East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


The Rhythm Section: I’m reading the book, I saw the movie

In the long, too-long list of my interests, I usually put, somewhere halfway through, espionage and spycraft. I grew up in a time when the movie franchise was James Bond, not Star Wars, and the idea that one day the epitome of awesome would be movies based on comic books was laughable. And while I never became a compulsive spy story reader, I have enjoyed the genre a lot, in a very scattershot manner – I read Bond and Modesty Blaise, sure, I tried and ditched SAS, I went through the whole Len Deighton catalog between the end of high school and the start of university, I read my Graham Greene and my Le Carré. I read Trevanian, I know Three Days of the Condor by heart.

A few weeks back I caught the online lynching of Le Carré – dismissed as a lame author without a personal voice, slow, boring and overrated.
I always feel irritated by this sort of thing. Like his work or not, you can’t deny the man’s place and influence in the field. People are getting “I don’t like it” mixed with “It’s rubbish,” in the mistaken belief their personal tastes are the ultimate, objective and definitive Truth. Throw this attitude on the social media, and you’ll get a crowd with torches and pitchforks in no time.

The main bone of contention in that discussion was The Little Drummer Girl – and I had seen the movie of that, the one with Diane Keaton, and liked it. As a reaction – and in consideration that I cannot call myself a Le Carré fan – I went and re-read The Little Drummer Girl, and watched the BBC’s masterful adaptation. And then, as I was on a spy story roll, I got myself a copy of Mark Burnell’s The Rhythm Section. A classical case of fuzzy serendipity, as Burnell’s story, while not Le Carré, does have a hint of the Drummer Girl…
Then, talking with my friend Lucy, I found out the movie based on the book was available online, and I checked it out.
What’s better, for Easter, than a nice serving of moral ambiguity and state-sponsored violence?

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Eagles & Navarone

There’s one sure sign you’re talking with a smart guy (or girl): given the question “What’s the best, The Guns of Navarone or Where Eagles Dare?”, they will reply “Are we talking the books or the movies?”
And we were actually discussing the movies, last night, and the answer to the question is quite tricky, for me at least.

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