Title:                      Blown

Author:                  Francine Mathews

Mathews, Francine (2005). Blown. New York: Bantam Books

LCCN:    2004046208

PS3563.A8357 B58 2005


Date Posted:      April 19, 2017


More spooky derring-do from CIA intelligence analyst Caroline Carmichael (The Cutout[2], 2004) as she tracks the baddest terrorist organization on earth.

It’s called 30 April, and it’s run by sociopaths who make garden-variety fanaticism seem beneficent. What can one say, for instance—wonders a hard-pressed good guy—about people who regard a young mother’s agonizing death by poison as an occasion for high-fiving? And she was one of nearly a thousand similarly victimized that ghastly day. Disaffected, dangerously demented Daniel Becker, 30 April disciple, did yeoman work during the running of Washington’s Marine Corps Marathon. In disguise, pretending to man a water-relief station, he managed to dispense a cell-mangling bean-mash derivative called ricin in sufficient quantities to qualify as a world-class mass murderer. And the thing is Caroline and her colleagues had every reason to believe 30 April was history, wiped out during a gun fight to which Caroline had been central—an extinction vastly exaggerated, they now learn, applying only to the European version. 30 April, American style, was alive and vicious, vowing death to POTUS and others in high places, including Caroline herself—just retribution, an eye for an eye: “Remember Waco. Remember Ruby Ridge, and the murder of the patriot Tim McVeigh,” that’s the blood-curdling mantra contained in a fax to the Washington Post. In the meantime, Caroline has domestic problems of a different sort. FBI agent—and fellow 30 April task force member—Tom Shephard is hopelessly in love with her, an unwanted complication inasmuch as she’s deeply in love with her super-spy husband, currently out in the cold in Germany, cover blown sky-high—by his boss and hers.

Tightly plotted and, aside from occasional infelicities, decently written: “. . . all his rage and love in his face.” But what keeps the pages turning is the tough, tender, often out-gunned, always battling Caroline.

[1] Kirkus, downloaded April 19, 2017

[2] Mathews, Francine (2001). The Cutout. New York: Bantam Books

An Honorable Man

Title:                      An Honorable Man

Author:                 Paul Vidich

Vidich, Paul (2016). An Honorable Man. New York: Atria Books

LCCN:    2015007547

PS3622.I37 H66 2016


  • “This gripping first novel in a spy thriller series, set in Washington D.C. at the height of the Red Scare, investigates a double agent in the CIA whose betrayals threaten to compromise the two lead investigators, the Agency, and the entire nation” — Provided by publisher.


Date Posted:      March 24, 2017

Review by Jefferson Flanders[1]

Paul Vidich has set his first novel in 1953 Washington, D.C., during the early Eisenhower Administration, when Sen. Joseph McCarthy represented a powerful presence in the Capital, and the FBI sought to surface clandestine Soviet agents in the government. The protagonist of An Honorable Man is a burnt-out CIA agent, George Mueller, who has been assigned to a team hunting for a mole, code named Protocol, inside the Agency. CIA officials want to catch the double agent without alerting the witch hunters in Congress. As the investigation begins, Mueller realizes that he may not be above suspicion himself—and finding the penetration agent is the only way to clear his own name.

An Honorable Man is a solid, and entertaining, spy thriller. Mueller and the supporting characters are well-drawn. Vidich handles the action scenes in the novel with aplomb, although at least one—set at a Russian Embassy summer house—seems a bit forced. Nonetheless, An Honorable Man‘s intricate plot turns will keep the reader guessing at the identity of the “traitor within” until the very end.

Some advance reviewers have likened Vidich to John le Carré (the lazy clichéd comparison often used for espionage novelists). In fact, Vidich’s noirish prose style is closer to Olen Steinhauer’s, and for plot twists he borrows more from Raymond Chandler than le Carré.

[1] Jefferson Flanders, Top Spy Thrillers and Espionage Novels of 2016, downloaded March 24, 2017

The Loo Sanction

Title:                      The Loo Sanction

Author:                 Trevanian

Trevanian (1973) [pseud. Rodney William Whitaker]. The Loo Sanction. New York: Crown Publishers

LCCN:    73082951

PZ4.T8135 Lo


Date Posted:      January 24, 2017


Trevanian, you’ll remember, can keep up with the old Len Deighton and this is the second appearance of Jonathan Hemlock, ex C11-art critic who finds a still life in the loo, his. This also has something to do with inter-organizational activities and with a Loo organization, run by a Vicar, and sanctions which are assassinations (bodies used as covers or the means of leaking the wrong information) and a girl called Maggie Coyne. You’ll miss her—he does. In a word, irreducible, with the decisively punchy, stylish clout as before.


