Monday, November 2, 2020

THE NEOLIBERAL AGE IN AMERICA: FROM CARTER TO TRUMP

As we enter 2020 it seems as if the country's politics are undergoing nothing less than a tectonic shift—one result of which is that the word "neoliberalism" has passed out of the usage of academics, into general parlance. Those trying to make sense of it all find that the market is flooded with public affairs books—but most are longer on political hacks' rants than substance, or too busy telling colorful stories, to offer answers to such obvious and essential questions as

•Just what is neoliberalism anyway? (And why is there so much confusion about this anyway?)

•What did the Reagan administration actually do, and what were the results?

•What was the policy of the Clinton administration, and did it justify its characterization by critics as neoliberal? (Ditto Obama.)

•What was the country's economic record before and after "the neoliberal turn?"

However, THE NEOLIBERAL AGE IN AMERICA: FROM CARTER systematically examines Federal policy from the 1970s through the Presidencies of Carter, Reagan, the two Bushes, Clinton and Obama, emphasizing specifics and hard data to offer a picture of just what happened in these years as a matter of practical policy, and its consequences—answering these questions and more as we confront this era of crisis, and what may be a historic election this upcoming November.




Available in ebook and paperback formats at Amazon and other retailers.

Get your copy today!

Sunday, November 1, 2020

PARAMILITARY ACTION-ADVENTURE FICTION: A HISTORY

We are all familiar with the idea of the action hero as a latterday avenger with a gun—Dirty Harry, Chuck Norris' screen heroes, Rambo. Yet, how did the idea of such heroes emerge in the first place? Why did it explode as it did in the 1970s and, still more, the 1980s, defining the Hollywood action films of that decade? And why did it fall out of fashion?

PARAMILITARY ACTION-ADVENTURE FICTION: A HISTORY examines all these questions, and much more, as it traces the rise of paramilitary action heroes in the tensions and fears underlying the civil image of the nineteenth century, through the stresses of the world wars and the Cold War, to the emergence by the 1960s of commandos fighting undeclared wars on the streets of urban America—and the evolution of that image in the half century since.




Available in paperback and Kindle formats at Amazon and other retailers.

Get your copy today!

Thursday, October 1, 2020

BACK IN PRINT . . . GUARDIANS



The year is 1992, and the Soviet Union has just collapsed. Intelligence officer Nick McNab, wondering where his career will go with the Cold War over, finds himself approached by D.C.-based company Argus Consulting to go to Russia to try and infiltrate a secret Soviet-era military research program, the prizes from which may be up for grabs in the chaos.

The assignment at first seems like a snipe hunt, but while in Russia Nick learns of the ellipton, a mysterious weapon of mass destruction which agents from several countries are pursuing. His bosses at Argus promptly assign him to get it, embroiling him in a covert international competition that has already turned bloody, and unknown to him, is exhuming a secret war thought long over.


Available in paperback and as an ebook.

You can also check it out for free on Inkitt.

Get your copy today!

Friday, May 1, 2020

THE SHADOWS OF OLYMPUS

Manhattan art dealer and sometime art thief Ashley Sutton has been blackmailed by a mysterious client into the most dangerous job of her career-breaking into the ninetieth story office of financier Harold Northrop and stealing a disc from his safe.

The job goes badly, and Ashley and her partner Logan Scott end up on the run, from both Northrop, and her angry client.

Their only way out lies in their unraveling the mystery of the disc's contents-which leads Ashley into a dark corner of her personal past, while plunging her into the middle of a conspiracy by a secretive and powerful group intent on controlling the world's future in . . .




Available in paperback and on Kindle at Amazon and other retailers.

You can also check out the book at Inkitt and Wattpad.

Get your copy today!

The First Review is In! (The Military Techno-Thriller: A History)

My book The Military Techno-Thriller: A History hit the market earlier this month.



Fuldapocalypse Fiction has just reviewed it, and I am pleased to say its assessment of the book has been favorable.

Its review praised the book's history of the field as a "multi-century tour de force" of "not only the books themselves but also the cultural context behind them," even as it manages to be "both long enough to be . . . and short enough to be easily readable, making it the best of both worlds." Altogether Fuldapocalypse rated it
an excellent book that examines an overlooked genre through a variety of interesting perspectives in a highly readable way. I cannot recommend The Military Techno-Thriller: A History enough for fans of the genre.
That's very high praise from any source--and the more meaningful because so much of his characterization of the book ("long enough to be comprehensive . . . and short enough to be easily readable, making it the best of both worlds") is exactly what I aimed for.

It's the more meaningful, too, for having come from this blog specifically. As a longtime reader (and fan) of Fuldapocalypse Fiction, and the affiliated Coiler's Creative Corner--both of which I regard as must-reads for those interested in military techno-thrillers, action-adventure ficion, and related thriller genres across the media spectrum from print to gaming--I have consistently found the author a deeply informed, incisive and tough (but fair) critic of work in the field.

The Military Techno-Thriller: A History
6/25/19
The Evolution of the Thriller
6/24/19
Announcing . . . A Century of Spy Fiction: Reflections on the Genre
6/17/19
Announcing . . . The Military Techno-Thriller: A History
6/6/19
THE MILITARY TECHNO-THRILLER: A HISTORY
6/6/19
The Action Film's Transitional Years: Recalling the 1990s
6/6/19
'Nineties Dreams
6/6/19
Looking Past the Hardcovers: Techno-Thrillers in Other Media
6/6/19

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

No Time to Die: Notes on the Latest News

Looking back it has long, and increasingly, seemed to me that the James Bond series, on film as in print, was very much a product of its time--since which it has increasingly recycled and repeated itself, while effacing everything that made it distinctive in straining to keep up with changes in "respectable" attitudes and hardly less obligatory fashions. Unavoidably it has worn thin, all in a market crowded with high-concept action-adventure of the sort whose pioneering is what made the series a sensation in its day and a milestone after, but cannot in itself justify the series' ever more troubled chugging along.

Of course, if purists were less than pleased with the results of the post-60s Bonds, they did win many a fan. Such oddities as the blaxploitation-meets-Bond film Live and Let Die, and the post-Star Wars Bond-in-space Moonraker, seem to me to have as many enthusiasts as detractors. The Pierce Brosnan movies preceding the reboot were fairly well-received. And I'm fairly sympathetic to those opinions. Did more Bond movies do anything but maintain the value of the old IP? Already by the time of Die Another Day I was doubtful. But not as doubtful as I would be after the reboot.

