Archive for the ‘review’ Category

For months I’ve been trying to get my hands on even paperback copies of certain books by William Le Queux and it turns out he is quite as hopelessly out-of-print as I suspected. Hurrah for the British Library!* I ordered and was brought a pretty selection of very ancient volumes and set quietly to work.

*You can, should you want, get one of those horrible facsimile paperbacks but they are generally unreadable and a waste of the paper they were printed on.

A Secret Service follows the trials and tribulations of Anton Prehznez, a wealthy Russian Jew, who is doing his military service when he learns his father has been sent to Siberia and his mother and sister are destitute. He is forced to finish his service and two years later races to find his family. He traces them to a small village. He arrives shortly after his mother has died of starvation, but just in time to witness his sister being flogged for insubordinance to an officer of the law (re: he tried to rape her and she stabbed him) and speaking ill of the Tzarist regime. Anton flings himself between the executioner’s final blow and his sister, and is sent to prison.

He is sentenced to hard labour in Siberia but manages to escape by running off in the night and jumping down a well. The guards concede that if he is dead he is better off than alive to see out his sentence, and leave. Anton manages to disguise himself well enough to reach the Pacific coast and is stowed on a steamer to Canada. From Canada, he goes to England, and in London he meets up with the Nihilists, a group of Russian revolutionaries who, though peaceful, seek the freedom* of their people by any means necessary.

*Both economic and freedom of movement; the latter is reflected in Anton’s escape across the world from Siberia, the terrible climate of which and vast expanse makes it essentially a prison without walls.

Although he does adhere to the somewhat floral language of his day, Le Queux is quick to establish that this story is based in reality; much of the initial prose focusses on reporting the suffering of the Russian people, the oppression of the Russian government and the clandestinity and brutality of the Secret Police, all very real at this time, displaying Le Queux’s journalist background.

Anton arrives in London declaring:

The majority of Londoners are unaware that the headquarters of the most powerful secret organisation in the world exists in their midst. (56)

Later spy novelists will take this notion and transform it into the secrecy surrounding the British Secret Service, though here Le Queux is in fact referring to the Executive Council of the Russian Revolutionists, which

holds daily council and matures the plots which from time to time startle Europe. (56)

(I love this idea of a startled Europe; I have an image of the cocked eyebrow of Europe as a plot matures suddenly under Europe’s nose. Such impropriety, Europe would think, but never say aloud.)

There are countless events and situations that arise that will become familiar within the genre. Anton’s personal evolution from a casual participant to an ardent member of the inner circle; the chases through disguises and across landscapes; the constant presence of the opposition; the danger even the slightest exposure would bring. Anton shadows his opponent even as he is shadowed.

Yet the act of spying here is regarded with severity. Spying against the people is frequently described as ‘detestible’, ‘vile’ and ‘disgusting’. It is a violation of the rights of the people, and for Anton spying, the fear of being spied upon, is precisely what needs to be stamped out for Russian citizens to be free. What he is really opposed to is the idea that the spies of the Russian Secret Police have been bought by the state to turn against their neighbours. Russia was staggering under the weight of widespread poverty and economic decay; survival required resorting to activities that, in normal times, would be unthinkable:

At such a level of morality, the prospect of a ‘paying job’ is sufficient to inspire the agents of the Russian ‘state police’ with a spirit of boundless enterprise. (79)

It’s important to note the distinction between these spies that are spied to work against the people, and Anton’s organisation that works against the state.

Unfortunately, while A Secret Service has elements of what will shape the genre, it is itself rather unsuccessful. It seems to me that halfway through Le Queux began to forget his characters’ backgrounds and motivations from one chapter to the next. Anton begins the story as a Russian Jew, but only the reader seems to remember that fact. His comrades, or at least their names, get muddled by Le Queux; their activities as a result seem largely forced and unnecessary. Anton, though he supposedly marries at the 2/3 mark, goes on to have a succession of love affairs, while his sister’s fiancé turns up three chapters after declaring his love for her with another woman. By the end of the novel, Le Queux attempts to regain his footing and brings the story back to Anton’s roots, but it’s far too late.

A Secret Service was hilarious, unfathomable and unlikely, but rarely at the right intervals.

