the later part of the cold war. This may be the best non-fiction book in the spy genere I've ever read. The competition is "Spy/counterspy" by Dusko Popov and Max Manus' two biograpies abouut his exoeriences as a WWII SOE agent (A shortened version was published in English under the name "Underwater saboteur"), but today it feels like Macintyre beats them all.If you're atall interested in real life espionage thisis a must read.
  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 2,765MI6 Agent
    Barbel wrote:
    IMG-20200628-185134.jpg


    IMG-20200628-185142.jpg
    nice collection of hardcovers!
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 32,229Chief of Staff
    All firsts I think, though some in poor condition. Must ask CoolHandBond if they're worth anything.
  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 2,765MI6 Agent
    ah here is that table with the Internal chronology I found earlier:

    Title /// Period of Plot /// Date of 1st publication
    Contraband /// 3 Aug 1935 - 11 Aug 1935 /// [9 October 1936]
    The Scarlet Impostor /// 7 Sep 1939 - 8 Nov 1939 /// [7 January 1940]
    Faked Passports /// 9 Nov 1939 - 13 Mar 1940 /// [June 1940]
    The Black Baroness /// 14 Mar 1940 - 17 Jun 1940 /// [22 October 1940]
    V For Vengeance /// 14 Jun 1940 - 22 Jun 1941 /// [12 March 1942]
    Come Into My Parlour /// 23 Jun 1941 - 12 Dec 1941 /// [28 November 1946]
    Traitors' Gate /// 30 Mar 1942 - Oct 1942 /// [1 September] 1958
    They Used Dark Forces /// May 1943 - 6 Jun 1945 /// [5 October] 1964
    The Island Where Time Stands Still /// 1954 /// [20 September] 1954
    Black August /// circa 1960 /// [January 1934]
    The White Witch Of The South Seas /// Jan 1963 - 1963 /// [26 August] 1968
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 32,229Chief of Staff
    "Black August" as you'll probably know isn't part of the chronology and stands apart. I think you'll enjoy filling in the gaps. :)
    (And of course spotting the influences on Fleming)
  • silvertoesilvertoe Posts: 34MI6 Agent
    Truth is i don't read a lot of novels, i prefer factual books as a rule. My hobby is oil painting which is something i took up when i retired two years ago,so i read a lot of art related books, but... i am currently struggling my way through Moby dick by Herman melville which is hard work to be honest as the dialect is at times unfathomable
    ive smelt that aftershave before and both times ive smelt a rat
  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 4,242MI6 Agent
    Barbel wrote:
    All firsts I think, though some in poor condition. Must ask CoolHandBond if they're worth anything.

    Reference Dennis Wheatley first editions, depending on condition certain titles can sell £1000 plus but low hundreds is probably the norm for very fine condition, fair/poor condition would be pretty low but the value is not monetary terms but the enjoyment of seeing them sat on your bookshelves :)
    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 32,229Chief of Staff
    Thanks, CHB! Unless disaster strikes, they ain't going nowhere but it's good to know.
  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 4,242MI6 Agent
    Light Into Ink by S. M. Guariento. This is like a busman’s holiday for me, a critical analysis of the movie/tv paperback tie- in that was so popular back in the day. This book covers most genres including Bond. It is liberally dosed with hundreds of colour pictures of covers. It is also available in a cheaper b/w version which is pointless as the joy in this book is poring over those gorgeous covers.

    It was reading the paperback tie-in of Goldfinger as a schoolboy which first alerted me to this particular form of collecting, little did I know that it would lead to a 40 year career as a used bookseller :))

    It’s a self published book and available from Amazon, I highly recommend this to those with an interest in the subject.
    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 2,765MI6 Agent
    They Used Dark Forces
    Dennis Wheatley, 1964

    This one takes us back in time to the closing days of World War II.
    Sallust is mostly trapped behind enemy lines for the last years of the war. At first he is sent to investigate what is going on in Peenemünde (that's where they launched the V2 rockets from!). But he breaks a leg and is kept hidden for the next several months by an occultist he has met.
    The lives of Sallust and Ibrahim Malacou are intertwined for the remaining 500 pages, telepathically linked in fact. Malacou is a Jew, passing as a Turk in Hitler's Germany, and lives in the ruins of a spooky old castle working out horoscopes and summoning the devil through unspeakable sex rituals with his tragic daughter.