For all the self-important, pious, talk about somehow being more faithful to the original the reboot was just as imitative as its post-'60s predecessors, but in less attractive ways--besides the shallow "dark and gritty" that I have remarked so many times previously, the origin story idea, the soapy family drama and mythmaking and the longer running times associated with all of this and the awkward retconning too. If the series had been "stealing" before, it was now stealing things not worth stealing, because what was out there really was not worth stealing--movies today doing too much not worth doing because directors have been reduced to two strategies for getting people to buy $20 tickets rather than see their movie at home in three months, namely cramming ever more bombast into a single film, and manufacturing a sense of a movie being an event, neither of which has worked for me in other series', any more than this one. (The long running times simply make the films tiring--I think of Transformers 3 as exemplifying this--and anyway the promises of special dramatic interest, usually to be fulfilled in the middle of a barrage of CGI, usually just mean disappointment, the Avengers films, for me anyway, not getting very much out of bringing their pantheons of the Marvel universe together.)

A record-length, nearly three hour Bond film (163 minutes) where 007 gets married sounds like it is going exactly that route, alas. I expect this is just fine with those who enjoyed the prior Daniel Craig films, but I had hoped that after all the fuss about the new director we would, on those points, have had a new approach.

Why Are We Still Talking About James Bond in 2020?
3/1/20
Sixty-Six Years After Casino Royale
2/26/20
How Did Robert Ludlum Become a Mega-seller?
2/25/20
Thoughts on the Upcoming Film Version of Without Remorse
2/25/20
My Posts on Paramilitary Fiction
2/25/20
My Posts on Tom Clancy
2/25/20
My Posts on Robert Ludlum
2/25/20
Just Out . . . Paramilitary Action-Adventure Fiction: A History
2/24/20
Review: Delightful Murder: A Social History of the Crime Story, by Ernest Mandel
2/24/20
What's Coming in 2020?
1/27/20
On Action Hero Prequels
1/9/20
The Secrets of Tom Clancy's Success
9/1/19
Paramilitary Fiction and the Military Techno-thriller: The Question of Social Class
7/15/19
The Delay of Bond 25
7/9/19
The Evolution of the Thriller
6/24/19
Announcing . . . A Century of Spy Fiction: Reflections on the Genre
6/17/19
Some of What I've Been Up to Lately (NYRSF, SSRN, Star Wars in Context: Second Edition)
5/3/18
My Posts on William Haggard
12/18/16
Just Out . . . (The Many Lives and Deaths of James Bond, 2nd edition)
11/12/15
Just Out. . . (James Bond's Evolution)
10/10/15
Just Out . . . (The Forgotten James Bond)
9/24/15
My Posts on Anti-Intellectualism
8/18/13
My Posts on Spy Fiction
11/30/12
Reading Bulldog Drummond
5/22/12
A History of the Spy Story
3/3/12
The Matarese Circle – Coming to a Theater Near You?
3/26/12
Reflections on the Jason Bourne Series
10/27/11
Thoughts on W. Somerset Maugham's Ashenden
1/11/12

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Why Are We Still Talking About James Bond in 2020?

To say that James Bond is the most famous of fictional spies, defining if not the image of the spy then at least a particular popular image of the spy, would be uncontroversial. Yet the simple truth is that Ian Fleming's creation of James Bond was not the moment of the invention of this style of secret agent. Rather he updated what was by then the half century old genre of fiction about such figures established by Erskine Childers in The Riddle of the Sands and, still more, William Le Queux in Secrets of the Foreign Office: Describing the Doings of Duckworth Drew of the Secret Service. The old clubland heroes had operated in a context where Britain appeared, if threatened and even in decline, still the predominant power of the day; where espionage appeared an individualistic adventure. The heroes themselves were ostentatiously, inaccessibly upper-class; chaste; genteel; in line with Edwardian ideals.

None of this was quite as plausible or as appealing circa 1953. Britain had officially lost much of its empire (the Indian Empire was formally independent now, the Dominions more assertive of their practical independence), and was fast losing the rest, while struggling with the bankruptcy brought on by three decades of world war and economic depression, and eclipsed in global economic and political life by the growing might of an increasingly outward-looking, world-trading and politically activist United States with five times' its Gross Domestic Product. The Bretton Woods financial system, the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization—these were above all American creations that made that country more the workshop of the world, the creditor of the world, the setter and enforcer of the rules for everyone else in the system, and the marshal of the West than Britain had been even at its long-ago height. Meanwhile, if there were still those who sang the romance of the spy, the fact remained that the bureaucratization of national security, far from unknown even a generation earlier (W. Somerset Maugham's Ashenden appeared way back in 1928), was all the harder to ignore not only as a result of long and increasing familiarity, but in the wake of six years of world war that had seen the British state ascend to new heights with regard to size, complexity, intrusiveness, control in British life.

And of course, at a time when Britian's upper classes had seen their privilege challenged and in respects even curtailed by imperial decline and post-war austerity, and by the domestic reform demanded by British working people finally achieving some success in asserting themselves, the image of clubland was less relevant or acceptable. The old sexlessness, too, was decreasingly credible. And where their taste in thrillers was concerned, Britons increasingly gravitated to the tougher, more cynical outlook of the hard-boiled fiction developed on the other side of the Atlantic by writers like Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, and imitated for local consumption by the likes of James Hadley Chase.

Fleming's adventures, however, found a place for a British secret agent to have adventures in the old way within this Americanized, organized world. If Britain was far along the trajectory of decline, it was still a global presence, economically and militarily, with its remaining colonies and post-colonial defense arrangements and its sterling area, while in its participation in the broad Western alliance, and especially its "special relationship" with the United States, still a country with global interests, and where needed, America a prop to its resources enabling it to continue acting globally. If espionage had become bureaucratized, making the vast majority of those in intelligence cogs in the machine, Fleming was prepared to acknowledge the fact, even make the workings of that machinery a point of interest (making a great show of letting the reader in on the secrets of Bond's world in, for instance, the opening chapter of Moonraker), while concentrating on the exceptions to the image of a vast machine grinding away—those rare times when the individual mattered, with "double-o" operatives taking their orders directly from the chief of the whole organization once every year setting off on some adventuresome special assignment that will come to involve old-fashioned derring-do.

