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  • Golrush007Golrush007 South AfricaPosts: 3,418Quartermasters

    I recently finished the first Moneypenny Diaries novel, and I must say it was a pretty good read. I wasn't excited by the idea when it was first announced sometime in the mid-noughties but I've heard mostly positive reviews over the years and now that I've read the first installment I'd agree with the positive consensus. It's a well thought out, detailed and intriguing tangent to the Fleming novels and I like that the first novel deals with the Cuban Missile Crisis - one of the seminal real world thrillers of the previous century. I guess I'll always prefer a more conventional Bond-centric novel, but the Moneypenny Diaries concept was certainly a much better one than I initially gave it credit for. I may well find myself reading further diaries in future. (I did also read the two short stories that are freely available on Kindle as well.)

    Currently I'm busy with a re-read of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. It's always great revisiting a bona-fide spy classic. This was a book that I initially tried to read in the early days of my literary Bond exploration. Perhaps predictably I put it aside after 3 chapters went by without any sort of Bond-style action. I eventually read Tinker Tailor after seeing the trailer for the 2011 film, and I managed to read the book before going to the cinema to see the movie. And I enjoyed the book a lot on that read through. I'm enjoying it at least twice as much on the re-read now, being much more familiar with Le Carre's work these days.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,220MI6 Agent

    Some COVID reading:

    THE LEOPRAD by Thomasi di Lampedusa (1958)

    Giuseppe Tomasi was the Prince of Lampedusa, a Sicilian nobleman, born in 1896, who spent the last years of his life attempting to publish his masterwork: The Leopard. He died in 1957, a year before the book’s eventual publication, so he never saw its success and fame. The Leopard is a superb historical masterpiece, tracing a year [and some] in the life of Fabrizio, Prince of Salina, and his extended family and retinue. He rules over thousands of acres and hundreds of people, and attempts to reconcile the tempestuous present of 1860/61 to the past he reveres and the future he fears. Lampedusa as an author is a touch old-fashioned; he likes to tell not show and many internal monologues explain the Prince’s thoughts and actions. In a lesser hand, this might be a disadvantage, but Lampedusa has such a firm grasp of his central characters that we become embroiled in their personalities and ambitions, we come to understand the delicate socio-political balance the Prince enacts with peasant and peer alike. The splendour of his surroundings is not tainted by the life of squalor which supports it, an equally refined caste of its own, exemplified by the princely conciliatory work of the calm Jesuit priest, Pirrone.

    The novel is packed full of quiet observations and close detail. It never outstays its welcome. The dusty journey to Donnafugata, the Salina family estate, becomes a journey both into the past and the future as Fabrizio learns to deal with his new neighbours, a nouveaux riche of some distaste, while preserving his own privileged status. This is maintained through the age-old tradition of marriage, the new wedding to the old and creating a fresh generation of unified Italians, exemplified by the extravagant autumnal ball held in Palermo, where the Prince recognises some of his old acquaintances are as gauche as his new ones.

    The great Prince becomes tortured by notions of failure. The eleven page chapter Lampedusa devotes to Fabrizio’s death is one of the great melancholic monologues: “The significance of a noble family lies entirely in its traditions, that is in its vital memories; and he was the last to have any unusual memories, anything different from those of other families.” Meanwhile, the final chapter, an extended epilogue, reminds us that these days and memories have vanished. The Salina Daughters, all spinsters, have procured a host of relics, in part to memorialise their family which no longer retains political or social influence, merely a religious station. By 1910, this false maintenance too is coming ti a close. The Salina Family, the house of the Leopard, has entered its terminal decline, but Lampedusa creates a stupendous series of metaphorical images to remind us of the never-changing landscape of Sicily. The stuffed hide of Bendico, the hunting dog, is the sole remnant the Princess Concetta keeps from those hot summers at Donnafugata; she decides to dispose of it along with the fake relics. Magically, the whiskers of the hound become the bearded Prince, which in turn becomes the Leopard, itself confined to the past when “all found peace in a little heap of dust.” It is as good a closing paragraph as Fitzgerald’s for The Great Gatsby.