Memorable quotes:

Wrong a man, deny him all redress, exile him if he complains, gag him if he cries out, strike him in the face if he struggles, and at last he will stab and throw bombs […] Our Government manufacturers murderers. (143)

Words are an index to one’s convictions. (180-1)


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This post was originally part of InSpyNoMo.

Some people might be wondering why I’ve chosen The Mystery of Dr Fu Manchu (1913) by Sax Rohmer as a text for InSpyNoMo. Basically, if you at all consider Ian Fleming’s 007 series to be a major influence in the genre (like it or loathe it), then you have to consider a number of texts that came before it and The Mystery of Dr Fu Manchu is one of them. (Another is ‘Sapper’s Bulldog Drummond.)

While undoubtedly one of the most absurdly racist series ever written, the Fu Manchu series is highly influential. In terms of actual ability, Sax Rohmer is a second-rate hack at best. His works are loaded with his own personal paranoia about the Far East, which were largely unfelt by the rest of Europe at the time he was writing, so not exactly one to read for historical accuracy. In a number of places I think there’s some evidence that suggests this paranoias spills into obsessive delusion. However, his works achieve two key things that did help shape the genre.

The stories are told via a Watson-type character, a doctor named Petrie, who is long-time friends with Nayland Smith, the true hero of the series. He acts as an aide and a sounding board to Nayland and, though he often muddles things up, he inevitably does something to enable Nayland to

First, Rohmer established the secret agent as hero. Nayland Smith, though he is never outright called a spy, is clearly a Secret Service agent, a servant of the British government sent out to gather information and take action in foreign countries against potential enemies of Britain. He’s one of those heroes who is virtually infallible, yet bares the scars of battle. He can fight and spar with as much ease and seeming grace as he does manoeuver upper-class circles. He’s brusque and taciturn, yet suave and a gentleman. He’s tough and sentimental. Smith is a civil servant devoted to the office he serves, yet he gets bored with inactivity and will often act rashly in order to speed things up a bit. In short, he bears all the paradoxes and character traits we recognise in James Bond.

(He is also hilariously described as ‘rapping’ out his dialogue, which I take to mean more ‘barking’ or ‘speaking with sharp intent’ than as a wonderful precursor to hiphop.)

Second, Rohmer’s Fu Manchu is the first truly evil mortal villain. I say ‘mortal’ because of course Dracula, et al., are all awful. But Fu Manchu is a man to fear because he is a man who seems like a god. He has built an empire around him, made up of followers who practically worship him. He has spies and consorts everywhere, virtually no move the hero makes goes undetected (and even when it does, Fu Manchu seems to maintain his one step ahead). He has the ability to infiltrate any circle, any class, and disguise himself undetectably. He is a criminal mastermind, who gains control over the minds of men and the bodies of women. The true horror surrounding Fu Manchu goes well beyond his racist roots.

Rohmer’s villain is a horrible thing to witness because he is able to shift seamlessly from a harmless old man to a baleful murderer in a matter of nanoseconds. He is horrible because he is an independent. He isn’t really attached to any government, and he’s so wealthy there’s no real need for him to commit the crimes he does. He does them largely for sport. However, the most terrible feature about him is that while our heroes wish him to be unknowable, something that is completely Other, they are all too aware that he represents all that we could become. He reminds us that evil is just as obtainable as good. Worst of all, he is uncatchable. I’ve not read the final book of the series, but as far as I can make out Fu Manchu always manages to wriggle out at the last moment, making him a perfect object a for Nayland to for ever chase after.

The portrayal of both the hero and the villain in Rohmer ultimately carved out how these character were to function in the sensational branch of the genre. Time and again we find the hero and villain held up alongside each other — seemingly diametrically opposed, yet frighteningly similar.

Fleming uses this dichotomy throughout the 007 series. Bond often remarks a grudging admiration, even affinity, for the villains he comes up against. Indeed, the villains usually possess similar character traits to Bond, holding them up against him as though reflected back in a distorted mirror.

In setting up Bond as a Super Hero Fleming takes this idea of the Super Villain and applies it to every villain Bond ever faces. Each of them is horrifying because they are so powerful and seem so unstoppable. Certainly, this can be seen in what is perhaps the most famous tribute to Fu Manchu: Dr No, whose own physical deformities (his heart is on the other side of his body) gain him wealth and power (because he seems invincible) and an entire island to rule (populated with devoted followers), and from which to take over the world (with the help of the Russians, who he will terminate once he’s in absolute power). But there, Fleming finishes the job by eventually allowing Bond to kill him and return home victorious. Perhaps, Bond’s successes are in part Fleming’s attempt to ‘correct’ Nayland Smith’s constant failure to secure the capture of Fu Manchu.