The character of Bond himself was substantially updated in these respects as well. Fleming is rather vague on Bond's background, which he did not think about all that much until faced with having to write an obituary for him in the character's eleventh novel. Obviously it is far from proletarian (we even learn Bond went to that most public school-y of public schools, Eton, as Fleming had), but his Bentley is secondhand, and he only gets into a place like M's club Blades as a guest; a man who certainly has glamorous experiences, but more generally as a result of his government position than his inherited resources—not nonexistent, but far from adequate to keep him in great style. (Indeed, to paraphrase Kingsley Amis, it is "backdoor semi-aristocratness" rather than the just plain aristocratness of that antecedent most likely to be named, Bulldog Drummond.) About the author's preparedness to treat of the series protagonist's sex life hardly anything need be said here, and the same can almost be said for the harder edge of the adventures, their hard-boiled-flavored cynicism and violence far removed from the world of a Duckworth Drew.

As history shows, these adjustments did the trick. And it may be said that, much as the world has changed and popular taste changed with it since 1953 (with Britain thoroughly post-imperial, the bureaucratic-technological quotient in intelligence beggaring any imagination of the '50s, and of course, notions about gender and sex much changed, enough so that one may question whether it is not all terribly out of date), there is an extent to which it still does the trick in a way that those older stories in whose wake Bond followed do not—at least, enough to allow for a credible makeover. (Truth be told, the more recent print versions of the character have strained to keep Britain a global actor in the old way, while the gender politics have become nearly unrecognizable.) It matters, too, that many of those writers who had similarly made a name for themselves in the genre in those years were, for all their accomplishments, and their popularity with audiences in their heyday, to prove less enduring (William Haggard's Colonel Russell novels, huge in the '50s, vanished into obscurity today, a case in point).

It matters also that the way in which espionage has developed since 1953 has not lent itself well to appealing images which might have replaced 007 in popular fiction. Not only has the field grown more bureaucratized, but it has grown more technologized as well in very particular ways. The mass surveillance of communications by the ECHELON/"Five Eyes" program, the intensive computerization of everyday life, the endless multiplication of the cameras pointed at anything and everything from above the counter at the corner store to near-Earth orbit to the drones increasingly filling the skies—the drones that are now used not only to watch the suspecting, but as a matter of routine, to kill them in cold blood from thousands of miles away—inspire revulsion, not romance. And of course, the sorts of technical specialists who happen to man these systems are stereotyped as anything but the dashing hero in a society ever more relentless in its nerd-bashing.

Of course, all that would have mattered a good deal less had it not been for the existence of a screen 007 far better known to the world than even the print version. Again, its success was not a matter of any novelty in the spy trappings. As a glance at the Bob Hope-Bing Crosby "road" film Road to Hong Kong (which hit theaters a half year before Bond's big screen debut in Dr. No) demonstrates, or the remarks of all those critics who looked at the early Bond films and took them for some sort of weird parody of Hitchcock or B-grade science fiction, all that stuff was already cliché in 1962.

The key thing was instead the technique of presentation, which was nothing short of ground-breaking. The "high concept" film that plays like a two-hour commercial because it is at bottom a commercial for itself, with its quick-cutting succession of striking visuals mattering more than the story they convey, its luxuriating in a luxurious lifestyle, its brand name recognition that achieves and exploits a franchise success; that particular variant of this concept, the action-adventure film where what grabs and holds the viewer is a swift succession of shocks, substantially generated by spectacular set pieces filmed and edited for the maximum sensory effect (and everything else from narrative logic to character drama takes a back seat to that); the "blockbuster" mode of marketing and releasing films, with campaigns leading up to a wide release to bring the audience out up front, on opening weekend, while a tidal wave of related merchandise hits the stores to add mightily to the earnings from ticket sales—the Bond series did each and every one of these things first in its earliest films, just about covering the list by the time Thunderball hit theaters. Indeed, the producers of the EON Bond films substantially mastered this approach about a decade before upstarts like George Lucas and Don Simpson would begin guiding Hollywood along this path, and where action-adventure was concerned, Hollywood would still be in the process of assimilating the lesson into the '80s.

This is not the sort of innovation that literary or film historians tend to admire. But Bond's originality and ultimate significance in that innovation are undeniable. And if rarely spelled out in proper fashion, in part because those with the training to properly spell out such things cannot be bothered to do so, that is what really gave the series its place in popular consciousness at the time, what supplied the cachet it has since had, what the sequels that came out after the end of the series' really innovative period (the first half dozen films of the '60s) have traded on ever since in ways from recycled formulas to audience affections to retain some standing as what had been unique to the Bond series became commonplace, and then ubiquitous (along with the constant updating of the veneer in ways from new opening theme songs to more advanced special effects).

Fleming's updating of what in his time had become the worn-out image of the heroic spy. The filmmakers' transformation of Fleming's update into the first of high-concept action-adventure film blockbusters. One can, of course, point to other aspects of the franchise that seem to merit remark, but where Bond's standing as a pop cultural fixture two-thirds of a century after Fleming began banging away at his typewriter is concerned, that is what matters. One may regard it as a rather slight basis for the continued cranking out of new James Bond films, new James Bond books, new James Bond everything, but crank it out they do, and, along with the cooperativeness of the mass media with such sales pitches and the general credulousness of the general public apart, that is why the pop cultural news pages are subjecting us to the early phase of a publicity blitz in preparation of the public for the twenty-fifth film of the series, due out at the beginning of next month.

Sixty-Six Years After Casino Royale
2/26/20
How Did Robert Ludlum Become a Mega-seller?
2/25/20
Thoughts on the Upcoming Film Version of Without Remorse
2/25/20
My Posts on Paramilitary Fiction
2/25/20
My Posts on Tom Clancy
2/25/20
My Posts on Robert Ludlum
2/25/20
Just Out . . . Paramilitary Action-Adventure Fiction: A History
2/24/20
Review: Delightful Murder: A Social History of the Crime Story, by Ernest Mandel
2/24/20
What's Coming in 2020?
1/27/20
On Action Hero Prequels
1/9/20
The Secrets of Tom Clancy's Success
9/1/19
Paramilitary Fiction and the Military Techno-thriller: The Question of Social Class
7/15/19
The Delay of Bond 25
7/9/19
The Evolution of the Thriller
6/24/19
Announcing . . . A Century of Spy Fiction: Reflections on the Genre
6/17/19
Some of What I've Been Up to Lately (NYRSF, SSRN, Star Wars in Context: Second Edition)
5/3/18
My Posts on William Haggard
12/18/16
Just Out . . . (The Many Lives and Deaths of James Bond, 2nd edition)
11/12/15
Just Out. . . (James Bond's Evolution)
10/10/15
Just Out . . . (The Forgotten James Bond)
9/24/15
My Posts on Anti-Intellectualism
8/18/13
My Posts on Spy Fiction
11/30/12
Reading Bulldog Drummond
5/22/12
A History of the Spy Story
3/3/12
The Matarese Circle – Coming to a Theater Near You?
3/26/12
Reflections on the Jason Bourne Series
10/27/11
Thoughts on W. Somerset Maugham's Ashenden
1/11/12

The Real Reason No One is Reading Your Blog

I have long regarded what we so inaccurately call "self-help" with deep distaste.

