Tag Archives: espionage

Book review – Waiting for Sunrise

I’m a real William Boyd fan, thanks to old colleague Steve Coles recommending him back in the 1980s.

The author is often described as a master storyteller, and Waiting for Sunrise is no exception.

Its hero, actor Lysander Rief, spends time in pre-WW1 Vienna undergoing pyscho-analysis for a sexual problem. His analyst, Dr Bensimon, talks about the benefits of parallelism, but it’s the bedroom antics of Hettie Bull, a gamine sexual manipulator, who solves Lysander’s problem quicker than the shrink.

The action moves to London, where our hero becomes a reluctant spy. Then to the trenches on the front line, neutral Geneva – where Lysander conjures up a nice line in torture, and back to London.

So all the usual Boyd ingredients are there….international locations, well-drawn characters, evocative descriptions and a labyrinthine plot. Another fast-paced, readable cracking yarn.

And yet, and yet, and yet….

Sorry, William. Something is missing. I can’t quite identify the gap, but a piece of the literary jigsaw is missing. I know….who am I to criticise one of the greatest living British writers.  But somehow the narrative strands don’t fit together as perfectly as they did in Restless, for example. And it feels to me as though the author is occasionally going through the literary motions.

An imperfect William Boyd book is still a rewarding way to spend a few hours of bookish time, but I hope the great man isn’t running out of steam just yet….

Movie review – Spectre

Watching a new Bond film is as comforting as pulling on a favourite old jumper during the winter.

As the opening credits roll and morph into the inevitably epic action scene, you know you’re going to be wrapped up in a ludicrous plot to save the world, whisked around the globe, sleep with a couple of glamorous – but feisty and post-feminist – women, almost die at the hands of a brilliant, psychopathic villain. And survive until the closing credits. Just.

Sam Mendes, curating the enduring Bond franchise for the second time, doesn’t disappoint.

The plot unfolds in London, Mexico, Rome, Austria and Morocco.

The feisty females are played by Monica Bellucci , at 51, the oldest Bond “girl” to date, and Lea Seydoux.

Licence to Thrill: Léa Seydoux, Daniel Craig and Monica Bellucci joined forces at the world premiere of the new James Bond film Spectre

Christoph Waltz is the villain, good old Ernst Stavro Blofeld, reincarnated with his famous white cat to outwit Bond. Almost.

Yes, the plot is naturally imagination-stretching…..but it is timely, revolving around the replacement of MI5 & MI6 – and their obsolete 007 operatives – by a single overarching Joint Intelligence Service, ostensibly providing security through constant global electronic surveillance.

Ring any bells? Read my review of Dave Eggers’ book The Circle, and look at the recent hacking of Talk Talk, to be reminded of the dangers lurking in this increasingly digitised and tech-driven world.

Daniel Craig is James Bond, for the fourth time. But will it be his last? I rank him up there close to Sean Connery as the best, and certainly several martinis better than the other pretenders to the 007 throne.

Craig exudes intelligent, muscled menace, with a nod to the past but with a 21st century ironic humour and social awareness.

Ralph Fiennes as M, Ben Whishaw as Q and Naomi Harris as Moneypenny are more developed and contemporary characters than their desk-bound Whitehall predecessors, playing their roles is this latest, lean, stripped-back, menacing version of a series of 24 films, stretching back over 50 years.

A James Bond for our times? Yes….but still the same old jumper.