These stories are, as I said, exceedingly racist and make for uncomfortable reading because of it. As a white Canadian/British girl, I was aghast and not a little ashamed at the gross stereotyping and horrific way Rohmer paints anyone who is not white and British. He was practically fanatical in it, he intended these stories to be cautionary tales about the ‘wily’ and ‘dangerous’ East. But I don’t think it’s particularly useful to say it was a product of its time and push all that stuff under the carpet. If anything, in being confronted with such blatant prejudice the reader becomes forced to acknowledge latent racisms that continue to be present in whatever society they live in, which by default enters them into a dialogue that has the power to propagate change. And this, though clearly not what the author intended, is well worth any embarrassment felt in reading.

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This post was originally part of InSpyNoMo.

Max Brand‘s The Phantom Spy (1937) is almost spookily predictive of the events that were to occur in the years that followed its release. It is very topical, featuring mentions of most of Germany’s higher politicians, speculations on British defence capabilities and considers the necessity of spies in a peacetime that was heading swiftly to war. The spies in question are Lady Cecil and Willie Gloster. At first it seems as though Lady Cecil is a bit of a proto-Modesty Blaise. She’s dynamic and resourceful and is the first person the head of the Secret Service calls when he needs someone to swoop in and steal the only map of the Maginot Line — a line of weaknesses in border defences — in existence from German possession. And, with the help of Willie Gloster as her trusty sidekick, she does the job admirably.

Unfortunately the German Service is just as quick to retaliate and the map is swiped right out from under their noses at a reception back in London, held in Cecil’s honour for her good works.

The story from here takes a bit of a turn, as Cecil turns to a man she thinks is ‘the greatest spy in Europe’. She runs off with him, leaving Gloster to pick up the trail. We stay with Gloster as he goes through various disguises, using the Richard Hannay method of deception, to track down the maps. Gloster turns out to be a very capable spy and extraordinarily at ease adapting to the various roles he must perform. It should come as no surprise that at the very end Gloster both successfully secures the map and reveals himself as the Great Spy.

If nothing else, this novel offers a ‘ground-level’ reading of the political situation in Europe in the late 30s. While it does not attempt to reconcile political tensions or even offer an alternative to the inevitability of war, it does demonstrate how the actions of private individuals can be just as powerful as the decisions of governmental bodies. The writing style still clings to an innocence of sentiment that pervaded throughout the 1920s. For that, and for the perspective of pre-war Europe, I think it’s rather worth the read.

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This was originally part of InSpyNoMo.

Strictly speaking, Peter O’Donnell‘s Modesty Blaise is not a spy, and indeed the book that bears her name isn’t really spy fiction. Much like Ian Fleming’s middle 007 series, this is the stuff of proper adventure stories, with capers and pranks and lots of bloodshed, but little actual espionage. However, it’s got some good secret agent stuff in it and O’Donnell borrows quite a bit from the crosses and double crosses we’ve seen in Dark Wanton and The Great Impersonation.

Modesty Blaise (1965) is the first novelised adventure of Modesty Blaise, which began as a comic strip in 1963. A very visual read, its beginnings are evident. The chases come off with adrenalin, the fight scenes are described vividly, the humour is so physical it’s almost slapstick; it’s a bit like reading a picture, and I suspect that’s just what O’Donnell was striving for. I first came across her in ‘The Giggle-Wrecker’, a short story from O’Donnell’s 1972 collection Pieces of Modesty. The story is pretty implausible, though by far more ‘espionage-y’ than this one, but there was something intriguing about Modesty and the sort of odd buoyancy of dangerous adventure that filters through.

Modesty is a hardened ex-con with a heart of gold and fists of steel, who, against impossible odds, can outwit the most wily criminal and outfox the most deadly killer. In this first book, she and her right-hand man, Willie Garvin, are pulled out of retirement to help the British government ensure the safe passage of a consignment of diamonds. Rumours of plans for a heist have been swilling. The suspected gang is ruthless, and if the rumours are true, they can be sure that the leader will stop at nothing to get at securing his haul.