Ultimately, the reason for all that is that its premises are deeply at odds with reality.

Self-help culture assumes that life is some kind of individual test where individual outcomes accurately reflect individual virtue, or the lack thereof. It assumes that one is in total control of their life, that their problems are entirely of their own making, that all they need is the generic "one size fits all" advice it offers to enable them to unmake the problem and live the life they want.

You can be a billionaire! Everyone can be a billionaire! Yes, all eight billion of us on this planet! They just need to do what it is in this book/seminar/program.

And if they don't, well, whatever happens to them is their fault.

The stupidity--and cruelty--of this ultra-simplistic outlook beggar description.

And yet it goes on flourishing.

As anyone familiar with the nonfiction book market knows, apart from gossip (memoir, biography and autobiography and "history" and "current affairs" indistinguishable from either, tabloidy "journalism" like so much true crime), self-help (especially if one counts in those diet books that have somehow never put a dent in the obesity problem, and overtly religious tracts coming from the same place) is pretty much all the publishers sell to a broad audience. A good deal of this, of course, is directed at those attempting to make a name or a place or a career for themselves online, writing for an audience. For instance, bloggers whom such "gurus" presume to give advice about "why people are not reading your blog."

You, they snarl, are not going about it the right way. You do not post frequently enough. Your posts are uninteresting. You do not pay enough attention to feedback. You do not have each and every post professionally edited and copyedited in advance of posting. Your blog is not pretty enough.

And so on and so forth.

But the reality is that while the prospect of writing professionally has always assumed a low ratio of content creators to content consumers--one to many thousands, or millions--the ratio, in the age of social media, approaching one-to-one.

The reality is that computer screens lend themselves poorly to any sort of long-form reading--which people are less inclined to attempt in any medium with each passing year as the alternative uses of time multiply, and the pessimist would say, the requisite faculties wither, while the ratio of creators to consumers may be even higher here than with other kinds of online content, because of that faintness of demand relative to supply. (Fellow bloggers, how much time do you spend reading other people's blogs relative to working on your own?)

The reality is that the search engines are not friends to most of the "competitors." Secretive as the companies which created them may be about the algorithms that spit out the results, the reality is that they favor those who have been successful in the past over those trying for success now, favor those who are associated with high-profile platforms over those striking out on their own, favor those who pay to be promoted. And being anywhere but the top of the list means the exponential decay of your chances of any search result being looked at by anyone at all.

The reality is that in these circumstances the only real hope for the obscure, no matter their talent, is going viral--and as I have had occasion to remark before, nothing ever goes viral.

No, it isn't that you are necessarily doing anything wrong.

Rather it is that whether you are doing everything right or wrong simply does not matter, the chances so few, the margins between superstar and also-ran so slight, that the meritocratic life-as-a-test vision simply has no meaning.

And there is nothing we can do about that bigger problem individually.

Alas, such little truths do not sell seminars and books and the rest. And so no one has much incentive to talk about it. But for what it is worth, it has been said here.

There Is No Such Thing as Respectful Disagreement
1/27/20
Why Nothing Ever Seems to Go Viral
6/24/19
My Posts on Trolls, Bots and Other Cancers on the Internet
3/25/19

Saturday, February 29, 2020

THE MILITARY TECHNO-THRILLER: A HISTORY


"[A] multi-century tour de force . . . comprehensive . . . easily readable, making it the best of both worlds . . . a lot of fascinating insights . . . an excellent book that examines an overlooked genre through a variety of interesting perspectives in a highly readable way. I cannot recommend The Military Techno-Thriller: A History enough for fans of the genre." -Fuldapocalypse Fiction

THE MILITARY TECHNO-THRILLER: A HISTORY takes a close look at this widely read but still little studied genre, tracing its origins from the Victorian-era invasion story, to its 1980s heyday as king of the bestseller list in the hands of authors like Tom Clancy, down to today, considering its interaction with other genres and other media throughout. In the process, this book also tells the larger story of how the ways in which we think about, imagine and portray war evolved during the last century to bring us to where we are now.

Now available in print and e-book formats from Amazon and other retailers.

Get your copy today.

Review: The Myth of the Eastern Front: The Nazi-Soviet War in American Popular Culture, by Ronald Smelser and Edward J. Davies


Originally posted at NADER ELHEFNAWY on July 15, 2018.

In The Italian Navy in World War II James Sadkovich argues that the common view of the Mediterranean theater and Italian arms in it is deeply distorted by American and British prejudices of the time (particularly a racist disdain for Italians), as well as the prejudices of the German officers who had a surprisingly large impact onthe formation of that image. In the Myth of the Eastern Front Ronald Smelser and Edward J. Davies make a comparable case with regard to the conduct of World War II in Eastern Europe--that American prejudice, and the post-war influence of the German generals--have had such distorting influence, even more consequential for the understanding of the war, and with greater effect.

Sadkovich argues (as many have before and since) that had the Germans lent Italy a small proportion of their resources to pursue the "Mediterranean strategy" properly, events in this region could have been decisive. However, it would have been decisive because of what it meant for the Nazi-Soviet conflict, to which the book by Smelser and Davies speaks directly, a conflict that in our own history rather than some counterfactual actually was decisive for the war and all that could or did come from it. And the distortion to which they point has, in their view, also had more profound implications for the way the war as a whole is viewed. Rather than contemptuous dismissal of Benito Mussolini's armed forces, and the prejudices into which this plays, Smelser and Davies argue that this tendency has led to a whitewashing of Axis crimes, and even a cult of the World War II German army in the United States itself comparable to the "lost cause" mythology of the Confederacy.

Smelser and Davies, more interested in cultural history than military history per se, do not attempt to offer a corrected reconstruction of World War II in the East the way Sadkovich does (persuasively) with the war's course in the Mediterranean, but rather the history of how that war has been understood. They begin at the beginning, with an account of the brief and now forgotten "love affair" American public opinion had with the Soviet Union, a virtual selling of the Soviet Union on Main Street, laid out at length and in detail to show how different the situation was before the Cold War put an end to it.

