Ostara Publishing Colourfon

Ostara Publishing

12 Jan 2010
Books: The Ninth Directive

Adam Hall/Elleston Trevor


Quiller

 

In  the  Swinging Sixties, spies were all, the rage, both in reality and popular fiction.

By 1965 we already had James Bond (even though Ian Fleming had died, his hero was conquering cinema screens worldwide), John le Carré’s George Smiley, Len Deighton’s  anonymous but very streetwise hero (“Harry Palmer” in the films), James Leasor’s doctor/spy Jason Love, John Michael Brett’s Hugo Baron, James Mayo’s aristocratic Charles Hood and John Gardner’s tongue-in-cheek cowardly spy Boysie Oakes.

Then came Quiller. There had been nothing quite like him before and precious little since.

This was a spy...a secret agent...a super-agent, who always acted alone and unarmed. He worked for something called ‘The Bureau’ in London, which handled assignments too messy or too dangerous for MI5 or MI6 and to the Bureau, he was just ‘Quiller’ (though of course that was not his name) and the suffix ‘9’ which meant that he could stand any amount of torture.

To the spy game, the non-smoking, non-drinking Quiller brought the ultimate in cool control and the discipline of the Karate master.

Quiller is as super-tough as they come, able drive at super-top speeds (all the while thinking away about torque and things like that), able to fight with super-fast reflexes (all the while thinking about the circulation of the blood). He’s a super-loner too – Last Testament: Nothing of value, no dependants, next-of-kin unknown.

-        From ‘Whodunit? A Guide to Crime, Suspense & Spy Fiction’ (1982)

When Quiller first appeared in 1965 in The Berlin Memorandum, the critics were unanimous: this was something new in spy fiction.

“1965’s leading spy novel” – New York Times

“As exciting as vintage Fleming, as sexy, as ingenious, but even tauter with a really intelligent toughie for a hero” – Illustrated London News

“Spare...chilling...brilliant” – Spectator

“Stunning” – Chicago Tribune

“Best thriller of the year” –Book Week

“The best espionage novel I have read in 1965” – Kingsley Amis

“One of the best spy novels I’ve ever read” – John Dickson Carr

Lone-wolf Quiller was an instant hit, an obsessive, highly-controlled lone wolf. He was unlike any other hero is fiction and went on to feature in eighteen more novels over the next thirty years, cementing his place in the history of thriller-writing long after many of his contemporary rivals were forgotten. In many ways his only rival – and possibly his natural successor – is the tough drifter hero Jack Reacher in the present-day thrillers of Lee Child.

The film rights to that first book were snapped up and, as The Quiller Memorandum, appeared in 1967 with a spare, often enigmatic, screenplay from Harold Pinter and, thanks to the whims of Hollywood, an American, George Segal, in the lead role.

By the time the film came out, Quiller had starred in another novel, The Ninth Directive, which threw him into the middle of a dangerous game of assassination in Thailand, pitting him against a professional marksman who might just be his equal. Apart from what were to become the Quiller trademarks of heightened tension and rapid-fire action, the detail on assassination by long-range rifle shot had never been done better – and the book pre-dates the more famous Day of the Jackal by several years.

The creator of Quiller was no stranger to literary success, although the name ‘Adam Hall’ was only one of the many covert identities he adopted in a long writing career across several genres.

Trevor Dudley-Smith was born and educated in Kent and published his first books during WWII whilst serving in the RAF in 1943. He wrote under at least ten names, including Mansell Black, Simon Rattray, Roger Fitzalan and ‘Elleston Trevor’ which he liked so much he legally adopted it. As Elleston Trevor he is probably best remembered for the gripping aviation disaster thriller The Flight of the Phoenix but for lovers of great British thrillers, he will always be known as Adam Hall.

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