    Over the course of the adventure, Sallust reunites with Sabine, the magnificent specimen from Conraband who is now Von Ribbentrop's mistress; gets himself incarcerated in a concentration camp while trying to escape; forms a double act with Malacou shamming seances for the entertainment of the Nazis; meets and befriends Goering; then finally is placed undercover in Hitler's bunker for the final days of the war.

    The Hitler's bunker sequence is the most interesting part of the book, we meet all the hideous backstabbing real life characters in Hitler's inner circle and see the real life devastation of Berlin in all the detail given to fictional London in Black August. Superstitious Hitler is relying on the occult advice given to him by Sallust and Malacou and is persuaded that he is destined to be reincarnated as a Martian interplanetary warlord, much better than merely conquering all of Europe. So of course to get to this next, even better life, he must commit suicide in his bunker!
    Then Sallust escapes Russian occupied Berlin with not one, but two hot babes (Sabine and Erika) and a presumably equally hot lady's maid, The End!


    It's a bit hard to appreciate in 2020, but Wheatley wrote this volume twenty years after his other WWII set Sallust adventures. He would not have known all this real life information about the inner circle when he was writing his earlier books. In the first page there is a long list of published sources he has relied on to synthesise the illusion.

    Alas, this is the last Wheatley volume in my to-read pile, and considering how long it took me to find the four I've now read, I dont expect to find the others any time soon. I wonder, since he's better known as an occult writer, if his spy books might sometimes get misfiled under Horror in some bookstores? I shall have to look.

    All in all, these books are outrageous, imaginative stuff, and Wheatley is really good at the making the reader turn the page. I can certainly see the argument these books influenced Fleming moreso than Bulldog Drummond, though Gregory Sallust is consistently a more selfish, amoral, lazy and opportunistic character.
  • Sir Hillary BraySir Hillary Bray College of ArmsPosts: 2,172MI6 Agent
    Bel Canto
    Ann Patchett, 2001

    At the Vice President's mansion in an anonymous South American country (clearly modeled on Peru), a world-famous opera soprano is finishing a private concert for guests at the birthday party of a Japanese business mogul who may be planning to invest in the country. Suddenly, the proceedings are interrupted by the arrival of 18 armed guerrillas seeking to overthrow the government. Suffice it to say that a looooong standoff ensues between the hostage-takers and the government forces arrayed outside.

    It's obvious early on that the plot can only resolve itself in one way, so this is really about characters. Patchett does a great job of vividly drawing many of them to life -- the Vice President, the soprano, the mogul, his translator, a local priest, a French diplomat, a Russian civil servant, an unlucky Red Cross negotiator, and many of the ragtag band of guerrillas. As the situation drags on far longer than anyone had anticipated, unexpected alliances are formed, and unexpected talents are revealed.

    As with so many novels, it feels like the author struggled with how to end it, and in this case, the postscript didn't quite ring true for me. Still, this was an enjoyable and relatively quick read. The writing is beautiful.
    Hilly...you old devil!
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 32,229Chief of Staff
    They Used Dark Forces
    Dennis Wheatley, 1964

    This one takes us back in time to the closing days of World War II.
    Sallust is mostly trapped behind enemy lines for the last years of the war. At first he is sent to investigate what is going on in Peenemünde (that's where they launched the V2 rockets from!). But he breaks a leg and is kept hidden for the next several months by an occultist he has met.
    The lives of Sallust and Ibrahim Malacou are intertwined for the remaining 500 pages, telepathically linked in fact. Malacou is a Jew, passing as a Turk in Hitler's Germany, and lives in the ruins of a spooky old castle working out horoscopes and summoning the devil through unspeakable sex rituals with his tragic daughter.

