29 September 2012

Spy vs Spy

While searching for more Bond, I discovered two Penguin paperbacks by William Haggard. The spines stood out on the shelves as they were green and most of the books in the thriller section were black (with silver or gold foil lettering). They were old, sixties, and the blurb was interesting, ‘the adults’ Ian Fleming’. Naturally I took them home, then onto Crete.

I’d not heard of Haggard before, the books were more John Le Carré than Ian Fleming, written in a time that no longer exists, of middle-aged men who were out of touch with the modern world of the sixties, men who had fought in the Second World War, rather than have read about it. Seemingly dull civil servants, leading dull lives, but underneath a whole mess of intrigue and political machinations. I’ve not found anymore of his books since, a search on Wikipedia gets me a list of his novels, over 30 published between 1958 and 1990, and sneaky peek at Amazon and ebay reveals a limited treasure trove of second-hand books, but that would be cheating, the search has continued and is, so far, failing.

When you own a Kindle, it is linked to your Amazon account, and when you log on, it will make suggestions, these can be a bit off the wall sometimes and one suggestion was a free preview of an Anthony Price novel: Other Paths to Glory. One free chapter, an historian working on a book about the First World War, approached by two mysterious men who may or may not be Military. I was suckered in and I downloaded the full version. On holiday in Croatia, I seem to read spy books on holiday, it confused me for a while, I had presumed it was a new(ish) book but the timelines didn’t make sense and there were oblique references to Irish terrorism, I stopped, went to the beginning to find that it was first published in 1974. I enjoyed the mixture of history, archaeology and mystery so much so, that when I finished it I made my way to the hotel’s reception where there was free WiFi and downloaded another Anthony Price: The Labyrinth Makers, his first book from 1970, and then two days later: The Old Vengeful, which mentioned a female Prime Minister, so must from the eighties.

Back home, my old friend, Wikipedia, revealed a writing career spanning nearly 20 years, However, Amazon only had three of his books. I was back to where I started with William Haggard; I had come across a writer that I wanted to read more of, but history and fashion were against me. It got me thinking of Dickens and Victorian literature in general, there must have been many more writers that have disappeared into the library of forgotten ink. Obviously Dickens was head and shoulders above the rest, or was he? I can read Dickens now because I have access to a vast array of his books, over the years he has been published and republished, because he was the best? Or the most popular? How many of today’s writers will be remembered in 20 or 30 years time? The good ones or just the bestsellers?

My on/off search for more William Haggard continues, and this week I noticed that Amazon now have more Anthony Price novels available, meaning that I can now read them in chronological order, but a couple of sets of paperbacks to complement my James Bond collection has to be my next target.


  1. May I suggest you get in touch with some second hand book sellers? I know they exist in the Uk as my sister is a big fan and you are a pro but I would like to suggest you spread your wings a bit... are these American writers or only British? I know Seattle and NYC both have some excellent second hand books stores and will deliver international.

    Unless you are the strictly rummaging kind of buyer?

  2. I just love wandering around second hand shops, I only found the Haggard books because they were close to where the James Bond would/should have been, I succumbed to Ebay to complete my Bond series and it still doesn't feel good, I'm trying not to be a collector of books just for the sake of it, probably failing!