Friday, August 7, 2015
FFB: Modesty Blaise - Peter O'Donnell
I've never read any of the books until a few days ago nor had I even seen the comic strip until I went trolling the internet looking for images to help illustrate this post. But for anyone well versed in spy fiction, adventure novels and, of course, comic strip history, Modesty Blaise will never be forgotten. Truly the first successful and extremely popular female super spy (though that is a very loose term as you will soon learn) Modesty served as the template for all other super heroines of her type. There have been plenty of Modesty Blaise knock-offs in genre fiction, but none come close to capturing the best of her qualities.
She seems to me to be the female equivalent of Simon Templar since she actually began her life as a thief, engaging in capers with her lieutenant Willie Garvin and together amassing a huge fortune that allowed them to live in luxury. Only when the British Secret Service learn of her enclave known as "the Network" does she become a spy of sorts. Sir Gerald Tennant becomes her liaison with the British government and she and Garvin are called upon to help foil a slew of sadistic and ruthless international criminals in a series of eleven novels and two collections of short stories, as well as the comic strip adventures.
Garvin is the gadget expert of the books and he has invented several lethal weapons like an exploding tie tack and a lipstick that releases lethal nerve gas. The scene in which he puts the infernal device hidden in his diamond tie tack is one of the most gruesome in the book. I literally gasped and groaned at what happens to the poor vain sap who is given the tie as a gift. The action scenes are more graphic than I expected. Modesty and Willie are both very adept at martial arts and hand to hand combat. Neither will use a gun unless absolutely necessary. The book is nothing more than set piece after set piece as they do battle with the numerous thugs and villains. Revenge is the motivating factor in many of these violent sequences with the villains intent on killing either Modesty or Willie or both. Our heroine and hero suffer more than their fair share of cuts, stabbings and near broken bones, but the villains get what's coming to them...and then some!