    Over the course of the adventure, Sallust reunites with Sabine, the magnificent specimen from Conraband who is now Von Ribbentrop's mistress; gets himself incarcerated in a concentration camp while trying to escape; forms a double act with Malacou shamming seances for the entertainment of the Nazis; meets and befriends Goering; then finally is placed undercover in Hitler's bunker for the final days of the war.

    The Hitler's bunker sequence is the most interesting part of the book, we meet all the hideous backstabbing real life characters in Hitler's inner circle and see the real life devastation of Berlin in all the detail given to fictional London in Black August. Superstitious Hitler is relying on the occult advice given to him by Sallust and Malacou and is persuaded that he is destined to be reincarnated as a Martian interplanetary warlord, much better than merely conquering all of Europe. So of course to get to this next, even better life, he must commit suicide in his bunker!
    Then Sallust escapes Russian occupied Berlin with not one, but two hot babes (Sabine and Erika) and a presumably equally hot lady's maid, The End!


    It's a bit hard to appreciate in 2020, but Wheatley wrote this volume twenty years after his other WWII set Sallust adventures. He would not have known all this real life information about the inner circle when he was writing his earlier books. In the first page there is a long list of published sources he has relied on to synthesise the illusion.

    Alas, this is the last Wheatley volume in my to-read pile, and considering how long it took me to find the four I've now read, I dont expect to find the others any time soon. I wonder, since he's better known as an occult writer, if his spy books might sometimes get misfiled under Horror in some bookstores? I shall have to look.

    All in all, these books are outrageous, imaginative stuff, and Wheatley is really good at the making the reader turn the page. I can certainly see the argument these books influenced Fleming moreso than Bulldog Drummond, though Gregory Sallust is consistently a more selfish, amoral, lazy and opportunistic character.

    I hope you find some more soon. Would love to read them all again, but they're way down my list since I did just that ?10 years ago. Glad that you're enjoying Wheatley so much.
  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 2,765MI6 Agent
    Barbel wrote:
    Glad that you're enjoying Wheatley so much.
    I sure am Barbel, He's good at getting me to turn the page, and there's a whole lotta "I can't believe I just read that!!" moments that give the books extra value.



    May I just say, one reason I keep hanging round here is because of the recommendations:
    it is posters in this forum who persuaded me to read the Modesty Blaise books, the Flashman books (I think that was the long-lost Willie Garvin in both cases), to watch the Avengers and Danger Man, you yourself encouraged me to read Deighton and watch the Harry Palmer films....
    the Potts Library of Fine Films and Literature is soon going to need another wing because of all the books and movies that I find out about here!
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 32,229Chief of Staff
    Another successful mission!
  • Sir MilesSir Miles The Wrong Side Of The WardrobePosts: 25,440Chief of Staff
    Just finished The Beatles: All These Years. Vol.1 Tune In by Mark Lewisohn.

    I only ‘discovered’ this book whilst trawling YouTube - there is always something Beatles related at the top of the ‘recommends’ list for me…

    This first volume was published in 2013, with Vol.2 not due until 2021 at best :o so Vol.3 could be quite awhile off :#
    I managed to secure a copy from eBay (the American hardback version) and then waited for it to arrive.

    This is an absolute stunning read for anyone that is into The Beatles…although I’ll have to honest and confess I only managed to buy the abridged version (roughly 800 pages but with a further 160 pages of reference material)...oh, and that only covers them up to December 31st 1962 :o
    The wealth of stories and detail is phenomenal...I’m quite disappointed with myself for not buying the extended edition, I guess I will do that in due time.

    A truly magnificent read -{
    YNWA 97
  • The Spy Who Never DiesThe Spy Who Never Dies UKPosts: 644MI6 Agent
    Currently reading Jack Reacher - Without Fail.