That post-war conflict quickly led to the plans for a thoroughly de-Nazified, demilitarized Germany being set aside in favor of Germany's conservative Establishment, implicated as it was in Nazism's crimes, being rehabilitated and put in charge of a West Germany not only under non-Communist rule but contributing substantially to the industrial base and military might of the Western alliance. Which, naturally, meant taking a softer line.

This was further encouraged by the turn to German generals for insight into the Soviet armed forces and their capabilities, the Germans having fought them for four years. Naturally there was a more forgiving attitude toward the record of particular German figures (clemency for many and all of whom were to be right-wing cause celebres, with Joseph McCarthy championing war criminal Joachim Peiper, for example), and plenty of opportunity for the German generals to tell their side of the story--particularly the very senior Franz Halder, Erich von Manstein and Heinz Guderian of World War II fame. Halder oversaw the production of a vast amount of military history and analysis by German officers for study by U.S. forces, while the latter two penned widely read memoirs that were just the leading edge of a barrage of memoir, history and fiction presenting their side's account.

These accounts, fiction and nonfiction, took a variety of courses. Some not only excused but justified the war--stressing the evils of Communism from which Nazi Germany was supposedly defending the West; the welcome of German forces as liberators by ethnic minorities and others in the Soviet Union; or even arguing that Operation Barbarossa was a preemptive strike that saved the West from conquest by Stalin. Amid all this they treated as marginal or incidental the issues of aggression, atrocity, genocide, not only slighting the reality that these were the motive for Barbarossa, but distancing the German armed forces from them--depicting the soldiers as innocent patriots doing their duty by their country, utterly unaware of the crimes that others committed, and horrified at or opposed to them when they found out about them, with higher officers emphasizing their conflicts with a fanatical, interfering Hitler. Others delinked the experience of individual soldiers from the larger political context altogether--the reader encouraged to not think about those troublesome matters and instead admire the courage, professionalism, dutifulness to country displayed by men who were often presented as family-oriented, religious (in the term's most positive sense), humane. Whether the larger cause was held to be valiant, or merely the individuals who fought in it, they also contended that German forces were defeated by bad weather, by the sheer overwhelming numbers of the enemy, by the enemy's "subhuman" indifference to life and decency, by American Lend-Lease, or by the meddling in operational decisions by Hitler, rather than genuinely "military" failures on the part of the virtually superheroic German soldiers and their commanders, or any military skill on the part of their Soviet opponent (not unlike the "lost cause" view of the Civil War, which attributes Northern victory solely to numbers and industrial weight).

Smelser and Davies also devote a considerable portion of the book to showing why a significant swath of American opinion was open to such a view. American occupation troops in Europe, they note, were rather more inclined to identify with German civilians, or even former German soldiers, than with the inmates of Displaced Persons camps (or the Soviets, from whom they were increasingly isolated)--and if this had its effect on George Patton, the effect was still greater on cohorts of new draftees coming in after the fighting was over. All this reflected and fed into widespread prejudices that the Cold War each exacerbated--racial as well as ideological (the anti-Slav feeling that was often bound up with anti-Semitism and anti-Asian feeling, and all of which interacted with militant anti-Communism), all as the earlier, sympathetic attention to the Soviet experience virtually vanished from memory, and with which much of the pro-Nazi writing (or simple apologism) was all too consistent. In subsequent years the extent to which German historiography, official and popular, colored American perceptions was, in time, to be taken for granted, unnoticed--making the more distinctly German view more acceptable.

The result is that the "German" view of the war in the United States was far from limited to people espousing blatanly Neo-Nazi opinions, but has substantially colored the general understanding of the war, and found wide enough currency to produce a surprisingly sizable, widespread coterie of American "romancers" of the Nazi-era German armed forces and their war in the east. Avid consumers of books and magazines devoted to the theme, many of them participate in wargaming and even public recreations of Eastern Front battles, in which they find pleasure in personally playing the roles of Wehrmacht soldiers they regard as exemplars of military and other virtues.

Reflecting on this book's argument I recalled my own reading of World War II historiography, and many of the works they cited prominently--the works by Trevor Dupuy and Martin Van Creveld and Basil Liddell Hart, particularly The German Generals Speak--and had to concede that the notion of a cult of the German army coloring the historiography is not so far-fetched. Reflecting on Hart's interviews with the surviving German generals and subsequent commentary in The German Generals, I now find myself thinking of Hart as not merely respectful to his subjects, but taking them totally at their word--the more so given his uncritically reusing in copy-and-paste fashion much of what they had to say in that book in his later Defence of the West (in which he was, notably, very hard on Winston Churchill). Still, that Smelser and Davies say relatively little about the facts of the war that contradict the "cult" image leaves a reader forming their impressions from this book with little basis for judging just how much such assessments diverge from the reality.

Reflecting on the treatment of World War II in popular culture, it struck me that they could actually have said much more of evidences of such a cult. Detailed as the authors' attention is to some of the relevant aspects of pop culture, they virtually ignore others that seem far more conspicuous--for example, the vast body of alternate history fiction, which years before Smelser and Davies published, already led to a massive, noteworthy study (Gavriel Rosenfeld's The World Hitler Never Made). Instead his discussion of "What if" material is limited to two counterfactual histories, by R.H.S. Stolfi and Samuel Newlands. Similarly there is no reference to other science fiction novels like John Ringo and Tom Kratman's Watch on the Rhine, or for that matter mainstream fiction like George Robert Elford's The Devil's Guard, which certainly seem germane to such a discussion.

Still, if the book's coverage of the subjects could have been more comprehensive, what it does cover it treats in detail, and is more than ample to make the point--and leave me convinced (as I was, after reading Sadkovich) that what we all think we know about a very large part of the war (the biggest part of it) may need to be rethought. It leaves me convinced, too, that much more may remain to be said about this most seemingly exhausted of subjects.

Just Out . . . Paramilitary Action-Adventure Fiction: A History

We are all familiar with the idea of the action hero as a latterday avenger with a gun—Dirty Harry, Chuck Norris' screen heroes, Rambo. Yet, how did the idea of such heroes emerge in the first place? Why did it explode as it did in the 1970s and, still more, the 1980s, defining the Hollywood action films of that decade? And why did it fall out of fashion?

PARAMILITARY ACTION-ADVENTURE FICTION: A HISTORY examines all these questions, and much more, as it traces the rise of paramilitary action heroes in the tensions and fears underlying the civil image of the nineteenth century, through the stresses of the world wars and the Cold War, to the emergence by the 1960s of commandos fighting undeclared wars on the streets of urban America—and the evolution of that image in the half century since.




Available in paperback and Kindle formats at Amazon and other retailers.