[1] Kirkus, downloaded January 24, 2017

Best Spy Novels

Title:                      Best Spy Novels

Author:                 Good Reads

Date Posted:      January 10, 2017

Date Updated:  June 7, 2017

The following books were listed by Goodreads ( as the best 100 spy books they recommend. Caveat. Perpendat itaque lector cavendum (civilis).[1] Some readers will not accept book, such as Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books as valid “spy novels.” I have included all items on the list because they involve some element of espionage, from assassination to government conspiracies.

The best spy novels from the 20th and 21st centuries.

  1. Le Carré, John (1974). Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. London: Hodder and Stoughton
  2. Ludlum, Robert (1980). The Bourne Identity . New York: R. Marek Publishers
  3. Le Carré, John (1964). The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. New York, Coward-McCann
  4. Clancy, Tom (1984). The Hunt for Red October .Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press
  5. Forsyth, Frederick (1971). The Day of the Jackal. New York, Viking Press
  6. Larsson, Stieg (2008). The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo. London: MacLehose Press
  7. Follett, Ken (1978). Eye of the Needle. New York: Arbor House
  8. Le Carré, John (1980). Smiley’s People. New York: Knopf
  9. Flynn, Vince (2011). American Assassin: A Thriller. New York: Pocket Books
  10. Forsyth, Frederick (1972). The Odessa File. New York: Viking Press
  11. Clancy, Tom (1988). Patriot Games. New York: Putnam
  12. Greene, Graham (1958, 2007). Our Man in Havana. New York: Penguin
  13. Clancy, Tom (1989). Clear and Present Danger. New York: Putnam
  14. Smith, Martin Cruz (1981). Gorky Park. New York: Random House
  15. Ludlum, Robert (1990). The Bourne Ultimatum. New York : Random House
  16. Brown, Dan (2004). The Da Vinci Code. New York : Doubleday
  17. Clancy, Tom (1986). Red Storm Rising. New York: Putnam
  18. Fleming, Ian (1957, 1981). From Russia with Love. Geneva: Edito-Service
  19. Clancy, Tom (1988). Cardinal of the Kremlin. New York: Putnam
  20. Sewell, William (2013). Nonofficial Asset: The Iran Affair. Bloomington, IN: Authorhouse
  21. Silva, Daniel (2000). The Kill Artist: A Novel. New York : Random House
  22. Larsson, Stieg (2009). The Girl Who Played with Fire. New York: Alfred A. Knopf
  23. Le Carré, John (1977). The Honourable Schoolboy. London: Hodder and Stoughton
  24. Fleming, Ian (1954). Casino Royale. New York: Macmillan
  25. Morcan, James (2011) and Lance Morcan. The Ninth Orphan. Papamoa, N.Z.: Sterling Gate Books
  26. Higgins, Jack (1975). The Eagle Has Landed. London: Collins
  27. Le Carré, John(1989). The Russia House. New York: Knopf
  28. Buchan, John (1915, 1935). The Thirty-Nine Steps. London: W. Blackwood & Sons
  29. Child, Lee (1997). The Killing Floor. New York: Putnam
  30. Greene, Graham (1955, 2004). The Quiet American. New York: Penguin Books
  31. Le Carrè, John (1986). A Perfect Spy. New York: Knopf
  32. DeMille, Nelson (1988). The Charm School. New York, NY: Warner Books
  33. Clancy, Tom (1993). Without Remorse. New York: Putnam
  34. Flynn, Vince (2004). Memorial Day. New York: Atria Books
  35. Baldacci, David (1996, 2016). Absolute Power. New York: Grand Central Publishing
  36. Fleming, Ian (1981). Goldfinger. Geneva: Edito-Service
  37. Flynn, Vince (1999, 2015). Transfer of Power. New York: Pocket Books
  38. Clancy, Tom (1991). The Sum of All Fears. New York: Putnam
  39. Forsyth, Frederick (1974). The Dogs of War. London: Hutchinson
  40. Matthews, Jason (2013). Red Sparrow: A Novel. New York: Scribner
  41. Flynn, Vince (2001). Separation of Power. New York: Pocket Books
  42. Berenson, Alex (2006). The Faithful Spy. New York: Random House
  43. Morcan, James (2012) and Lance Morcan. The Orphan Factory. Papamoa, N.Z: Sterling Gate Books
  44. Silva, Daniel (2011). Portrait of a Spy. New York: Harper
  45. Grady, James (1974). Six Days of The Condor. New York: Norton
  46. Conrad, Joseph (1907, 2007). The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale. New York: New American Library
  47. Le Carré, John (2004). The Little Drummer Girl. New York: Scribner