Most of the book is merely groundwork, introducing Modesty and Willie to the reader, as well as to the other characters. It turns out neither Modesty nor Willie are at all what the reader or the other characters were expecting. It isn’t until we’re three-quarters of the way through that the plot begins to come together, and it’s at this point when Modesty and Willie’s abilities as secret agents begin to take effect, as they set up their entry into the gang as rivals for the diamonds. Although the ending is unsurprising (they win), how they actually run the race is well-played out and engagingly timed.

One of the most interesting aspects of the novel (and the comic strips) is the portrayal of the men that surround Modesty. We often see them struggle against the clear strength and intelligence Modesty possesses, and the juxtaposition of a hardened killer encased in a voluptuous female form. She’s stylish and quite feminine, yet once on the job she ceases to be a woman in the sense they understand.

Her ability to operate with strict military unemotionality unsettles them, as does the authority that she assumes. This is particularly true of the men who either want to sleep with her (such as Paul Hagan, whose own feelings of protectiveness towards her nearly gets them both killed) or who don’t believe women can ever really be anything but the stereotype of femininity they expect of all women (such as the Right Honorable Percival Thornton, who heads the department that sends her). Perhaps the thing that they find most discombobulating of all is the fact that, as Lauren Henderson notes, unlike her male counterparts, Modesty has nothing to prove.

In this respect, it’s particularly interesting that bith the comics and the novelisations were written just as the Second Wave of feminism was beginning to gather (The Feminine Mystique was published the same year Modesty was born as a comic; The Female Eunuch came 5 years after this novel). She might have big boobs and she might use her body to get something out of someone, but much to my surprise, Modesty provides a stronger female role model than I think had ever been seen before. The blurb on the back cover my my edition quotes The Observer, which raves, ‘Before Buffy, before Charlie’s Angels, before Purdy and Emma Peel there was Modesty Blaise’, and after reading the story I reckon the likes of The Bride and Æon Flux ought to be added to the list, too. Spy fiction might not owe anything to Modesty Blaise, but iconic female heroes owe plenty.

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This was originally part of InSpyNoMo.

Peter Cheyney is probably best known for his hard-boiled detective novels starring Lemmy Caution, but Dark Wanton (1948) is part of his ‘dark’ series of spy novels. His brief foray into espionage fiction was to be fairly influential. Many writers, such as Ian Fleming and Len Deighton, would go on to emulate the unsentimental intelligence of his protagonists, and the cleverly tangled plotlines. Indeed, Dark Wanton is tinged with a degree of ‘dirtiness’ that you often see in Cold War spy thrillers.

Dark Wanton is very typical of British novels written during the 1940s and into the early 1950s in that it somewhat grudgingly admires women with a bit of chutzpah and does everything it can to convince the British reader than Britain is still a mighty force to be reckoned with. It follows the post-war British Secret Service on the chase for two missing documents, which hold the names of unknown war criminals. Though we never see the contents of either of these documents (in fact, we never see the real documents at all), we get a glimpse of what it must have been like for those agents who were forced to settle into ‘normal’ life after the action of the Second World War, and the temptations that must have haunted them.

Cheyney does quite a marvellous job of weaving a myriad double-crosses schemes and tying them up both realistically (in the context of the world of the novel) and artfully. In this respect, it’s a remarkable examination of performance and the experience of performing. But this I mean every character plays their role rather than is their role. Facades for each character are always already in place and always already known by the other characters.

The other characters expect Antoinette Brown to be a vaguely icy virginal figure and always unruffledly shocked at impropriety. Thus Antoinette acts like a vaguely icy virginal figure and always unruffledly shocked at impropriety, even when she is caught in the act of breaking into one of the leading male protagonists’ flat. Aurora Francis is expected to be curious about men and thus able to be trapped by her curiosity, and so she allows herself to be seen as curious about men and thus trapped by her curiosity.

Academically speaking, the duplicity of the narrative and the contrivance of how each character is maneuvered is fascinating. The (omniscient, anonymous) narrator is very honest about these various levels of deceit. The reader is always aware that events are being staged rather than happening organically; equally, the reader is always aware that characters are performing their part and so react as their part would react rather than as they would themselves. They allow themselves to act so and allow themselves to be acted upon. It’s all a great game of open pretense.