Just Out . . . The Neoliberal Age in America: From Carter to Trump

As we enter 2020 it seems as if the country's politics are undergoing nothing less than a tectonic shift—one result of which is that the word "neoliberalism" has passed out of the usage of academics, into general parlance. Those trying to make sense of it all find that the market is flooded with public affairs books—but most are longer on political hacks' rants than substance, or too busy telling colorful stories, to offer answers to such obvious and essential questions as

•Just what is neoliberalism anyway? (And why is there so much confusion about this anyway?)

•What did the Reagan administration actually do, and what were the results?

•What was the policy of the Clinton administration, and did it justify its characterization by critics as neoliberal? (Ditto Obama.)

•What was the country's economic record before and after "the neoliberal turn?"

However, THE NEOLIBERAL AGE IN AMERICA: FROM CARTER systematically examines Federal policy from the 1970s through the Presidencies of Carter, Reagan, the two Bushes, Clinton and Obama, emphasizing specifics and hard data to offer a picture of just what happened in these years as a matter of practical policy, and its consequences—answering these questions and more as we confront this era of crisis, and what may be a historic election this upcoming November.




Available in ebook and paperback formats at Amazon and other retailers.

Get your copy today!

Thursday, February 27, 2020

The Trajectory of Robert Ludlum's Career

In 1971 Robert Ludlum became a name in the spy genre with The Scarlatti Inheritance. Counting the works he produced under two pseudonyms (Jonathan Ryder and Michael Shepherd) he published another eleven books in the next nine years--a dozen books in all over the course of the decade.

In the next two decades Ludlum was not to match that output, at least from any count of titles. One can chalk this up, in part, to the already large books (Ludlum boarded the post-Forsyth "super-thriller" train early) getting bigger, and individually demanding more work. But one can chalk it up to other factors too, among them the fact that the '80s was less fertile soil for the sort of thriller he wrote, in part because of the rightward shift of its politics. Ludlum espoused a centrist liberalism, which deemed anyone who questioned the structure of society an "extremist"; equated extremism with mental illness (the words "Madness!" and "Maniacs!" come up in his prose with tiresome frequency); and hewed to the orthodoxy of the Cold War, which had the Soviets a genuine threat to the West. And as one might guess from all this he was by no means anti-Establishment, but in fact quite genteely pro-Establishment. Still, he took the principles of liberal democracy sufficiently seriously as to hold that there were lines which should not be crossed, that the Cold War spy game was very far from black and white, that "Watergate" and all the rest associated with that term were an outrage, a view widely shared in the country. It must be remembered, too, that if the malefactors got off with a slap on the wrist, the aftermath of the scandal still saw a Vice-President do time, and a President head off impeachment only by resigning his office.

In the next decade, however, the expectations and the reactions were quite different. As Arthur Liman, chief counsel for the Senate during the Iran-Contra hearings remarked, the hearings thoroughly exposed the crimes committed--but as one may observe of the aftermath, to far less consequence. Elliott Abrams was convicted on mere misdeameanors, his punishment a fifty dollar fine and some probation and community service, and Bush the First pardoned him, sparing him the full consequences even of that--while he has since continued in his dubious career (the man now Special Representative for Venezuela). Indeed, many of the chief participants in those crimes were openly and widely cheered as heroes by much of the public. That face of the scandal, Oliver North, put in TV appearances as himself in shows like Wings and JAG, the latter in particular flattering him as International Man of Mystery, while notable among those contributing to his defense was the writer who trumped Ludlum as the commercial colossus in the spy genre that decade, Tom Clancy, whose uncritical, "populist" flag-waving was much more in fashion.

Indeed, Ludlum not only became less prolific, but also more repetitive. He published five new novels in the next decade (1981-1990)--of which three were sequels, following The Bourne Identity with The Bourne Supremacy in 1986 and The Bourne Ultimatum in 1990, and The Chancellor Manuscript with The Icarus Agenda in 1988. There were some new touches here--the East Asian setting of The Bourne Supremacy, the Middle Eastern action with its whiff of Chuck Norris in The Icarus Agenda (Evan Kendrick gets to be popularly known as "Commando Kendrick" after helping resolve an embassy siege in Muscat), and the final showdown between Bourne and Carlos behind The Iron Curtain in the last days of the Cold War. (I might add that Kendrick's adventure in particular has its special intricacies, with two mutually antagonistic parties each maneuvering him along their desired course.) Still, this was a matter of Ludlum following the fashion rather than setting it, and there was usually more old than new here, with the same going for the two, more original books. The Parsifal Mosaic (1982) and The Aquitaine Progression (1984) were variations on the theme of his next-biggest success, The Matarese Countdown, large and largely European-set tales of international conspiracy at the highest levels, with the Cold War sides interpenetrated in The Parsifal Mosaic, and generals instead of corporate overlords plotting world domination in The Aquitaine Progression.

As one might imagine, this was even more the case in the next decade, which saw five more books, two of them sequels, and one a clear repetition of a prior theme. His crack at comedy in The Road to Gandolfo got a follow-up in The Road to Omaha (1992), while after squeezing the last of the juice out of the Bourne saga (the third book did not sell like the first, and anyway Jason was fifty now, in a time before septugenarian action heroes were all the rage), Ludlum produced a sequel to what appears his second-biggest success, The Matarese Circle, The Matarese Countdown (1997). And again the "originals" were less original than their predecessors. The Scorpio Illusion (1993) once more had terrorists as corporate pawns, while in The Apocalypse Watch it was a neo-Nazi takeover plot that could not but recall The Holcroft Covenant on the level of premise, if updated after two decades and with a good deal of spy-fi about it (1995), while they seemed comparatively slight, shallow things compared with what came before--a tendency evident, too, in The Prometheus Deception (2000). And after that, the very last book completed by Ludlum himself, The Sigma Protocol (2001), once more returned to familiar ghosts of World War II.

Moreover, commercial exhaustion followed creative exhaustion, as an examination of the bestseller lists demonstrates. Where in the '80s, even amid the repetitiveness and other signs of decline, a Ludlum novel could still be expected to last six months or more on the New York Times' bestseller list, spending several weeks at #1 (the original Bourne Identity managed an astonishing 16 such weeks), then go on to rank high among its era's top-sellers (The Bourne Ultimatum, the weakest performer, still made #6 on the Publisher's Weekly list), they faded fast through the following decade. Not one of the five novels of the '90s made the #1 spot on the NYT list for a single week, while The Scorpio Illusion was the last to make Publisher Weekly's list (barely doing so at #10), afterward the NYT list appearance at any rank dwindling. (The Prometheus Deception lasted a mere nine weeks.)