  48. Steinhauer, Olen (2009). The Tourist. New York: Minotaur Books
  49. Flynn, Vince (2006, 2007). Consent to Kill. New York: Pocket Books
  50. Silva, Daniel (2002). The English Assassin. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
  51. Deighton, Len (1983, 2012). Berlin Game. New York: Sterling
  52. Robbie, Vic (2012). In Pursuit of Platinum: The Shocking Secret of World War II. Los Gatos: Smashwords Edition
  53. Ludlum, Robert (2003). The Bourne Trilogy. London: Orion
  54. Flynn, Vince (2000). The Third Option. New York: Pocket Books
  55. Fleming, Ian (1963). On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. New York: American Library
  56. DeMille, Nelson (1997). Plum Island. New York: Warner Books
  57. Follett, Ken (1980). The Key to Rebecca. New York, NY: Morrow
  58. Forsyth, Frederick (1985). The Fourth Protocol. New York: Viking
  59. Baldacci, David (2005). The Camel Club. New York: Warner Books
  60. Baldacci, David (2012). The Innocent. New York: Grand Central Publishing
  61. Fleming, Ian (1954). Live and Let Die. London: J. Cape
  62. Le Carré, John (1996). The Tailor of Panama. New York: Alfred A. Knopf
  63. Fleming, Ian (1958, 1968). No. London: Cape
  64. Trevanian (1979, 2005). Shibumi: A Novel. New York: Three Rivers Press
  65. Deighton, Len (1962). The IPCRESS File. New York, Simon and Schuster
  66. Littell, Robert (2002). The Company: A Novel of the CIA. New York: Overlook Press.
  67. Le Carré, John (1965). The Looking–Glass War. London, Heinemann
  68. Clancy, Tom(1994). Debt of Honor. New York: Putnam
  69. Clancy, Tom (1996). Executive Orders. New York: Putnam
  70. Child, Lee (2005). One Shot. New York: Delacorte Press
  71. Hayes, Terry (2014). I Am Pilgrim: A Thriller. New York: Emily Bestler Books/Atria Books
  72. Clark, Norm (2013). The Saladin Strategy. publisher not identified
  73. Gallagher, Michael James (2014). Tsunami Connection: A Kefira Mossad Thriller. Kindle edition
  74. Silva, Daniel (2009). The Defector. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons
  75. Ludlum, Robert (1986). The Bourne Supremacy. Franklin Center, PA: Franklin Library
  76. Furst, Alan (1988). Night Soldiers. Boston: Houghton Mifflin
  77. Flynn, Vince (2008). Extreme Measures: A Thriller. New York: Atria Books
  78. Morcan, James (2013) and Lance Morcan. The Orphan Uprising. Papamoa, N.Z.: Sterling Gate Books Ltd
  79. Le Carré, John (2001). The Constant Gardener: A Novel. New York: Scribner
  80. Le Carré, John [pseud. for David John More Cornwall] (1962, 2102). Call for the Dead. New York : Penguin Books
  81. Silva, Daniel (2012). The Fallen Angel. New York: Harper
  82. Fleming, Ian (1961). Thunderball. London, J. Cape
  83. Silva, Daniel (2008). Moscow Rules. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
  84. Deighton, Len (1984, 2012). Mexico Set. New York: Sterling
  85. Child, Lee (1998). Die Trying. New York: Putnam
  86. Flynn, Vince (1997). Term Limits. New York: Pocket Books
  87. Flynn, Vince (2012). The Last Man: A Thriller. New York: Emily Bestler Books/Atria Books
  88. Silva, Daniel (2010). The Rembrandt Affair. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
  89. Child, Lee (2007). Bad Luck And Trouble. New York: Delacorte Press
  90. Furst, Alan (2006). The Foreign Correspondent: A Novel. New York: Random House
  91. Silva, Daniel (2006). The Messenger. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
  92. Clancy, Tom (2002). Red Rabbit. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
  93. Greene, Graham (1943, 1950). The Third Man. New York, Viking Press
  94. Le Carré, John (1962, 2012). A Murder of Quality. New York: Penguin Books
  95. Childers, Erskine (1903, 2005). The Riddle of The Sands: A Record of Secret Service. New York: Barnes & Noble Books
  96. Lustbader, Eric (2004). Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne In The Bourne Legacy: A Novel. New York: St. Martin’s Press
  97. DeMille, Nelson (2007). Up Country: A Novel. New York: Grand Central Pub.
  98. Greene, Graham (1943). The Ministry of Fear: an entertainment. New York: The Viking Press
  99. Child, Lee (2010). 61 Hours. New York: Delacorte Press
  100. Ambler, Eric (1939, 1996). A Coffin for Dimitrios. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers

[1] On occasion, personal loyalties and opinions can be carved in stone and defended with a vengeance — at times with some venom thrown in. In these situations, the actual importance of the subject matter is dwarfed by the amount of aggression expressed. Retain a sense of proportion in all online and in-person discussions. [From The Intelligencer: Journal of U. S. Intelligence Studies.]


[1] On occasion, personal loyalties and opinions can be carved in stone and defended with a vengeance — at times with some venom thrown in. In these situations, the actual importance of the subject matter is dwarfed by the amount of aggression expressed. Retain a sense of proportion in all online and in-person discussions. [From The Intelligencer: Journal of U. S. Intelligence Studies.]

London Match

Title:                      London Match

Author:                 Len Deighton

Deighton, Len (1985, 2012). London Match. New York: Sterling

LCCN:    2012454485

PR6054.E37 L6 2012


Date Posted:      November 12, 2015


Last chapter in Deighton’s masterfully entertaining British spy trilogy begun with Berlin Game (1983)[2] and Mexico Set (1984)[3], though—unlike tennis’ game/set/match—neither side really wins. Or does some lone player actually make match point? All three books in the group turn on the same plot points: who is the mole, or who is a true defector (rather than KGB plant—or solitary)? In Berlin Game, Bernard Sampson and his independently wealthy wife Fiona (mother of two) both work for MI6 in Operations, with Berlin as their gameboard. The climax reveals Fiona as the treasonous mole. In Mexico Set, Fiona’s in East Berlin and rising through the KGB ranks while Bernie sinks ever deeper into muck, under suspicion of disloyalty as ex-husband to an active Russian spy. Fiona has her eye on their two kids, who are still in England and—like a good KGB-nik—is trying to boil Bernie’s goose as well. Now, in London Match, Fiona’s making a supreme effort to smash Bernie and get her kids. The entire senior staff of London’s Foreign Office finds itself on slippery ice against the phantom plays of Moscow Centre. Bernie smells something fishy with their KGB defector Erich Stinnes, who was senior assistant to Fiona in Berlin. Is he a plant? Three of his bits of info have blown the cover on Russian networks and led to low-level captures. But it is a very unexciting spy-song that Mrs. Miller, for example, sings before attempting suicide with aspirin (an attempt remedied by stomach pump) and then being assassinated by the KGB in a car driven into a waterway (when the car’s finally hoisted out, it’s empty). Who to blame? Well, everything points toward Bret Rensselaer, who’s been put in charge of debriefing Stinnes. And slimy Dicky Cruyer, adulterer and German Stations Controller, is all for pushing Bret down the tube. But as the reader will suspect, the hand behind the mole is ferocious Fiona’s, and she’s just had a secret meet in Holland with her London-based adulterous sister Tessa, with an eye to recapturing her kids. . .There’s more here than previously, though Bernie’s delicious confrontation with Fiona is reserved for the climax. . .which keeps her offstage until then while the reader longs for some Strindbergian marital storm scenes. The climax is okay but not superterrific—not after a more than 1200-page trilogy. Still, superior fare of its kind.