    Someone is threatening to kill the VP of the US. Reacher gets involved to find out who and to stop it. I'm about half way through and it's really hotting up. I think I've figured out something that Reacher hasn't but I could be way off!
  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 2,765MI6 Agent
    A Perfect Spy
    le Carre, 1986

    In the previous volume The Little Drummer Girl, our heroine Charlie told people her father was a wealthy respectable con-artist who was sent to prison, leaving his family penniless, that's why she turned to radical leftwing politics. That backstory turns out to be a lie that Charlie has come to believe herself, yet ironically the image of a con-artist father was a non-fictional detail.


    In this volume, fully half the content (600pgs total) is the story of the protagonist's father, an upper-class-wanna-be con artist who is repeatedly sent to prison, and leaves his son struggling to get by due to "temporary problems of liquidity". Richard Pym is an associate of criminals, a big-spending charmer who rises to the heights of society. Pym gets his "liquidity" from such schemes as convincing widows to invest their inheritances in non-existent trust funds, which temporarily finance his lifestyle of fast cars, slow racehorses and ubiquitous "lovelies".

    Son Magnus inherits his father's charm and psychopathic dishonesty, but follows a different career path which rewards this skill set. He becomes a spy, specialising in Czechoslovak defectors. Magnus is really into betrayal, he seems to fetishize the act, as it recalls his most vivid childhood memories and he needs to betray to complete any relationship.

    Non-linear story structure is told in highly unreliable flashbacks, as Magnus disappears after attending his father's funeral, and holes up in a seaside rooming house to set down his memoirs. The espionage content is basically a framing device for the story of the father-son relationship, though it becomes more important towards the end.


    Essentially a fictionalised autobiography, except (hopefully) for the state treason part. Le Carre's real life father Ronnie Cornwell apparently was exactly like the character Richard Pym, and young le Carre followed a very similar career path to Magnus. I wonder if his erstwhile intelligence colleagues besieged his house after reading the final chapters of this book, in which all is revealed?
  • Lady RoseLady Rose London,UKPosts: 2,514MI6 Agent
    A Place of Execution by Val McDermid.

    The first time I've read one of her books and I'm not impressed.

    I read the first part of the book and was enjoying it, then I got to the second half. What a load of boring, repetitious padding. Ruined the story for me and I won't be reading any more of her books.
  • The Spy Who Never DiesThe Spy Who Never Dies UKPosts: 644MI6 Agent
    Has anyone read any Daniel Silva books about Gabriel Allon? If so, what's your opinion of them? I have The English Assassin and The English Spy but haven't read them yet or any others.
  • 00730073 COPPosts: 871MI6 Agent
    Number24 wrote:
    Ben Macintyre: The spy and the traitor

    Ben Macintyre's books are always informative and exciting, and this is probably one of his best. It's about Oleg Gordievsky, the KGB agent who secretly worked for the MI6 in the later part of the cold war. This may be the best non-fiction book in the spy genere I've ever read....

    I concur! One of the better books about real word espionage. I can honestly recommend this with out reservation!!
    "I mean, she almost kills bond...with her ass."
    -Mr Arlington Beech
  • Sir MilesSir Miles The Wrong Side Of The WardrobePosts: 25,440Chief of Staff
    0073 wrote:
    Number24 wrote:
    Ben Macintyre: The spy and the traitor

    Ben Macintyre's books are always informative and exciting, and this is probably one of his best. It's about Oleg Gordievsky, the KGB agent who secretly worked for the MI6 in the later part of the cold war. This may be the best non-fiction book in the spy genere I've ever read....

    I concur! One of the better books about real word espionage. I can honestly recommend this with out reservation!!

