Sunday, May 07, 2006

Spy Novels

With the academic year winding to a rapid close - too soon for some of us and one final paper - and with summer nearly upon us, it is almost time to head for one's favorite beach with an armful of spy novels. Thankfully, my favorite spy novelist Alan Furst is out with a new book, The Foreign Correspondent, due to be released on 3 June 2006 (just in time for me to grab it before fleeing the country on the 6th) - and while I'm not sure if the book draws any inspiration from the old Hitchcock film of the same name, which Robert Fisk credits with sparking his interest in journalism, I am anxiously awaiting its release.

Others among lovers of genre literature, however, are not so impressed. In the latest issue of the Atlantic Monthly, which showed up at my door yesterday along with the New Yorker and the Virginia Quarterly Review, B.R. Myers had a review of Furst's latest offering. He was not impressed. And while I agreed with a number of his points - Furst does have an interesting relationship with punctuation - I can only hope that he is wrong. That being said, I enjoyed his most recent novel, Dark Voyage, the least of all of his novels. I hope this isn't a trend.

Myers also says that The Polish Officer is Furst's best novel, which is nowhere close to the truth. And while most of his novels tend to run together, my vote would be for Kingdom of Shadows. Still, I hope Myers is wrong, as my sanity on long plane flights this summer depends on it. For some reason Le Carre and Eric Ambler aren't doing it for me anymore, plus I've read most of there stuff - Le Carre's latest, Absolute Friends, was rubbish, and I'm even struggling to get through The Little Drummer Girl - something must be wrong, struggling to get through a spy novel. Earlier this year I even bought David Ignatius' Agents of Innocence, which was followed by Milt Bearden's The Black Tulip, neither of which was any good.

Why can't good spy novels be written any more? I really don't know, maybe the cranks at the computers need time to focus on a new enemy and maybe the next few years will see a host of books on al-Qaeda and the like. But for the moment Furst is our only hope, let's hope he doesn't disappoint.


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