[1] Kirkus review, downloaded November 12, 2015

[2] Deighton, Len (1983, 2012). Berlin Game. New York: Sterling

[3] Mexico Set (1984, 2012). Mexico Set. New York : Sterling

Mexico Set

Title:                      Mexico Set

Author:                 Len Deighton

Deighton, Len (1984, 2012). Mexico Set. New York: Sterling

LCCN:    2012450703

PR6054.E37 M4 2012


Date Updated:  January 7, 2017


Don’t read this sequel (or even this review) if you’re planning to read Deighton’s Berlin Game[2]—in which British spy Bernard Samson, a very likable narrator, prowled through an espionage maze. . . only to learn that the treasonous mole was his very own wife Fiona, who fled to East Berlin at novel’s end. (The big Fiona secret is out in the open from the very first chapter here.) Now, together with slimily ambitious Dicky Cruyer, Samson has come to Mexico City, where old chum Werner—full-time banker, part-time spy—has spotted a Berlin-based KGB agent named Erich Stinnes. The apparent mission? To persuade Stinnes to defect. So Samson, after some roundabout preliminaries, makes an initial contact with the KGB man—who seems open to UK offers. Back in England, however, this seemingly clear-cut plot begins to thicken around poor Samson. It turns out that Stinnes is senior assistant to ex-wife Fiona, now a Berlin spy-chief; and Fiona makes an incognito London visit (a terrific scene) to warn Samson off, with threats relating to their small children (still in England). Moreover, it then appears that British Intelligence is using the Stinnes operation to test Samson’s loyalty—he’s been under suspicion since Fiona’s defection—while Fiona may be scheming to incriminate her ex-husband! Soon, then, Samson is scrambling around Europe to figure out who his principal enemies are, and whether Stinnes’ interest in defection is really just a trap. He’s framed for murder in Paris, tricked into committing pro-KGB actions, grilled by an assortment of obnoxious colleagues. And the finale returns to Mexico for the tense defection-attempt—with some nasty interference from Werner’s greedy wife Zena. . .and from Fiona’s most ruthless KGB ally. (The story will continue in a third, final installment, a Match[3]—in Paris, perhaps?—to go along with the Game and Set.) Again, as in Berlin Game, Deighton doesn’t fully develop the potent personal aspects of Samson’s dilemma: there are only the briefest glimpses of his mother-abandoned children. And the plotting is rather thin, with lots of repetition and loose threads. Still, if only sporadically gripping, this lesser sequel is still several cuts above the spy-thriller norm—thanks to Deighton’s engaging hero, his fine-tuned bits of sardonic characterization, and his uncommonly readable, elegantly spiky narration. (“‘I’m not an idiot,’ said Werner, using the unemotional tone but exaggerated clarity with which a man might specify decaffeinated coffee to an inattentive waiter.”)

[1] Kirkus review, downloaded November 11, 2015

[2] Deighton, Len (1983, 2012). Berlin Game. New York: Sterling

[3] Not. Will be London Match.

Berlin Game

Title:                      Berlin Game

Author:                 Len Deighton

Deighton, Len (1983, 2012). Berlin Game. New York: Sterling

LCCN:    2012454992

PR6054.E37 B4 2012


Date Posted:      November 11, 2015


Bernard Sampson, the narrator of this new Deighton spy-novel, is 40-ish, a soldier’s son, Berlin-raised, non-Oxbridge—a sardonic veteran who has recently moved from the field to a desk, while his independently wealthy wife Fiona (mother of two) also works at Intelligence, fairly high up in Operations. Now, however, a series of odd, perhaps-connected developments is sending Bernie back into action. For one thing, Britain’s longtime spy within East Germany’s banking community—code-named “Brahms Four”—is ready to defect, even though London wants him to stay put; and Bernie, whose life was once saved by Brahms Four, is the only agent who can handle face-to-face negotiations with this aging, restless spy. Furthermore, there’s uneasiness within the “Brahms Network” of East Berlin spies—who are afraid of being exposed by some unnamed traitor . . . and afraid of giving up their shady financial (non-espionage) dealings. And most disturbing of all is the apparent treason of Intelligence desk-man Giles Trent—who certainly has been passing data to a KGB agent (his spinster sister’s lover). But isn’t it strange how easily Trent’s betrayal is unearthed, how obvious his Russian contacts have been? Could it be that the KGB is using the superficial Trent traitor-dom to cover up some more important, better-concealed traitor—someone closer to the top? So wonders Bernie, especially after Trent attempts suicide. And, teaming up with the one other top desk-man he trusts (but doesn’t like), he tries to use Trent in a scheme to smoke out this high-level traitor. (The plan backfires, leading to Trent’s murder by one of those fearful Brahms Network agents.) Finally, then, Bernie winds up sneaking into East Berlin for a meeting with Brahms Four as the plot-strands converge: Brahms Four knows the identity of the upper-echelon mole. . . and will trade that information for help in defecting. Only in these last chapters, with taut defection-action (featuring Brahms Four’s plucky wife) and Bernie’s growing fears about the mole’s identity, does this thriller move into firm gear; earlier, the fragmented puzzles often read like le Carré piece—without the tug or the texture. And Deighton’s powerful central idea here—the husband/wife spy duo—isn’t developed nearly as well as it could have been. Still, the neat character-sketches and London/Berlin atmosphere make it easy to keep reading right past the murky tangles; and once that Berlin-finale begins, Deighton’s most serious spy tale in quite some time becomes compelling enough to make you forget most of those flaws, holes, and missed opportunities.

