Tuesday, August 14, 2012
A Modesty Kick
I've been on a little bit of a Modesty Blaise kick lately. She's the character who began her fictitious life in a comic strip written by Peter O'Donnell. I don't read the strips but I am reading the novels, also penned by Peter O'Donnell. They are actually pretty hard to find; they're available on Ebay, of course, but they are not always cheap, and I'm a little picky about the cover art. The 1980s re-issues are particularly horrendous.
I, Lucifer is the third Modesty Blaise novel. The bad guys are ludicrous, especially the title character, a paranoid schizophrenic with a pre-cognitive ability, but the writing is excellent and the action scenes are particularly great.
Cobra Trap is actually the last published Modesty Blaise book, a collection of five long-ish stories from different points in Modesty's career. I should have really waited to read this one last, especially the final story, the one called Cobra Trap, which details the (Spoiler Alert!) deaths of Modesty Blaise and her long-time platonic companion Willie Garvin. I've heard that a lot of fans refuse to read this particular story but I've read it, and it's actually pretty touching, or as touching as the deaths of over-the-top pulp fiction characters can be. The rest of the stories, especially "Old Alex," are top-notch as well.
This was definitely taking my mini Modesty-obsession too far but I watched the 2003 direct-to-video film My Name is Modesty. This film was made for the sole reason of keeping the film rights to Modesty Blaise with the Weinstein Brothers. Apparently they did it as a favor to Quentin Tarantino who has always had an interest in making a Modesty film. Anyway, this low-budget flick is far better than it has any right to be. Not worth seeing really but it comes across as a decent TV pilot.
And lastly, although this has very little to do with Modesty Blaise, I just read John D. MacDonald's On the Run, one of his standalone thrillers. Like most of the Fawcett Gold Medal books this cover has absolutely nothing to do with the book. In fact, this cover, by Robert McGinnis, is a painting of Modesty Blaise that was never used for one of the Modesty books (to my knowledge).
About the actual book, this is one of JDM's worst efforts, in which the cheesy over-talked romance completely destroys the element of suspense. However, and it's not one of those howevers that means you should actually read the book, but after 120 pages of drivel the book takes a sharp and brutal turn, and the last ten pages or so are pretty excellent. I'd read the sequel at the drop of the hat.