One of the more inviting observations Cheyney allows his protagonists to make is that of the double double cross:

To think of what the other man is going to do. Even to allow for his thinking that you knew what he was going to do and then, deliberately, to allow for his doing the opposite. The double double-cross used a million times in the war by ‘double agents’ — those supreme beings who worked on two sides but gave loyalty to only one side.

What all of this ends up achieving, at least in terms of the relationship between the reader and Cheyney himself, is a very interesting variant of the double double-cross. With everything directed, and the direction so transparent, escapism is virtually impossible. Even the excruciatingly Hollywood dialogue ends up highlighting just how ‘staged’ it all is. In this respect, with the artifice of the story ever exposed, even the grubbiness of its subject feels glossed over. The reader pretty well knows what the outcome of the story is yet must pretend to be surprised when the denouement is flawlessly presented at the end. Loyalty, then, is ultimately won by the author, but (rather like the other characters he’s been manipulating) the reader resents rather than admires him for it.

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This was originally part of InSpyNoMo.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is best known as one of the founding fathers of detective fiction. Sherlock Holmes is practically synonymous with Detective, Watson with side-kick. However, there are a fair handful of their adventures that are actually early examples of the spy genre. In particular, ‘The Naval Treaty’ (1893), ‘The Second Stain’ (1904), ‘The Bruce-Partington Plans’ (1912) and ‘His Last Bow’ (1917) feature, if not actual spying then certainly themes of espionage. In the first three, Holmes acts as detective for cases of international intrigue; national, rather than personal or familial, security is at stake in each. If he fails, the country is at war and various members of Government publicly denounced.

In ‘His Last Bow’, in order to protect British military and defence secrets from foreign spies, Holmes actually turns agent himself, feeding false information to the Germans on the eve of World War I. Unlike the previous three, here Holmes’s famous powers of deduction remain largely untouched. Instead he infiltrates an England-based German spy ring via the guise of a disgruntled Irish-American. Although a good story, as a spy story ‘His Last Bow’ is flawed. The reveal scene seems unnecessary; Holmes could have easily revealed to Watson and the reader alone. Many argue that a ‘real’ spy would have left von Bork, the German ringleader, to escape back to Germany and continued to feed him misinformation once war was declared. Holmes, instead, reveals all and thus undermines two years toil and an entire network of British agents.

I can see where these critics come from, though rarely do fictional spies ever behave the way spies might in the real world. What seems to me more interesting is that in later spy-fi, we find the villains doing the reveal, which ultimately enables the hero to restore order. (And, of course, it doesn’t do for the spy-hero to win too easily, nor for the spy-hero to boast to the villain that he has succeeded. As the invisible hero, he must instead finish the job and make sure there’s enough time for the paint to dry before morning rush-hour begins.) I wonder if this ‘blunder’ by Holmes is actually where we find the story’s lasting, if distorted, effect.

I have yet to read this properly, but this article by Esme Miskimmin looks like it might offer some useful insights into Victorian views of criminality and the criminal underworld.

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The Riddle of the Sands (1903) was pretty much an immediate sensation when it first came out and propelled its author, Erskine Childers, to fame. It’s widely considered the first true spy novel, though there’s a surprising degree of debate surrounding that claim. (You could argue that Caleb Williams (1794) by William Godwin should really take that crown, but it’s less about a spy than it is about the consequences of spying — two very different things. There are others, too, that could take the mantle, but we’ll look at those another day.) However, there are several interesting facets about Childers’s book that make it of particular appeal. Father of Mary Shelley he is not, but the novel did lead him to being executed for treason. The irony of this is almost excruciating, and entirely befits a spy novelist.

Childers was born in England and, though not entirely politically minded, he was so outraged by the injustices of the British occupation in Ireland that he ended up joining Sinn Fein and eventually rose to the position of secretary-general of the newly formed Irish Republic. Unfortunately, this very public position eventually led to his downfall. Winston Churchill, who apparently privately admitted the armament of Britain was largely due to the exposure of their potential defensive weaknesses in Riddle of the Sands, once claimed of Childers,

No man has done more harm or done more genuine malice or endeavoured to bring a greater curse upon the common people of Ireland than this strange being, actuated by a deadly and malignant hatred for the land of his birth.