    It’s certainly on my to buy list....
    YNWA 97
  • SpectreOfDefeatSpectreOfDefeat Posts: 354MI6 Agent
    I'd recommend Macintyre's book on the early years of the SAS as well, some fascinating stuff there, like the tale of how Winston Churchill's son took part in secret SAS sabotage missions...
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 18,927MI6 Agent
    edited October 2020
    "The evening and the morning" by Ken Follett

    This is the prequel of Follett's sucess "The pillars of the earth" and it takes place in the same area of England, but around the year 1000. Follett, or someone he hired, has clearly done a lot of research. The differences between the early 12th century of Pillars and about 130 years earlier are interesting, such as marriage, slavery, the king's power vs the nobels etc.
    I recognize some themes from Pillars such as architecture, engineeering, sex scenes, heroes nicknamed "the Builder", evil bishops and statuesque and just noblewomen. Here is an extract that could only come from a historical novel by Ken Follett: "That night they made love five times. Edgar had not known it was possible, for him or anyone. They did it once, then a second time; then they dozed for a while and did it again. In the middle of the night Edgard's mind wandered, and he thought about architecture and King's Bridge and Wynstan and Wiglem, then he remembered he was with Ragna at last and she was in his arms, and he wanted to make love again and so did she, so they did it a fourth time." :))
    But Follett is a very skilled writer who knows how to make the story and character come alive. I read the more than 800 pages in under a week and anyone who likes a good story told well and especially if it's set hundreds of years ago you can't go wrong with tis novel.
  • Lady RoseLady Rose London,UKPosts: 2,514MI6 Agent
    The Shape of Night by Tess Gerritsen

    I usually love Tess Gerritsen novels but this latest novel however, was a bit of a disappointment. Very bland and generic. It also contains
    some strange goings on even for her. I also guessed who the culprit was about half way through.

    Not one of her best.
  • Golrush007Golrush007 South AfricaPosts: 3,174Quartermasters
    I finished reading Masters of the Air by Donald L. Miller, a history of the US 8th Air Force's bombing campaign in WWII. The aviation side of World War II is one of my lifelong interests and I found this a vivid and engaging narrative of the massive aerial battles over the Reich. An added bit of interest with this read was the knowledge that a Spielberg-Hanks miniseries has been in development for years and is apparently due to start shooting early next year. I can't wait to see these bombing missions rendered on screen with the aid of today's technology in the hands of people who genuinely care about presenting historical combat in a realistic style. A Bond related aside, Fukunaga was apparently announced as one the directors for the miniseries.
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 18,927MI6 Agent
    "Blue moon" by Lee Child.

    This is the newest Jack Reacher novel, I think. As usual Reacher enters a small town and helps someone, in this case an old man who is about to be robbed. It turns out the man and his wife have loaned far too much money from local gangsters to pay for their terminally ill daughter's treatment. The town is devided in half between Ukrainian and Albanian gansters. Reacher starts playing them against each other, Joiimbo-style. The Reacher novels are always good entertainment and "Blue moon" is no exception.
  • Sir MilesSir Miles The Wrong Side Of The WardrobePosts: 25,440Chief of Staff
    Number24 wrote:
    "Blue moon" by Lee Child.

    This is the newest Jack Reacher novel, I think. As usual Reacher enters a small town and helps someone, in this case an old man who is about to be robbed. It turns out the man and his wife have loaned far too much money from local gangsters to pay for their terminally ill daughter's treatment. The town is devided in half between Ukrainian and Albanian gansters. Reacher starts playing them against each other, Joiimbo-style. The Reacher novels are always good entertainment and "Blue moon" is no exception.

    I read this earlier this year, quite enjoyable...the Reacher novels are very easy reading - which isn’t a bad thing...it’s the last Reacher novel that Lee Child will write alone...he shared duties on the recently published The Sentinel with his brother, who now takes over sole writing duties...
    YNWA 97
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 18,927MI6 Agent
    A shame really. How will Lee spend his days?
  • The Spy Who Never DiesThe Spy Who Never Dies UKPosts: 644MI6 Agent
    I recently finished the first Jack Reacher book, Killing Floor. I enjoy the Reacher books but I found some of the violence, in this one, too graphic for my taste.
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