    The Leopard is a monumental work of passionate and intelligent prose, demanding we consider character over incident, tradition over modernity, science and wisdom over religious conviction. A stunning achievement which ought to be more widely admired.

       

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,105MI6 Agent

    EDGE #7: CALIFORNIA KILLING (1974) by George G Gilman

    This spaghetti Western influenced series was the best selling title that encompassed the era of the Piccadilly Cowboys - a group of British authors who never ventured outside of London, but who wrote over 300 westerns during the 70’s and 80’s. I am doggedly ploughing my way through them all - it’s pulp Western fiction at it’s finest - full of action and period detail, so much that you can taste the dust in the streets of the towns that are deliciously described. This one takes place in what will become Hollywood but is called The Town With No Name for now. Lots of fun is to be had with character names such as Cooper, Brosnon, Wayne, Elam etc. It’s insanely violent as our anti-hero Edge sorts out the bad guys.

    Terry Harknett, who wrote the Edge series, passed away a few years back, and although I never met him we did correspond by email when he was in a nursing home in Dorset, he told me that he was always astounded at how popular his books were and that he was able to make a living from writing them. He leaves a lasting legacy of work and I will always be grateful to him as I sold countless thousands of his books over the years.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • Napoleon PluralNapoleon Plural LondonPosts: 10,262MI6 Agent

    What happened to that saucy old book covers thread? Did it run its course?

    "This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

    Roger Moore 1927-2017
  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,660MI6 Agent

    That thread's still in existence. It's just not been active since May and has fallen down the Off-Topic list as a result:

    https://www.ajb007.co.uk/discussion/54696/book-covers#latest

    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,105MI6 Agent

    @Napoleon Plural and @Silhouette Man Yes, I thought that it had run its course, there was little or no feedback and the “views’ counter had stagnated, so in the time honoured fashion of diminishing returns, I decided to stop posting any more. It wasn’t exclusively for me to post covers though, so anyone else can do so and if it reignites then I’m more than happy to post some more. Same thing happened with the movie poster thread I started.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • ThunderpussyThunderpussy Behind you !Posts: 63,792MI6 Agent

    Working my way through the Clive Cussler Books, not in any particular order, The latest adventure "Iceberg".

    As with all Cussler's Dirk Pitt Novels, It's a ripping yarn full of Mystery, Swashbuckling and action. Some of

    the language is a little dated and perhaps would be " Problematic " for todays' world.

    "I've been informed that there ARE a couple of QAnon supporters who are fairly regular posters in AJB."
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,220MI6 Agent

    I read a couple of his. The earliest Dirk Pitt's I think. Raise the Titanic and Vixen 3. They were okay. Good adventure stories.

  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,746MI6 Agent

    "With a mind to kill" by Antony Horowitz.

    In my opinion this is probably the best JB continuation novel. It's unusual because it takes place mostly in the USSR and DDR and psycology and Bond's state of mind plays such a big role. It was time Bond for to operate on "the enemy's" home turn, but it's hard to find glamour in 1960's Russia. Horowitz does his best, using locations like the Moscow underground and the Red Arrow train.

    The villand are good (in a bad way ...), even though not among the most memorable. The Bond girl (there is only one) starts out as a very negative character and we are left quessing for a long time.

    The great positives are the suspenseful plot and the great sense of time and location. Horowitz has clearly done his homework on the USSR and DDR at that point in time. The action scenes are we'll made. Perhaps the most movie-like action scenes is ser on a famous bridge and shares the location and some of the action with one of Someone's fan fiction "scripts". Well done Someone!

    Well worth read!

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,154Chief of Staff

    I found it the weakest of his trilogy, though that still leaves it well ahead of Boyd/Foulks/Deaver. Shame he apparently isn't doing more.

  • Golrush007Golrush007 South AfricaPosts: 3,418Quartermasters

    I tried to rank the Horowitz Bonds after I finished With a Mind to Kill, and found it to be a difficult task, because I've only read each of them once and with a gap of several years between each...but I think that Trigger Mortis would be my number one, Initially I thought I might rank WAMTK ahead of FAAD, but I'm not so sure now. My biggest gripe with FAAD was that the villain's scheme was copied and pasted from Kananga's scheme in LALD if I remember correctly.

