Thursday, 4 August 2016

Samson, not Palmer, wins out according to the Daily Telegraph

In last weekend's  (30 July) Daily Telegraph, journalist Jake Kerridge picks out his top twenty greatest spy novels of all time.

As is always the case with lists, it's a source of debate and discussion rather than a definitive, unchallengeable statement of fact. However, he includes some surprising inclusions as well as obvious choices.

Pleasingly, Deighton's contribution to the genre is acknowledged, but not in the way you might think. Rather than plumping for one of the five unnamed spy novels (i.e. Harry Palmer), Kerridge selects Berlin Game, and here I agree with him. If I had to make a choice, the scale of this book - which, he writes, "is a feast of plotting which out-le-Carré's-le-Carré" - makes it the superior choice, certainly in comparison to the other great spy novels on the list. Just like 83.2% of all Berlin Game reviews, Kerridge makes reference to the "sardonic and disillusioned" character of spy Bernard Samson as one of the reasons for the books inclusion.

Interestingly, Kerridge, when discussing Berlin Game, makes reference to an old story/rumour from about eight years ago that director Quentin Tarantino was going to make a film of the series. This was always only a throwaway remark from the director in one interview, but it seems to have gained traction over time.

Pointing towards the lack of detailed research which can often be shown in articles like this, Kerridge makes no reference to the recent rights sale to Clerkenwell Films of the rights to Berlin Game and the other eight novels in the series. That may be because since the announcement two years ago, and to the frustration of readers, there's been no smoke arising from camp Clerkenwell about when they're going to actually get around to filming the bloomin' thing.

What other novels could, or should, be included?

1 comment:

  1. Looking at the DT list, I can pick out 3 other novels besides Berlin Game: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, From Russia with Love , and Bourne Identity, which were all best sellers as novels then,and all of them were made into very successful films. When, From Russia with Love novel was published in 1957 in hardback, I could not afford it as I was a mere student getting into the university, and did buy it when the paperback came out. As for The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, there was wide publicity when it was about to be published, as an interesting Cold War thriller, and hence was a must buy for those of us initiated into the spy game involving Soviets at that time. These two were made into films within 5 years of their publication.

    I liked Berlin Game as a novel when it was published in 1983, as I had already been to East Germany to attend an academic conference in Dresden. Intrigued in those days about the Cold War which was set in the Berlin Sector as well as reading The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, I was curious to know more about the Berlin Wall, and entry into East Berlin, which materialised into a visit when an opportunity to attend an academic conference came up in 1982.

    As for the comment:“That may be because since the announcement two years ago, and to the frustration of readers, there's been no smoke arising from camp Clerkenwell about when they're going to actually get around to filming the bloomin' thing”, I can only express my surprise that like the above 2 novels: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and From Russia with Love, it was not made into a film sooner then. The film, even when it is made even now could only depict the Cold War game played in Berlin Sector some 3 decades ago, and wonder how it might interest the viewers today. The Clerkenwell Films, a relatively modest London-centric outfit might be hesitating about the commercial end of the venture. A more enterprising major film company would have the script widely differing from the novel plot itself which the author might not like-perhaps one of the reasons for it not being seen at the wide screen as a full film. Interesting also to note that Bourne Identity was published in 1980, and was made into a film only in 2002, 20 years later! Robert Ludlum weaved complex plots in his novels, but that should not have been a problem for major film companies. It was clear he was holding out for long until his last days (he died in 2001), or no film company approached him ,which sounds not plausible. I should add that it took the singular persuasive power of Harry Saltzman very encouraged by the huge success of the Fleming's Dr NO film (which was made only when he teamed up with Albert Broccoli)to spot a different kind of thriller in the Ipcress File, the best seller at that time, to get it into the wide screen sooner. By late 1970s, Saltzman was a spent force , mired in financial difficulties and other health problems, having sold his rights of the Bond Franchise to Broccoli, and this could be one of the many reasons why Berlin Game was not made into a proper film in 1980s.