[1] Kirkus reviews, downloaded November 10, 2015


Title:                      XPD

Author:                 Len Deighton

Deighton, Len (1981, 2012). XPD. New York: Sterling

LCCN:    2012462578

PR6054.E37 X18 2012



  • “First published in Great Britain by Hutchinson & Co. Ltd. in 1981”–T.p. verso.

Date Updated:  November 3, 2015


After the spooky full-scale fantasy of SS-GB[2], Deighton’s new fiction-history premise—that Churchill met secretly with Hitler in 1940 and almost arranged a highly dishonorable peace—seems very small potatoes; and the plotting this time is pretty thinly conventional all around. But the playful Deighton approach to criss-crossing espionage, never less than diverting, is at its most edgily frivolous here. . . as the announcement of a new Hollywood movie project—about the US Army’s 1945 discovery of Hitler’s treasures and papers, which then all disappeared—sends assorted forces into action. British Intelligence fears that the filmmakers possess those vanished Hitler papers (evidence of Churchill’s secret treason), so sleek, cynical Boyd Stuart is dispatched to L.A. A German pro-democracy group called “the Trust” also wants the papers kept mum (they’d foment neo-Nazism), so they kill the movie-maker and replace him with one of their own—Max Breslow. The KGB wants the papers exposed (unrest in W. Germany is desirable), so KGB agent Willie Kleiber is working with unsuspecting Max. And most flustered of all is wealthy Californian Charlie Stein—the ex-G.I. who masterminded that theft of the Hitler stash (loot and documents): Charlie and his old buddies, who started a private Swiss bank with the loot and still have those Hitler papers hidden away, fear that their 1945 crime will be revealed; furthermore, their bank has been sabotaged (by “the Trust”), so they have to consider selling the Hitler papers to get millions in bail-out cash. A complicated set-up? You bet. And eventually the CIA will also get into the act. But most of the focus falls on Britisher Stuart—who, dodging dead bodies (the Trust kills anyone who knows about the Hitler papers), tries to figure out who’s who among the agents and tries to get the papers from Charlie: the Brits even kidnap Charlie’s spoiled-rich-kid son. And the busy finale has the CIA kidnapping the KGB agent. . . while Charlie tries to escape with the papers, is held prisoner by the KGB, and ends up in fatal revenge-attack on Max Breslow at the movie studio where actors are auditioning for the role of Hitler (cf. Mel Brooks’ The Producers). Fairly silly stuff, a tad too multi-angled for its own good—and the pace slows down a bit whenever flashbacks or explanations of the international motives take over. Still, notwithstanding Deighton’s tin ear for US speech, the characters and dialogue and atmosphere are all dandily offbeat; and the interplay of fanciful history with deadly-real detail (“XPD” means “expedient demise”) will keep Deighton fans just how he likes them—amused, intrigued, but just a little uncomfortable.