  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,746MI6 Agent

    Today is the release of Jo Nesbø's 13th Harry Hole novel. I haven't seen any English title yet, but it'll probably be "Blood moon". The story starts in California and the reviews are good.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,220MI6 Agent

    I read a Jo Nesbo book once, something about a teenage faith healer who turned psycho. I thought it was a horrid little number.

  • Sir MilesSir Miles The Wrong Side Of The WardrobePosts: 26,480Chief of Staff

    I’ve read every Jo Nesbø book (I think 🤔)…definitely all the Harry Hole novels…they vary in quality but none have been poor…

    YNWA 97
  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,660MI6 Agent

    I watched the film version of The Snowman starring Michael Fassbender as Harry Hole on DVD a few years ago and it was truly awful. I was looking forward to seeing it but I gather its awfulness has more to do with the writing, directing and editing of the film itself than any defects in the source novel, which isn't even the first in the series.

    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,746MI6 Agent

    That's correct. The movie was awful. Fassbender never read the book and the director discovered they hadn't filmed some key scenes when they returned from location shooting in Norway. I like it when a movie is shot on location because you get a sense of the place. This director on the other hand thought people are too stupid to understand that a car with blue lights marked "Politi" is a police car, so he changed the signs to English. The best Norwegian directors and actors could've made a much better film.

  • Sir MilesSir Miles The Wrong Side Of The WardrobePosts: 26,480Chief of Staff

    Definitely this ^^

    The film is a total waste…

    YNWA 97
  • Silhouette ManSilhouette Man The last refuge of a scoundrelPosts: 8,660MI6 Agent
    edited September 2022

    Yes, and sadly it's probably put paid to any plans to film any of the other Harry Hole novels which is a shame. I've heard that The Snowman is not even one of the best books in the series either.

    "The tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,220MI6 Agent

    THE SECRET SERVANT by Gavin Lyall (1980)

    There was a long gap between Judas Country and The Secret Servant. I’m not sure what Gavin Lyall’s personal circumstances were at this time, but even for an author not renowned for his prolificacy five years does seem a very long time to wait before producing your ninth novel.

    It’s well worth the wait, however. Lyall introduces us to Major Harry Maxim, an SAS officer trained in enemy reconnaissance and combat who is seconded to No.10 Downing Street at the specific request of the Prime Minister to plug a series of damaging security leaks. Maxim quickly proves his worth by defusing a bomb, but struggles with civil diplomacy and the Secret Service’s expectations. He even forgets to take his gun to a suspicious rendezvous which leads to chaos on the streets of London as he battles Soviet Bloc spies who wish to recapture a defecting agent.

    Lyall is spot on with his observations of the English [yes, I stress English] civil service practice as well as the tighter points of gunsmithery, cars, planes, knives and a fair dab of espionage. It’s all nominally make-believe, but the fact you do believe it is what makes The Secret Servant so successful. The plot twists and turns and while there is sporadic and nasty bouts of action as well as some sensually smooth sex, Maxim’s role is more one of an investigator than a trouble shooter. The involvement of MI5, through the boisterous female division head Agnes Algar, as well as George Harbinger, the PM’s uptight half-drunk Private Secretary and seeming head of internal security, creates a nice triangle of characters who perform everyday duties alongside a wider context, that of an unsubstantiated threat to the Cold War peace talks. Maxim is at the spearhead, but he always has appropriate political backup. A series of tense meetings in offices, pubs, clubs, houses and cars hint at the clandestine nature of Maxim’s work. It’s rather John Le Carre and I wondered if Lyall had spent time reading those Circus / Smiley adventures and deciding to tread a more realistic, hard-nosed path for his thrillers.

    Such as it is, the plot involves a stolen and now missing document which may implicate NATO’s head nuclear strategist, Professor John Tyler, in war crimes. Like the best thriller heroes, Maxim spends most of the story hunting for the document while encounters with summary villains, aides and interested parties expands his knowledge of past and present events, allowing him to solve the puzzle despite death and bloodshed. It is a little convoluted, but that doesn’t hurt and the end came as a surprise which, given the amount of reading I’ve done of these kind of books, was exceedingly refreshing.

