Modesty Blaise by Peter O’Donnell (1965)

Her mind was a carefully controlled instrument, rejecting all considerations except those which were or could be vital – and to these it was infinitely sensitive. (p.171) The comic strip The Modesty Blaise comic strip first appeared in The Evening Standard in May 1963. It was conceived and written by Peter O’Donnell who chose to […]

Alex’s Adventures In Numberland by Alex Bellos (2010)

Alexander Bellos (born in 1969) is a British writer and broadcaster. He is the author of books about Brazil and mathematics, as well as having a column in The Guardian newspaper. After adventures in Brazil (see his Wikipedia page) he returned to England in 2007 and wrote this, his first book. It spent four months […]

Cubism by Philip Cooper (1995)

Browsing through books about Cubism in either a bookshop, library or second-hand shop can be a bit dispiriting because there are just so many of them. Where to begin? Should you read them all? And shouldn’t you know all about the most famous art movement of the twentieth century already? The Colour Library look and […]

The Man With The Golden Gun by Ian Fleming (1965)

Now the grey-blue eyes looked back at him from the tanned face with the brilliant glint of suppressed excitement and accurate focus of the old days. He smiled ironically back at the introspective scrutiny that so many people make of themselves before a race, a contest of wits, a trial of some sort. He had […]

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service by Ian Fleming (1963)

Royale-les-Eaux The opening chapters are rather downbeat, casting a more sombre mood than we’ve been used to. The narrative skips the adventure recounted in The Spy Who Loves Me altogether and refers back to the events of the previous-but-one novel, Thunderball, ie the attempt by the fiendish Ernst Stavro Blofeld and his SPECTRE organisation to blackmail the West […]

Single & Single by John le Carré (1999)

Public school hero Just like the narrators of The Secret Pilgrim and Our Game and the protagonist of The Tailor of Panama, the central figure in Single & Single, Oliver Single, attended a number of private schools and speaks and thinks – and is emotionally stunted – accordingly. He was bullied and harassed by the home tutor his parents hired […]

Think Inc. by Adam Diment (1971)

I squeezed the trigger and there was a derisive click as the firing pin fell on nothing. The fucking gun wasn’t even loaded. (p.29) And so we bid a sad farewell to the stoned and sex-mad ‘spy’, Philip McAlpine, in this, the fourth and final novel by young Adam Diment, all public school and swinging London, who […]

The Great Spy Race by Adam Diment (1968)

It felt good to be alive – take a memo McAlpine – make sure you stay that way. (p.78) The main attraction of being a layabout is watching the rest of the world rushed off its aching feet. (p.83) This is Diment’s second novel featuring Philip McAlpine – a kind of lazy, dirty, dope-smoking twenty-something […]

I, Lucifer by Peter O’Donnell (1967)

There was no hint of doubt on the faces of Modesty Blaise and Willie Garvin. They were absorbed and speculative. Tarrant knew he could not have called them off the scent now anyway. The caper was real, no matter how baffling its operation, and they were fascinated by it. (p.102) Having read some short, punchy […]

Sabre-Tooth by Peter O’Donnell (1966)

‘You’ve arranged fine weather,’ she said, and handed him the glass. ‘I didn’t realise the Foreign Office had such influence.’ ‘We sacrificed two Civil Servant maidens under a full moon last night,’ said Tarrant. ‘It seems to have worked better than some of our other operations recently,’ he added in a dry tone. (p.25) Why […]