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Thriller? September 24, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Fredierick Forsyth to stop writing thrillers, said the headline in the Guardian. Thought he did that years ago. Ba dum tish!

I liked Day of the Jackel and the Odessa File was a neat thriller.

But Forsyth’s works following those two were, to my mind, not great. What I also disliked was that in a genre where quite a number of mildly subversive authors were in evidence he displayed remarkably little cynicism about the wheres and wheretofors of espionage or geopolitics. Len Deighton, as noted before on this site, is hardly a man of the left, but his books were strongly inflected by an awareness of how class operates. And likewise a range of authors from Ambler on. Forsyth, it will hardly come as a surprise is an anti-EU Tory.

Of course one cannot read thrillers without coming across reactionary attitudes. But a number of writers I’ve liked enormously – Craig Thomas comes to mind, Ted Allbeury too, would also be conservative, albeit small ‘c’ conservative. Forsyth though always rubbed me up the wrong way.

Oddly if there’s one of his works I do like it was the little aerial ghost story – The Shepherd (illustrated by Chris Foss no less) from the mid-70s.


1. An Sionnach Fionn - September 24, 2016

To my mind Forsyth’s worse offence – so-so thrillers aside – was his eagerness to become a UK spy while working as a journalist. And then to boast about it for the last two decades. Journalists are legitimised as targets thanks to Forsyth and co.


WorldbyStorm - September 24, 2016

100% agree


2. Michael Carley - September 24, 2016

Was The Fourth Protocol the one where the Militant were agents of Moscow?


WorldbyStorm - September 24, 2016

IIRC yes. And there’s one that I seem to recall, could be that one, where Zia takes a phone from a thinly disguised Thatcher in respect to Soviet air force manoeuvres.Not that that’s entirely unrealistic but the way it was written was in my memory grim.


3. soubresauts - September 24, 2016

Graham Greene’s 1978 novel The Human Factor is thrilling, chilling, and beautifully written. Greene had worked for Kim Philby in MI6 and he knew what’s what.


Liberius - September 24, 2016

Like that one, it’s got that pensive quality that is missing from the more conventional spy stuff, also, it’s soaked in spirits, which is something I’ve always liked in fiction.

I’ve been listening to the BBC radio adaptions of Chandler’s Marlowe novels starring Toby Stephens, which are currently going out every Saturday on BBC Radio 4 Extra, That’s also soaked in spirits, lovely.


WorldbyStorm - September 24, 2016

Have you read Julian Rathbone Liberius. He’s some of that quality in his better books. And very left wing too.


Liberius - September 25, 2016

I haven’t, though his stuff looks interesting, might be something for the future once my already over stuffed list dwindles a bit.


ejh - September 25, 2016

I read The Big Sleep last year and I was struck by the violence against women taking place within it.

This summer I had the misfortune to read Dashiel Hammett’s The Glass Key which may have been the worst novel I have read since the year began with 1. It was during a ferry crossing and had I thrown it overboard it might have been better, not just for me but for anybody else who might otherwise come across my copy in the future.


WorldbyStorm - September 25, 2016

It is amazing, and I’ve had that experience too, reading back novels from the 30s and 40s and seeing the sheer misogyny in them. Or rather it’s unexpected how bad it is


Michael Carley - September 25, 2016

I was amazed by the anti-semitidm in the 39 Steps.


4. lamentreat - September 25, 2016

Forsyth’s first three books were well informed, he was a good journalist in that way at least. I think Day of the Jackal was first to publicize the “birth certificate of a dead child” trick for getting a new identity. There were always a few nuggets in them like that, kind of trivial but interesting, particularly back when things couldn’t just be googled.

Later, he settled into being a pernicious moron, performing himself on TV.

The best version of a Cold War thriller I’ve read is James Buchan’s “Heart’s Journey in Winter”. It’s superb.


WorldbyStorm - September 25, 2016

I just can’t stretch to Dogs of War. But yeah, when he were younger there was some interesting stuff squirrelled away in his writing.


WorldbyStorm - September 25, 2016

By the way that Buchan book looks good.


5. roddy - September 25, 2016

Apparently someone called Jenny O’Leary does a great line in fiction too.


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