Still, the Ludlum name was not so weak that Big Publishing, in its ever-greater ardor to milk any past success, even one fast-fading (anything beats looking at, you know, anything NEW) built the name into a veritable imprint just as Ludlum himself was passing from the scene. Thus followed a string of four more big Ludlum novels not actually written by Ludlum. Following The Sigma Protocol were more big books that looked just like their predecessors, starting with The Janson Directive (2002), and the launch of the "coauthored" Covert-One series with The Hades Factor (2001).

All of this, of course, was helped massively when Doug Liman (yup, Arthur's son) achieved what the legendary Sam Peckinpah and John Frankenheimer did not, turning a Ludlum novel into a really popular feature film.* Liman's The Bourne Identity (2002) launched a cinematic franchise and broader multimedia franchise (four more films, a video game in The Bourne Conspiracy, now a Bourne TV show in Treadstone, with more likely on the way) which of course had as one of its first consequences the reinvigoration of the print franchise (with eleven more Bourne novels to date, and two more to follow next year, not counting the apparent TV tie-in, The Treadstone Resurrection). That helped the other series' to flourish as they have, with the Covert-1 novels now numbering a dozen, and The Janson Directive having turned into a franchise in itself, with three more sequels. And so Ludlum's name, like Fleming's or Clancy's, appears mostly on books he never had anything to do with, and that largely because of the successes to which they led in other media consumable by people who never pick a book, with the pattern continuing decades after their writing their last. And likely to continue decades hence with, I suspect, artificial intelligences churning out new ones just like the originals, for whoever still enjoys that sort of thing. And still other artificial intelligences churning out new ones not at all like the originals for those who don't.

* Sam Peckinpah directed a feature film version of The Osterman Weekend which hit theaters in 1983, John Frankenheimer a version of The Holcroft Covenant (with Michael Caine an exceedingly unlikely Noel Holcroft) that appeared in 1985.

How Did Robert Ludlum Become a Mega-seller?
2/25/20
Thoughts on the Upcoming Film Version of Without Remorse
2/25/20
My Posts on Paramilitary Fiction
2/25/20
Just Out . . . Paramilitary Action-Adventure Fiction: A History
2/24/20
Review: Delightful Murder: A Social History of the Crime Story, by Ernest Mandel
2/24/20
What's Coming in 2020?
1/27/20
The Secrets of Tom Clancy's Success
9/1/19
The Historiography of Paramilitary Fiction
6/29/19
The Evolution of the Thriller
6/24/19
Announcing . . . A Century of Spy Fiction: Reflections on the Genre
6/17/19
Just Out . . . (The Many Lives and Deaths of James Bond, 2nd edition)
11/12/15
Just Out. . . (James Bond's Evolution)
10/10/15
Just Out . . . (The Forgotten James Bond)
9/24/15
My Posts on Spy Fiction
11/30/12
A History of the Spy Story
3/3/12
The Matarese Circle – Coming to a Theater Near You?
3/26/12
Reflections on the Jason Bourne Series
10/27/11

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Sixty-Six Years After Casino Royale

In 1953 the "international man of mystery"-type spy was an old, well-worn, frankly stale tradition. It had already been a half century since William Le Queux introduced the type in Secrets of the Foreign Office (1903), where Duckworth Drew trots the globe (this week Paris, next week Constantinople and perhaps St. Petersburg the week after that) on assignments mixing the glamour of high life and the intrigue of high politics with a certain amount of physical danger including death-by-improbable gadget. Most of its variations and innovations were only a little younger (with Fu Manchu and Bulldog Drummond the genre already having its supervillains and freakish henchmen and good girls and bad girls and the rest). And the same went for the genre-subverting drama and parody of the improbable material (which, in the hands of literary masters like Maugham and Ambler, was to frequently be a good deal more memorable than the work off of which they played).

Ian Fleming managed to update that material in a number of ways, extending even beyond the dressing of the technology and geopolitics of the moment (atomic and jet-type and rocket-type things that Fleming was in cases to treat with more rigor than his predecessors, Soviet rather than German nemeses). There was the bureaucratization of intelligence (owing more to Maugham than Le Queux). There was the cynicism and brutalization of a society that had been through two world wars and a Depression and the beginnings of the break-up of Empire, while that process had as yet not gone so far as to end all illusions for Britain's moment as a great power being stretched by American dollars and sheer "knack for the game," which made for a more ruthless, violent adventure (the more so for its coloring by harder-edged American crime fiction, just one way in which this universe was being Americanized). There was the acknowledgment of sex and sexuality and the indulgence of fantasy about them to a certain extent, in that breathing space between Victorian prudery and the Sexual Counter-Revolution. There was a certain reimagining of glamour reflecting post-war Britain's mix of privation and comparative egalitarianism (Bond only gets to be a guest at a club like Blades, the luxury on display not aristocratness but, as Kingsley Amis put it, "backdoor semi-aristocratness"), and the redefinition of what even the most flamboyant luxury would look like by post-war consumerism (the use of brand names much remarked). There was, in Fleming, even a readiness to mix the straight adventure stuff with an element of the parodists' irony.

By the 1960s all of this soon enough stood in need of yet another update for film audiences, with the conservative politics and the bureaucracy played down, the luxury and sex and violence played up--with the help of the technique of the TV commercial, all but inventing the "high concept film" and the action movie as we know it, while the producers invented the practice of marketing blockbuster (a publicity blitz of a movie easily promoted in a commercial because it's a commercial-for-itself anyway, leading up to an ultra-wide release, accompanied by a colossal merchandising offensive), the series' real pop cultural legacies (merely extended and Americanized by George Lucas and co., not created by them).

A half century after that the significance of those three innovations (high concept, action film, blockbuster marketing) still stands as remarkable. But that is not enough to make the Bond films unique. Rather the result is the opposite--the Bond films are now comparatively ordinary, because the things that made them unique have become standard. Meanwhile, those things that make Bond different--the idea of British agents still traveling the globe on missions, for instance--seem out of time. Thus Bond today, older in our time than Duckworth Drew was in Fleming's as he sat down to pen Casino Royale, appears both commonplace and anachronistic, and not for lack of trying. Almost since the end of the '60s filmmakers, and from the start of the '80s, new novelists, have tried to update the update, and arguably the results have been less than totally satisfactory to a critical eye, even as the franchise has gone on raking in money. The most recent print efforts have been especially so, veering wildly between the purely contemporary and the totally retro (sometimes in the same book). Anthony Horowitz's typically and atypically twenty-first century effort at an official prequel to Casino Royale, Forever and a Day, only reaffirmed that impression on my part--discussed here for what it is worth.

