nisiprius wrote:The Last Light of the Sun, by Guy Gavriel Kay, on my wife's recommendation. Good enough that I've just borrowed The Summer Tree from the library but haven't started it yet. I definitely need a new series to work on now that I've almost finished Sue Grafton's alphabet mysteries. I don't think Kay is quite as good as J. R. R. Tolkien but that might be because I first read The Lord of the Rings a) at age 19, and b) in hardbound because they weren't out in paper and not too many people knew about them.
Kay is quite convincing and, like Tolkien, manages to make me believe he isn't just making it up as he goes along. I'd have liked The Last Light of the Sun better, though, if he'd put a table or key at the end. Yes, one of 'em's England and one of 'em's Wales and the king who burns the cakes is Alfred even if he's called Aeldred, but I'd like to know how close the historical parallels are. Too lazy to, you know, read any actual history or anything.
And, I think, he was from Toronto. So double bonus
I've never managed to reach 'Lord Foul's Bane' etc. The Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever
series. He's not a likeable hero, but people do rate the series. My anti-heroic fantasy was Glen Cook 'The Black Company'.
Cook is a Vietnam War vet, and his military fantasy is shaped by that, it has a bite of realism that no other fantasy writer I could name has-- when Cook does an ambush or a battle, it feels like an ambush or a battle.
(to be fair to Tolkein, he was a WW1 veteran. Mordor is the trenches, etc. So his battle scenes too, particularly the sense of the little person lost in much larger events, are quite gripping. One suspects the raw terror in the mines of Moria and with the Balrog after that have much to do with experiences of combat in the trenches.
And when the film was made, the New Zealand Army played the Orcs. That scene when Boromir fights the orcs.. it's a classic fight scene, although a bit too much Kurosawa-imitation for my taste)
I also picked up a paperback copy of Donald Hamilton's The Poisoners at a library book sale. He's a guilty pleasure of mine, and alas, unlike (say) John D. MacDonald or Ian Fleming, he's vanished from sight, can't even get his book through the library--probably because they were never issued in hardbound--and the used copies on the Internet are outrageously expensive. He was billed a sort of American counterpart to James Bond which is ridiculous of course--even if his protagonist, Matt Helm, also has two four-letter monosyllabic names. Entertaining junky thrillers nevertheless. There was at least one Matt Helm movie made, starring Dean Martin. It was awful, about as close to the books as the first (awful) movie of Casino Royale was to the novels.
Matt Helm I remember also 'the Punisher' or 'the Executioner' ? About a man who lost his family to the Mob and starts a one man (and 30 novel) war against them?http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/h/donald-hamilton/
I suspect many of these novels were written by a collective of authors who were paid per word (ie no subsequent contractual rights). Allegedly pornography is written the same way (allegedly, I say
). And Harlequin Romances.
Yes the Matt Helm movie was awful. The 'In like Flint' and 'Our Man Flint'
movies with James Cockburn were better. The TV series that best caught all this was the British series 'The Avengers'
: only the Honor Blackman and Diana Rigg (Mrs. Emma Peel) ones are worth it. The double entendres are now transparent but would have been less obvious then (there is always a scene where Mrs. Peel is tied up by the villain, or dunked in a body of water whilst in a jumpsuit, etc.). All to be rescued by John Steed.
On secret vices
. Have you read Eric Ambler (the early ones)?
His hapless characters get caught up in evil doings with the Nazis in pre WW2 Europe. At that point, a pair of Russian agents (brother-sister) are always on hand to rescue the hero-- Ambler had the KGB as *heroes*
. He did break with his pro Russian tendencies after the show trials. The Mask of Demetrios/ Coffin for Demetrios is a classic. Ditto Journey into Fear.http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/a/eric-ambler/
Ambler took the spy thriller out of the land of proto-bonds (brutish right wing characters who beat their opponents into submission) and into the hands of the hapless naif, caught in larger events: the beginnings of what became Le Carre, Robert Little etc.
And Gavin Lyall
. His early ones like The Most Dangerous Game and at the very end of his career, his (historically somewhat accurate) depictions of the early fumbling days of the British Secret Service.http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/l/gavin-lyall/