jeregenest: (Kale Trust)
As a lover of spy novels I have to deal with the fact that, quite frankly, its a pretty horribly sexist mode. Unlike fantasy, mysteries and even thrillers where I long ago made a commitment to reading 75% of my yearly reading being novels written by women, I give myself a pass when it comes to spy novels. The best I can do is avoid the misogynist stuff and champion the women writers when I find them.

Stella Rimington (former Director General of MI5, properly Dame Rimington) is such an author. I love her fiction because she traces all the simmering rivalries, tensions, and mistrust between the two premier branches of England’s “Secret State.” A tension I loved explored in Deighton’s work, in the Sandbaggers, heck it is some of the best parts of MI5 (Spooks). And she does it all by incorporating a lot of realistic insider background that I just eat up.

Liz Carlyle, the protagonist of these books, has a preoccupation with not becoming a marionette of her job and she seeks to find a balance in her life that many of her male fictional counterparts either ignore or devalue. She has found a priority that George Smiley only found too late in life.

In short, if you like spy novels go and read these. What are you waiting for?
jeregenest: (kale cold war)
Here is a "best of list" of the 10 spy thrillers.


  • The Ipcress File (1965)

  • The Bourne Supremacy (2004)

  • Charade (1963)

  • No Way Out (1987)

  • Carve Her Name With Pride (1958)

  • Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery

  • The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (1966)

  • Goldfinger (1964)

  • Secret Agent (1936)

  • Three Days Of The Condor (1975)


It is an interesting and eclectic list. I've seen them all and can recommend most of them, I'm not a Bourne fan and I'd put something like Lives of Others on my list well before thinking of including Austin Powers.
jeregenest: (sandbaggers)
We watched the first episode of USA's new spy show, Covert Affairs last night. I like it better than USA's other spy show, the one with the annoying voiceover and exposition that everyone likes but me, Burn Notice.

The plot was a little thin, but I like the amount of detail on CIA life we're getting. It is refreshing to have a spy show use a real agency (mostly, and as [livejournal.com profile] peaseblossom says its not like the real CIA has a great track record on jurisdiction). I keep on hoping to see the statue of Nathan Hale in all the establishing "We're at Langley" shots. I also like that the spy tech is pretty realistic, and hope it stays that way.

I personally think my favorite characters are Keri Matchett and Peter Gallagher as the feuding CIA power couple/bureaucrats. I hope we see a lot more of them. I also want to see more of Clarke Peters as the Russian linguist upset his protege is now working for the CIA. His scene was a real plus and made Piper Perabo's character feel more fleshed out for me. The same went for the FBI agent who kept on riding her for being a CIA agent operating on US territory, all without Perabo's character really admitting it.

And finally we had a fight scene that looked like a real fight. And the protagonist actually was loosing. Lets hope the mystery ex-lover shows up to save the day trope is avoided in the future. Though his being some sort of spy (probably rouge) was pretty evident from the beginning.

In short, well worth watching. My only huge bone to pick is Christopher Gorham as Auggie Anderson. I like Gorham, and I adore the Auggie character. But would it be so hard to actually have hired a blind actor? I think that is just pure laziness.
jeregenest: (quality)
BBC Radio is doing a wonderful radio adaptation of all of John Le Carré's Smiley Novels, called the Complete Smiley. Currently they are serializing The Spy who Came in from the Cold which is John Le Carré's potent account of a Cold War spy's existence, which is an amazing adaptation. I love the voice actors. I’m wondering if I’ll be able to purchase these, especially since I missed the earlier novels.

Super Spy

Oct. 8th, 2007 12:05 pm
jeregenest: (Default)
I had originally picked up Matt Kindt’s Super Spy to read on my flight between Boston and Philadelphia, unfortunately due to airport craziness I ended up reading it while still on the Logan runway. Fortunately for me it was a good read and I had my laptop. As I didn’t expect to read much on the Philadelphia to San Juan branch I hadn’t bothered to bring a book (the book for the return trip is in my checked-in luggage.

I haven’t read anything by Kindt before, but after reading this I am definitely going looking for his other books. Both art and story were beautiful. This graphic novel is a collection of interlocked stories (not necessarily all told chronologically) that deal with espionage during WWII. Kindt focuses on the missions, the people undertaking them, and the toll the job takes on the individual, their family and the bigger picture and not (usually) the glorious Bondian action it insinuates. Paths cross, stories interweave, some come to abrupt halts while others seem to dangle, the ending uncertain.

The art is beautiful, Kindt does the entire book in this pulpy-yellowing sheen, giving the air of aged stories, the aesthetic of of-the-era printing. The coloring varies between sepia tones, black and white with blue washes and full color (with a four-color sensibility). Kindt’s art is just perfect with this roughness of line and edge that has a tense and rushed feeling, giving into the characters and their often desperate plight.