How Did Robert Ludlum Become a Mega-seller?
2/25/20
Thoughts on the Upcoming Film Version of Without Remorse
2/25/20
My Posts on Paramilitary Fiction
2/25/20
My Posts on Tom Clancy
2/25/20
My Posts on Robert Ludlum
2/25/20
Just Out . . . Paramilitary Action-Adventure Fiction: A History
2/24/20
Review: Delightful Murder: A Social History of the Crime Story, by Ernest Mandel
2/24/20
What's Coming in 2020?
1/27/20
On Action Hero Prequels
1/9/20
The Secrets of Tom Clancy's Success
9/1/19
Paramilitary Fiction and the Military Techno-thriller: The Question of Social Class
7/15/19
The Delay of Bond 25
7/9/19
The Evolution of the Thriller
6/24/19
Announcing . . . A Century of Spy Fiction: Reflections on the Genre
6/17/19
Some of What I've Been Up to Lately (NYRSF, SSRN, Star Wars in Context: Second Edition)
5/3/18
William Haggard
12/18/16
Just Out . . . (The Many Lives and Deaths of James Bond, 2nd edition)
11/12/15
Just Out. . . (James Bond's Evolution)
10/10/15
Just Out . . . (The Forgotten James Bond)
9/24/15
My Posts on Spy Fiction
11/30/12
A History of the Spy Story
3/3/12
The Matarese Circle – Coming to a Theater Near You?
3/26/12
Reflections on the Jason Bourne Series
10/27/11

Review: Anthony Horowitz's Forever and a Day

MILD SPOILERS

I will say up front--for the benefit of those who have never read this blog before--that I tend to be reserved toward prequels. This is all the more the case when the subject of the prequel in question is a figure like Bond. Double-o-seven is very much a Gary Stu figure (if at times quite an unusual one), and it strikes me that such figures ought not to have too much past about them, or too much inner life, with the rebooted film series only confirming me in the impression.

There is, too, the fact that there just does not seem much for a Casino Royale prequel, about Bond becoming a double-o, to do. In Fleming's universe no one becoming a double-o is a neophyte. He is already a veteran when he starts in the section. And of course, the Bond of the novels, even as a veteran, was no omnicompetent superman. Instead he messed up time and again, and badly, often finishing his mission and staying alive simply because of some spectacularly unlikely coincidence. Thus nothing really formative, no making-of-the-superman-type stuff, can be said to happen here, just Bond being Bond, with a predictable result that, after the opening couple of chapters concerning Bond's assignment to the section I quite easily forgot that this was a prequel until some remark about Bond's preference in cigarette brands or cocktail preparation methods arises.

Hardly the makings of a memorable prequel or origin story, that. Still, if there was little hope of that from the outset the question of how well the book does as a plain and simple continuation novel remains. And the answer there is that some of it works, and some of it does not. One can say that the elements are indeed Fleming stuff, less distinctive and flamboyant than the precedents Horowitz opted to follow in Trigger-Mortis, but less worn too (Corsican gangsters and drug trafficking rather than secret rocket bases). Where its structure is concerned the book manages to feel like a Bond novel rather than a novelized Bond movie where the structure of the adventure is concerned. (For better and worse, Benson, and even Gardner, did not always do so.) And orowitz resists being so obvious in his pandering to the sensibility of 2018 (at least, by comparison, with an allegedly '50s-era Bond novel which undoes Pussy Galore's "conversion" in extremely in-Bond's-face fashion, and squeezes in a speech on gay liberation). And so in these ways it may be a more successful performance than his first. I will say, too, that his depiction of headquarters and M holds up, and if he does not quite have Fleming's eye for the little details, his travel writing is solid enough.

Still, some fairly central elements of the book are wildly implausible for a Fleming novel (like the bad blood between Bond and the CIA, even if it does not get quite as nuts as what we see in Faulks' Devil May Care), and wildly implausible period. (This is especially the case with the villain's motivation, the idea of an Establishment billionaire making his last grand act in this world the feeding of a heroin epidemic in the hopes of turning the country's attention inward at the height of the Cold War is . . . well, I cannot think of a way to express my incredulity politely.) So does it go where the smaller touches are concerned. (A lengthy anecdote involves a Soviet cruiser named Aleksander Kolchak, with a Captain Stolypin for a commanding officer. If any irony was intended, there is no sign of it, and I have to admit that it jarred.*)

And more consequential than any implausibility in the story is the sense that nothing here is really surprising or necessary. Of course, I doubt that Horowitz can be blamed for that, with the franchise in its seventh decade; with, even excluding the film novelizations (seven thus far), the spin-offs about Bond's childhood (Charlie Higson and Steve Cole have delivered nine all by themselves), the parodies that actually refer to Bond as Bond (from Christopher Cerf and Michael K. Firth's Alligator to Mabel Maney's Kiss the Girls and Make Them Spy), and assorted still weirder projects (from Andrei Gulyashki's Avakoum Zakhov vs. 07 to the Miss Moneypenny Diaries), nearly forty James Bond novels in print; with the task of "making it new" so much the more difficult because the interaction of book and film encouraged the "formulaic procedural" expectation so many fans of them; likely no one can do anything with them that has not been done before, and that to the point of exhaustion.

But such things do not give publishing executives pause. Whether or not Horowitz's latest has been a moneymaker, the idea of the owners of an IP whose value has been estimated at a staggering $20 billion (the GDP of Malta) letting go of the idea of continuing Bond adventures in the medium where they began is so implausible as to guarantee that "JAMES BOND WILL RETURN."

* Admiral Aleksander Kolchak, of course, commanded one of the White armies which attempted to overthrow the Bolsheviks during the civil war (1918-1921) that followed the Russian Revolution (1917)--hardly somebody Stalin's government would honor by naming a warship after him. (Incidentally, I did make a brief attempt to see if there had ever been such a vessel. Predictably, there wasn't. By the way, Ian Fleming's brother Peter actually wrote a journalistic investigation of the death of Kolchak, The Fate of Admiral Kolchak. Did this escape Horowitz?) Nikolai Stolypin was a pre-Revolutionary Minister remembered principally for his brutal repressive measures (testament to which is the expression "Stolypin necktie"). Alas, not the first time Horowitz has displayed a profound ignorance of other nations' histories and cultures, to the point of confusing racist stereotypes of one country with another (as with the matter of which nationalities supposedly eat dog and so forth, in Stormbreaker).

Subscribe Now: Feed Icon