Mar 122012
 
Nick Jones, who writes the Existential Ennui  blog and is one mad book collector I'd like go shopping with if I ever get to the U.K. again, asked me to participate in an interview with Christopher Nicole, author of numerous historical novels and as "Andrew York" is the writer of the Jonas Wilde spy novels. I came up with some rambling, harebrained questions about his spy fiction that go on and on in my avidly curious and probing fashion while Nick came up with some more pertinent and streamlined questions that address Nicole's entire career as a writer. Nicole's answers are surprisingly terse and in some cases disappointingly prosaic. But the entire interview makes for great reading. It's always fascinating to get inside the head of a writer, I think.

Please visit Nick's blog here to read the interview. You'll learn more about Christopher Nicole's work outside of the spy novels (a very small portion of his prolific output), discover his personal favorites among his books, and many other interesting tidbits including why Jonas Wilde stopped drinking Bacardi.
 Posted by at 2:42 pm
Feb 232012
 
1st US paperback (Berkley, Oct 1969)
Here's the book in which Jonas Wilde is forced to use a gun instead of his hands to deal with his enemies. It's a survival tactic and he must resort to firing a Derringer (of all things) to take out one of three pursuers in the final pages of The Predator (1968). This is only the third book and Wilde came close to being eliminated himself three times in the course of another plot that delivers action and thrills and the usual Yorkian surprise twists.

But I'm starting with the end first, aren't I? Sorry.

At the start we learn that Wilde has been officially retired from the Elimination Sector formerly known as "The Route." (see my review of The Eliminator) Yet only one day later he is picked up by trench coat wearing men who refuse to identify themselves and take n to the Five Star Photography Studio. This was formerly the front for the offices of Mocka, his much younger commander. Now it is the scene of three violent murders. One of the victims is Julia Ridout who gave Wilde his walking papers the previous night then proceeded to give him a farewell in her bedroom. Wilde was just getting over the murder of the first woman he fell for and now he's faced with a another murdered lover. The rage within him can hardly be contained.

Mocka provides Wilde with the background. It all seems to be tied to the disappearance of a CIA agent, Charlie Klaeger. Klaeger was following up leads related to the arranged prison escape and subsequent murder of Alfonso Torrio, an Italian mobster with ties to the American underworld. Klaeger, Mocka reports, must have been tortured and given the location of the photography studio and some hoods from Torrio's syndicate then infiltrated the studio trying to find out what Klaeger was after.  They finished the job by killing everyone on site. Mocka hints that Wilde may be able to find the killers in Rome who have been placing personal ads in English language European newspapers hoping to lure in unsavory types for an underground academy specializing in mercenary skill.

1st UK paperback (Arrow, 1969)
With the help of some of his criminal contacts he obtains some phony ID and becomes "Johnny Foxley" – a London thug who is interested in becoming a killer for hire. He travels to Italy and answers the ad and discovers the he has enrolled in an assassination academy run by a woman with the spectacular name of Glorious Torrio, the daughter of Alfonso Torrio. Along the way he also meets a Antonia Del Rivia, a heroin addicted would-be painter with pansexual tastes, her brother Cesare he is second-in-command at the killer academy, and Paul Sanger, the primary teacher in the art of murder.

Something I have started to note in this series is that Wilde ages chronologically. In this book age and youth are always on his mind. He is bothered by the fact that at only 37 years he is already an "old man" in the spy game. Mocka, his boss, is ten years younger than he is. The students at the assassin academy also are all considerably younger than Wilde. And then there's his troublesome sciatica and muscle problems; they are his greatest weakness at a time when he must be in peak physical condition. His bad back is his undoing on more than one occasion in The Predator and it makes him seem less of a comic book superhero or a mindless athletic killing machine. A spy with chronic back problems is real. I'll take that over the old gunshot to the shoulder cliche which seems to be the only thing that tends to slow down the rest of the fictional spies I've encountered.

York's strength once again is in the creation of hypnotically fascinating woman characters like Glorious (or Glo to her friends). The women are always the most complex and intriguing characters in the Jonas Wilde books, but in Glorious Torrio York seems to have outdone himself. Smart and deadly, she is an Amazonian athlete with a heart of steel, a teasing sexual allure, and a bloodlust to match her carnal appetite. She is the closest to being Wilde's female match as a ruthless emotionally detached killer. It'll take some imagination to surpass this woman in viciousness and cunning. She nearly succeeds in sending Wilde to his great reward on more than one occasion.

Then there is Jonquil Malone, the redheaded American girl Wilde meets on the plane trip down to Rome. She has a habit of turning up unwanted in the most surprising places. She seems to be nothing more than an slightly ditsy tourist looking for a fling with a handsome Brit and she dislikes having been stood up by Wilde not once but twice. She comes off as a stalker and her curiosity gets the better of her. But is she more than just a tourist? Is it all coincidence? Is she just an incredible actress and really a spy?

Writer Christopher Nicole (AKA "Andrew York")
The Predator is a return to a straight thriller. None of the pulpy, quasi-science fiction elements found in The Coordinator are present. Jonas seems to have entered a vigilante stage and appears to be acting entirely on his own until the usual Yorkian twist in the final pages. The expository beginning is a bit to trudge through, but once Jonas lands in Italy the book is nothing but action scenes. And darn good action scenes with little of the requisite monologues that York's characters (mostly the villains) like to indulge in.

This would make a a fantastic movie. Better than Danger Route, the only film version of the Andrew York books. Any action movie producers or screenwriters out there? Here's a book screaming to be adapted into a money making screenplay. It would do phenomenally well at the box office.

UPDATE ON NEW EDITIONS OF ANDREW YORK BOOKS
From an email I received from Mike Ripley, editor at Top Notch Thrillers and overall good guy:
"…we are doing [The Predator] as a Top Notch Thriller in about two weeks time! I’ve enclosed our cover and in fact Pretty Sinister Books is quoted on page 2 in the before-the-title page. We are also doing The Deviator (which I think is better) and have plans to do The Infiltrator."

I've become part of the blurbing world! Very cool.

The entire line of Top Notch Thrillers – a variety of reissued action adventure, spy and crime novels – are available through amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, bookdepository.com (always free shipping!) and a few other online dealers.

To pre-order a copy of The Predator (release date is mid-March 2012) go directly to Ostara Publishing by clicking here. On that page you will see there is already a link to my review of the book. Thanks, Mike!
 Posted by at 3:29 am