Saturday, January 15, 2011


One of my current writing projects is a police proceedural novel -- TORONTO HOMICIDE -- set in 1968. Its era of 40 years ago seems so distant now, it could almost be considered an historical novel; or at least an echo the style of the “golden age” thrillers. As a break from writing it, I am taking time to briefly muse about fond memories of my own early enjoyment of reading writers of the genre, back during the Second World War.
The first name that comes to my mind is Leslie Charteris (Leslie Yee) author of the Saint series. As I read his books while I was young, the "Saint" books seemed more than mere thrillers to me. Through them, I learned about a wider world; of adult human nature, skullduggery, adult urbanity, romance, and examples of bad guys ruthlessly getting it in the neck as implacable payback for their wickedness. I actually met one of my then-idols, Bernard Newman, who visited my school to lecture about writing his series of espionage novels, based on his own actual experiences as a British counter-spy in the First World War. Heady stuff!
Another great thriller writer was Eric Ambler, who transported me to the back alleys of Istamboul and many other exotic locales, where scheming gun-runners and secret agents lurked. One notable title was “A Coffin for Demetrios” now better known as "Mask Of Demetrios." Then there was Geoffrey Household (“Rogue Male”) who also took this young reader into a better-written world of secret agents in foreign parts.
The above were a more sophisticated step-up from my earliest favourite thrillers I started out with --  the cheerfully thuggish upper-crust avenger, “Bulldog Drummond," Peter Cheney’s ruthless spies and gangsters. In closing, dare I mention? -- Rene Raymond's “No Orchids For Miss Blandish” and the wonderfully sexist Robert Lesley Bellam, arch scribe of 'Spicy Stories.'
Ah, truly, they just don’t make thriller writers like 'em any more.
-- Sidney Allinson.

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