I’m into thrillers. I have been since reading John Buchan as a child then graduating to Alistair Maclean, Hammond Innes, Ian Fleming, Len Deighton, Le Carre, et al. Today I read travel, history and the odd biography as well but I tend to default back to the genre I grew up loving.
Recently Mike Ripley (see his “Mike Ripley’s Getting Away With Murder” ezine) published Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang which for me presented a feast of memories and introduced me to many writers I had never read or even heard of. The title is borrowed from how Ian Fleming described his Bond stories.
Lee Child (author of the Jack Reacher novels in case anyone anyone needs reminding) wrote the Foreword and with characteristic eloquence, reflected on the post-war era in which the books Ripley covers in Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, were written, and in which Ripley, Child and myself grew up in:
“…we were in a liberal democracy, at peace, with a cradle-to-grave welfare system that worked efficiently, with all dread diseases conquered, with full employment for our parents, with free and excellent education from the age of five for just as long as we merited it. We had no bombs falling on our houses, and no knocks on our doors in the middle of the night. No previous generation ever had all of that, not in all of history, and standards have eroded since. We were very lucky.
“But, …it was very boring. Britain was grey, exhausted, physically ruined, and financially crippled. The factories were humming, but everything went for export. We needed foreign currency to pay down monstrous war debt. Domestic life was pinched and austere. We escaped any way we could. Reading was the main way. Thrillers were the highest high, and British writers were never better than during our formative years. But finding out about them was entirely random. Obviously there was no Internet –electricity itself was fairly recent in some of our houses –and it was rare to meet a fellow aficionado face to face, and enthusiast bookshops were inaccessible to most of us, and so on. We blundered from one random find to another. Some of us had older brothers blazing the way, and really that’s exactly what this book is – the perfect older brother, equipped with 20/ 20 hindsight, saying, ‘Read this, and then this, and this, and this.’”
“…it seems of great sentimental value, like a long-lost diary, like a list of the way stations that carried us through a time that promised to be forever grey.”
I couldn’t put it better.