    Maxim has a back story including a murdered wife and a fostered son. Lyall explains this efficiently, dwelling enough for us to understand without extraneous detail. We pant for more, I guess, and perhaps in later adventures more will come to light. Unlike all Lyall’s other novels, his hero is a secret agent, albeit not exactly a spy and this allows the author to project a more cohesive persona. Maxim is considerably less wordy than Lyall’s usual fare; his droll humour better suited to the environment; in fact there’s less of that which is a bonus. Maxim’s army training also helps us believe he can make the decisions and carry out the military style tasks he does.

    This is a splendid, short and involving read and I’d recommend it. The best of Gavin Lyall yet.     

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,105MI6 Agent

    TITANIC THOMPSON: THE MAN WHO BET ON EVERYTHING by Kevin Cook (2010)

    This is an extremely readable biography of a real life charismatic gentleman grifter and hustler. In prohibition America, Thompson travels the continent winning and cheating in pool halls, poker rooms and golf courses. After years of practice he has mastered con tricks to perfection, along the way he kills five men, “who all had coming”, and married five teenaged girls. It does all seem far fetched a times but the situations he finds himself in are very colourful and there is enough information out there to see that most of this is true. It’s a riotously good read and recommended, it would make an excellent mini-series.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • 00730073 COPPosts: 985MI6 Agent

    Mask of Dimitrios on a trip to Istanbul. 😀

    Haven't finished it yet, but when I have I'll let you know how it was.

    "I mean, she almost kills bond...with her ass."
    -Mr Arlington Beech
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,154Chief of Staff

    Very neat 😉. Was that planned or just coincidence?

  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 3,924MI6 Agent

    0073 said:

    Mask of Dimitrios on a trip to Istanbul. 😀

    ______________

    did you go to Istanbul to meet a sexy Russian defector? be careful on the train ride back home.

  • 00730073 COPPosts: 985MI6 Agent

    Planned, as soon as I heard that IST is in the cards, I ordered a copy through my book store. 😁

    "I mean, she almost kills bond...with her ass."
    -Mr Arlington Beech
  • 00730073 COPPosts: 985MI6 Agent

    As a matter of fact I did meet a sexy Russian, but alas she was NOT interested in me, nor in defecting. Since this was the case, I flew back home. As she did not confine to me her contact details, I can not get an update on her interest in defecting now that the mobilization is in full swing....

    "I mean, she almost kills bond...with her ass."
    -Mr Arlington Beech
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,746MI6 Agent

    Yes. Things are going so badly in Russia they're lining up to defect to Finland. 😁

  • Napoleon PluralNapoleon Plural LondonPosts: 10,262MI6 Agent

    I'm about to read With a Mind to Kill - the new Bond novel. The large print is a bit off-putting, as is one reference to 'sightseeing' round the Kremlin - that's not a Fleming word, is it? But the opening paragraph looks sound.

    It's from the library.

    "This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

    Roger Moore 1927-2017
  • ThunderpussyThunderpussy Behind you !Posts: 63,792MI6 Agent

    Working my way through a few Andy McNab thrillers about an SAS soldier Tom Buckingham

    Red Notice, Fortress and State of Emergency. I image a young Lewis Collins as Tom. Good

    thrillers, very enjoyable.

    "I've been informed that there ARE a couple of QAnon supporters who are fairly regular posters in AJB."
  • The Red KindThe Red Kind EnglandPosts: 3,123MI6 Agent

    Keep meaning to read those, TP. Have read some Chris Ryan novels. I imagine they're pretty similar?

    Have only read Bravo Two Zero. Along with half the male population!

    "Any of the opposition around..?"
  • ThunderpussyThunderpussy Behind you !Posts: 63,792MI6 Agent

    I agree, I have also bought a few Chris Ryan Books on my Kindle but haven't got round to reading them yet

    "I've been informed that there ARE a couple of QAnon supporters who are fairly regular posters in AJB."
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