[1] KIRKUS Reviews, downloaded November 3, 2015

[2] Deighton, Len (1978, 2012). SS-GB. New York: Sterling Publishing

Dr. No

Title:                      Dr. No

Author:                 Ian Fleming

Fleming, Ian (1958, 1968). Dr. No. London: Cape

LCCN:    58025176

PZ4.F598 Do


Date Posted:      October 5, 2015

Dr. No is the sixth novel in Ian Fleming’s James Bond series, first published in the UK by Jonathan Cape on 31 March 1958. The story centers on Bond’s investigation into the disappearance in Jamaica of a fellow MI6 operative, Commander John Strangways and his secretary, Mary Trueblood. He establishes that Strangways had been investigating Dr. No, a Chinese operator of a guano mine on the Caribbean island of Crab Key; Bond travels to the island to investigate further. It is on Crab Key that Bond first finds Honeychile Rider and then Dr. No himself.

The novel was originally a screenplay written in 1956 for producer Henry Morgenthau III for what would have been a television show entitled Commander Jamaica. When those plans did not come to fruition, Fleming adapted the ideas to form the basis of the novel, which he originally titled The Wound Man. The book’s eponymous villain was influenced by Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu stories.

Dr. No was the first of Fleming’s novels to receive large-scale negative criticism in Britain, with Paul Johnson of the New Statesman writing his review about the “Sex, Snobbery and Sadism” of the story. When the book was released into the American market it was generally received more favorably.

Dr. No was serialized in the Daily Express newspaper in both written and comic strip format. It was also the first James Bond feature film of the Eon Productions series, released in 1962 and starring Sean Connery; the most recent adaptation was a BBC Radio version, broadcast in 2008.

After recovering from tetrodotoxin poisoning inflicted by the SMERSH agent Rosa Klebb (see From Russia, with Love[1]) MI6 agent James Bond is sent by his superior, M, on a “rest cure” to Jamaica. Whilst there his task is a simple assignment to investigate the disappearance of Commander John Strangways, the head of MI6 Station J in Kingston, Jamaica, and his secretary.

Bond is briefed that Strangways had been investigating the activities of Dr. Julius No, a reclusive Chinese-German who lives on Crab Key and runs a guano mine; the island is said to be the home of a vicious dragon, and has a colony of roseate spoonbills at one end. The spoonbills are protected by the National Audubon Society, two of whose representatives had died when their plane crashed on Dr. No’s airstrip. On his arrival in Jamaica, Bond soon realizes that he is being watched, as his hotel room is searched, a basket of poisoned fruit is delivered to his hotel room (supposedly a gift from the colonial governor) and a deadly centipede is placed in his bed while he is sleeping.

With the help of his old friend Quarrel, Bond visits Crab Key to establish if there is a connection between Dr. No and Strangways’ disappearance. There he and Quarrel meet Honeychile Rider, who visits the island to collect valuable shells. Bond and Honey are captured by No’s men after Quarrel is burned to death by the doctor’s “dragon” –a flamethrowing armored swamp buggy to keep away trespassers.

Bond discovers that Dr. No is also working with the Russians and has built an elaborate underground facility from which he can sabotage American missile tests at nearby Cape Canaveral. No had previously been a member of a Chinese Tong, but after he stole a large amount of money from their treasury, he was captured by the organization, whose leaders had his hands cut off as a sign of punishment for theft, and then ordered him shot. The Tong thought they shot him through the heart. However, because No’s heart was on the right side of his body (dextrocardia), the bullet missed his heart and he survived. Interested in the ability of the human body to withstand and survive pain, No forces Bond to navigate his way through an obstacle course constructed in the facility’s ventilation system. He is kept under regular observation, suffering electric shocks, burns and an encounter with large poisonous spiders along the way. The ordeal ends in a fight against a captive giant squid, which Bond defeats by using improvised and stolen objects made into weapons. After his escape, he encounters Honey from her ordeal where she had been pegged out to be eaten by crabs; the crabs ignored her and she had managed to make good her own escape.

Bond kills Dr. No by taking over the guano-loading machine at the docks and diverting the guano flow from it to bury the villain alive. Bond and Honey then escape from No’s complex in the dragon buggy.

[1] Fleming, Ian (1957, 1981). From Russia with Love. Geneva: Edito-Service


Title:                      Moonraker

Author:                  Ian Fleming

Fleming, Ian (1955). Moonraker. London: J. Cape

LCCN:    55044656

PZ4.F598 Mo


Date Posted:      October 5, 2015

Moonraker is usually viewed as hack writing. Bond aficionados, however, find it interesting. Here is one positive review.