This is a must read for fans of espionage fiction.

Unfortunately I am stuck at the airport until 5:30 and then I have a 4 hour flight. I’ll probably be hitting the bookstore or I’ll go insane.
jeregenest: (sandbaggers)
The boy is currently reading the Alex Rider books by Anthony Horowitz, which is youthful spy fiction in the mode of James Bond (alas not Smiley).

Its lead to very interesting conversations, such as the history of MI6, some of which I'm sure the boy listens to for the first few minutes and then tunes out.

Today, after finishing the second book (and starting the 3rd) he announced that the first two books had basically the same stuff happen -- Something happens, Alex goes undercover and finds clues, he gets in trouble, to paraphrase the boy. This led to good discussion on formula and genre. Which ended by the boy saying these books need more action. Which just led me flabbergasted.

I need to investigate to se if we'll let him watch the movies. The graphic novel for Stormbreaker was fine but did skirt the boundaries of violence for a 7 year old.
jeregenest: (sandbaggers)
From intrigue-filled fiction spurred by the Cold War to glamorous movies with twisting plots, the business of spying -- espionage, surveillance and sabotage -- has captured imaginations for decades. Occult fiction, especially occult detectives, have probably an even longer pedigree. And for me, as many already know, these are two great tastes that go great together.

Spies have in common with occultists is an uncanny ability to connect the seemingly unconnected, to notice what goes on behind the scenes and to see through misdirection. Both often use collaborators or confederates, and mentors. Each have their rules of engagement. Even some of the elements of tradecraft are the same. Both are cryptic, using encryptions and codes. Each has its own arcane language, symbols veiled from the profane. Remote Viewing is virtually identical with clairvoyance. Both are masters of disguise, the hidden environment, intelligence, espionage, and covert action. Both are Inside Outsiders, working at the fringes of the system. And both work sub rosa.

I’m working on a biography and I find it easier to think of more rpg entries than fiction.
To qualify a book has to involve both espionage and the occult. And frankly I have trouble finding nearly as many as I do occult detectives (like spy novels the sub genre demarcations can of course be difficult).

  • Tim Powers gives us Declare and Three Days to Never
  • Charles Stross, Atrocity Archives and Jennifer Morgue
  • Kim Newman’s Diogene Club cycle
  • Alexander Irvine’s The Narrows
  • There’s all of the Brian Lumley stuff (I’m afraid to read him again, I figure if my teenage self found him awful he can only have gotten worse)


It’s much easier for roleplaying. There’s Delta Green and Conspiracy X, half a dozen books from GURPS, Dark Conspiracy and who knows what else I’m forgetting.

For television I'd place Alias pretty strongly here.

So what am I forgetting, from both lists?
jeregenest: (Default)
A spy, like a writer, lives outside the mainstream population. He steals his experience through bribes and reconstructs it. -- John Le Carre


Not running a game may be dangerous for me, I've been thinking of spy games again. Though not necessarily exclusively Age of Paranoia or any of the other games I've run (like Pantellos) though maybe a bit of both. Aybe a one-shot of some sort is called for. Or maybe I should rewatch some Sandbaggers, but that would probably get me more interested.

I wonder if I should have suggested a spy game.

Or maybe I should just buckle down and choose a game already. Last night we played some with Active Exploits and I must admit I really liked it. Needs some polishing to be setting specific but it works very nicely, and its diceless which is a big draw after playing HeroQuest.

Speaking of one-shots I really should try to get a regular group together again, there’s a lot of systems I want to experiment with and we don’t seem to have as much of that going on these days.

Syriana

Jul. 5th, 2006 09:53 pm
jeregenest: (Default)
Tonight we finally watched Syriana, a movie I've been waiting for, and I'l be honest I feel disappointed.

The first problem was the sound, we couldn't hear a thing so we turned it u real loud and then whenever it was music, background noise or foreign language it was blaring and we could barely hear the English parts. Very annoying.

Then there was the death of kids. I find most movies, and this was no exception, needlessly kill children to show how edgy they are. I normally find it to e an element of uncreativity on the part of the writer. Death of kids when appropriate is fine, I just find most of it gratuitous.

And then the movie seemed designed to just push liberal hot buttons often at the expense of real plot. It had moments of cool political thrillerdom, but I felt it often left me flat. Pity. I was hoping for something more like Traffic there. Must be the difference between screenwriting and directing.
jeregenest: (Default)
This flowchart breakdown of the traitional James Bond movie structure is quite good. I like this sort of graphical representation of plot structure and I wish it use was adopted in more game products. If I was a better person when it came to game prep I'd do that sort of thing more often.

It's by Charlie Stross, whose Family Trade novels I should read sometime. His Cthulu-spy-geekulfillment novel was a fun read (not great but fun).

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