The short story is that he strongly opposed the final draft of the Anglo-Irish Treaty and effectively became blacklisted by both sides in his effort to find a better way forward (the long story is both a bit more boring and a lot more bloody). As a result, he went into hiding, having been accused of duplicity and ‘starting one war and trying to start another’, and was finally charged with gun-possession and executed by a firing squad.

Riddle of the Sands is one of those books I wasn’t really expecting to like. Despite the debt they owe, many of Childers’s literary descendants accuse Riddle of being a glorified yachting adventure novel with a thread of espionage loosely woven through the centre — hardly a commendation. Also, it was essentially a propaganda novel, playing off growing fears among the British that The Enemy was not only in their midst but due to slack national security could successfully invade at any moment. However, it’s actually really well written and has an oddly lyrical nature to the narration. In fact, I frequently find myself reading it in the same voice as I would Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat.

The story follows the adventures of a civil servant named Carruthers who is invited on a sailing holiday in the Baltic to escape the routine world of the office and finds himself embroiled in a plot by the Germans to invade Britain. Carruthers and his companion, Davies, must now escape notice (and capture) and try not to fall for the ‘horrible nuisance’ of a heroine, all the while racing to warn the authorities and stop the invasion of their fair shores. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the mindset of the era and provides a marvellous springboard into any discussion on the development of social paranoia.

I think what makes this novel particularly interesting to me is that it was written before there was a genre proper, so any generic ‘conventions’ we find are actually borrowed from adventure and detective fiction, and ‘masculine romances’. I think because of this, it seems rather removed from the conspiracy, clandestinity and slightly camp subterfuge experienced by the heroes and anti-heroes from later examples of the genre, such as The Spy Who Came In from the Cold (le Carre, 1963) or The Berlin Memorandum (Hall, 1965). However, at the time, fledgling thrillers like this one offered a stark contrast to the adventure tales aimed largely at schoolboys, or the police procedural novels found in railway station bookshops. Early espionage novels dealt with the political world stage. They encompassed real fears of international instability and the consequences of the quickening pace of modernisation. (It should come as no surprise that the genre emerged amid burgeoning modernist concerns with alienation and social order, even if the spy genre and literary modernism ended up in different places.) Early spy fiction is deeply perturbed by the increasing impotence of the ordinary individual. In particular, these early novels attempt to resolve these issues by trying to reconcile with the potential for invasion or subversion by an unknown Other.

I won’t get too into it here, but this can really be seen at work in Riddle. The two heroes, Davies and Carruthers, are still bound by a social system in which privacy is practically held on a pedestal. (In this respect you could argue that this is why ‘respectable’ women couldn’t really be seen alone in public, because they were representatives of the home, that hallowed sphere of the private.) Carruthers is shocked by Davies’s conviction that Dollmann (the villain of the piece) is a German spy and almost immediately dismisses the possiblity on the grounds it is ungentlemanly. You can imagine his reaction when Davies deduces that they themselves must spy on Dollmann in order to confirm their suspicions about his activities.

Yet, it’s only when they can discover that Dollmann is in fact English (and thus himself breaking the rules of engagement) that their own spying becomes acceptable. In order for the heroes to expose the spy, they must themselves become spies; in order for Dollmann to be uncovered as the ‘enemy’, he must be found to be already a traitor. Thus, they rely heavily on the presence of a higher authority (what Lacan would term ‘a big Other’, i.e. here the abstract authority of social mores) for justification and reassurance in their cause, and they actively strive to uphold the tenets of that authority. As Carruthers eventually concedes,

the man is an Englishman, and if he’s in Germany he’s a traitor to us, and we as Englishmen have a right to expose him. If we can’t do it without spying we’ve a right to spy, at our own risk.

So, even when their faith in their ability to get out of their predicament begins to waver, they ultimately find security in the belief that the symbolic order is right. Despite Dollmann’s protests that he is in fact working for the English inside Germany as a double agent, they decide the only way to solve the situation is to take him back to England. There he will either prove right or be hanged as a traitor. However, just as they are entering the North Sea, Dollmann jumps overboard and lets the weight of his chains sink him to the bottom. His suicide serves to both confirm Davies and Carruthers’s assertions that he is up to no good and validate their belief in the symbolic order they are trying to uphold.

There seems to be a bit of renewed interest in Riddle of late, there was a review of it in the Guardian a couple of days ago and the BBC did a radio play of it last year. If Julie for Forgotten Classics does end up deciding to read it, I know I for one will be listening.

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