A review from[1]

You may find Ian Fleming’s third James Bond novel, Moonraker, to be a surprising, refreshing read for several reasons.

First, it is new to those who have only watched the movie adaptations. Moonraker the novel has very little relationship to the 11th Bond film, starring Roger Moore, where Moore’s Bond is trying to prevent a global conspiracy involving the Space Shuttle.

Second, Bond is humanized. The impressive perfection of Bond in Casino Royale[2] is smoothed out and Ian Fleming, after two other Bond novels, is easing into this super spy’s mystique, his aura, and the nature of this suave and sophisticated man of mystery. The uncomfortable 1950s racial elements of Live and Let Die[3] are thankfully completely absent here. Here we see Bond at home, Bond buying a car, Bond’s daily life as Agent 007, including reviewing forms as any government analyst might do. We get to see that Bond’s life, outside the novels, is routine. It’s a Bond you may never thought you would get to see, if all you have seen are the films.

Third, Hugo Drax is a fantastic villain. Even James Bond admires Drax and acknowledges it to other characters throughout Moonraker. Bond’s preoccupation with Drax’s looks, his facial hair and the odd close-cut workers and their own myriad variety of moustaches is simply intriguing.

Fourth, we get to see Bond commiserate away from the Secret Service offices with M himself. M invites Bond to an exclusive club called Blades, one of the most perfectly described locations in the Bond universe. One might think we’ve seen Bond already do the card game bit in Casino Royale, yet Moonraker‘s card war is strangely epic.

Fifth, you’ll find some classic supporting villains that could be found in classic Hollywood mystery stories, including Krebs, a Wormtongue-toady type who at one time could have been played smartly by Peter Lorre. There’s even a classic mad scientist.

Moonraker finds Bond summoned to M’s office where M proceeds to explain the need for a personal favor. A certain member of the oldest gentleman’s club in all of jolly old England has been caught cheating at cards. What kind of a man–a man who could afford to play the highest stakes of games in a club so exclusive only 200 members are ever allowed on the roster–would risk his reputation and membership on such arrogance and stupidity?

M calls on Bond because he is known around the service as the card player to beat, with a background knowledge of every trick in the book, and Fleming goes to some lengths in explaining the games and the ruses, not in any overdone way but just enough to immerse the reader in Bond’s world. The club has the high-brow feel of the club of Duke and Duke in Trading Places, and throughout the novel I wondered if any of Moonraker’s vivid descriptions directly inspired movie script locations like the exclusive Bushwood Country Club in Caddyshack.

It doesn’t take long for Bond to figure out a way to foil the great cheating millionaire. But this millionaire, Sir Hugo Drax, is key to the British government’s most important pet project–he is the mind behind the Moonraker missile project. Moonraker is Great Britain’s first nuclear weapon and the future of the UK’s national defense system. The significance of the first test of said missile causes M to pull Bond in when a member of the security team is killed at the launch site. Bond takes over the role, which forces him to work one on one with Drax.

At first Bond loathes Drax and continuously finds ways to criticize him to M, yet once he follows Drax to examine his new creation he is rightly impressed with his ability to pull together a team of researchers and support staff, including 50 Germans, to complete this monumental project. His work on site causes him to partner with the obligatory Bond girl of this novel, Gala Brand, a Scotland Yard agent posing as Drax’s personal assistant.

Moonraker is full of good action scenes–Bond chasing after Brand when she is kidnapped, Bond and Brand hiding with the missile silo walls, more than one murder attempt against Bond, the grand card game, and uncovering the secret purpose of the Moonraker rocket. Where Casino Royale was exciting from a plot standpoint but not so much in-depth as far as character is concerned, and where Live and Let Die is now somewhat dated, Ian Fleming’s writing in Moonraker is vivid, rich, and compelling.

Moonraker would be ideal as a film remake today. With Dame Judith Dench as M, it would be fascinating to see how Bond could be a friend of sorts assisting M after hours on more of a social mission than a political one. And translating the V-2-inspired rocket and Cold War themes into something compelling today would be a fun challenge for the keepers of the James Bond mantle.

[1] See “Retro review—Moonraker, Fleming’s third James Bond novel,” (August 31, 2012). Downloaded October 5, 2015

[2] Fleming, Ian (1954). Casino Royale. New York, Macmillan

[3] Fleming, Ian (1954). Live and Let Die. London: J. Cape