Monday, 1 July 2013

BRIAN GARFIELD - HOPSCOTCH


Synopsis/blurb......

Winner of the 1976 Edgar Award for Best Novel
Bored with retirement, an ex-spy challenges his old agency to a game
Miles Kendig is one of the CIA’s top deep-cover agents, until an injury ruins him for active duty. Rather than take a desk job, he retires. But the tawdry thrills of civilian life—gambling, drinking, sex—offer none of the pleasures of the intelligence game. Even a Russian agent’s offer to go to work against his old employers seems dull. Without the thrill of unpredictable conflict, Kendig skulks through Paris like the walking dead.

To revive himself, he begins writing a tell-all memoir, divulging every secret he accumulated in his long career. Neither CIA nor KGB can afford to have it in print, and so he challenges them both: Until they catch him, a chapter will go to the publisher every week. Kendig’s life is fun again, with survival on the line.

“Fun and games: that’s what Hopscotch is all about . . . Garfield is one of the best: he writes as well as any crime novelist around.” - New York Times 
“Great fun.” - Otto Penzler

“Once again Garfield shows his genius for weaving history and fiction into a fabric of fast-paced, high-suspense storytelling.” - Robert Ludlum

I’ve previously read Garfield’s Deathwish book which was made into the iconic film of the same name starring Charles Bronson. I recall enjoying it without actually being blown away. Hopscotch published 3 years later in 1975 was much more enjoyable for me. Incidentally this was also adapted as a comedy for the big screen in 1980 and starred Walter Matthau and Glenda Jackson.

We kick off with Miles Kendig, 53, a retired CIA agent, drifting, bitter and resentful after his forced retirement from the agency. Spending time in Paris, he’s approached by the Russians to get back in the game by working for them. Unable to accept, he still needs something in his life to fill the void that retirement has left him with.

Penning his memoirs and drip feeding them a chapter at a time to 14 different publishing houses, offers him the opportunity to prove he still has all the moves necessary to play the game.

What follows, with Kendig anticipating every move his former employer and enemies make, was absolutely brilliant. Garfield brings everything to the table in this 200-odd page long classic.....intelligence, pace, action and humour, populated by a believable, likeable hero pursued by his former colleague and friend, Cutter and his underling Ross, both of whom I grew to like as the novel unfolded.

It’s a testament to the author’s skill when you can empathise with both the protagonist on his last mission and those now in pursuit and tasked with stopping him at any price. Garfield’s novel won the 1976 Edgar for best novel, it’s not difficult to appreciate just why.

5 from 5, and a last minute candidate for my book of the month.

I bought my second hand copy from a local charity shop a couple of years ago.

*Unable to find the exact cover image online, I have taken a happy snap with my phone. I’m unsure why it’s greenish!

  

11 comments:

  1. Col, any spy novel is my kind of novel and I plan to read this book. The first Brian Garfield book I read was THE ROMANOV SUCCESSION and I liked it so much that I soon read a couple of other books by him, though not DEATH WISH. And then I forgot all about Garfield until I bought PALADIN which I intend to read shortly. He is a must-read author. I'm glad he has written many novels under his own and assumed names.

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    1. Prashant from the book I get the sense that Garfield had fun writing this. Apart from this and DEATHWISH, the only other one I think I have of his is GANGWAY - a collaborative effort with Donald Westlake. I will keep my eyes out for anything else of his that crosses my path. I hope you get the chance to read this one.
      Curiously, I just checked his bio on the Fantastic Fiction website and he hasn't had any new fiction out for over 20 years - 1989, I think. Unless he uses assumed names these days.

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  2. Winner of the 1967 Edgar Award....

    That's all the recommendation I needed. *lol* Kidding great review and your rating pushed me to add this to my ever growing tbr pile. Thanks Col. Yes, why is that pic green?

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    1. If you do get the chance to hunt it down, I reckon you'd enjoy it, I have a bit of a personal challenge where I want to read an Award winning book each month, irrespective of age! I would like to read all the Edgar winners, but I don't think that's a realistic aim,

      Green photo - I've really no idea. I might photograph my next couple of books and see how they turn out, rather than post generic web photos to go with my reading. It is an old phone, so it might be dying on me.

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    2. I bought it! It was available in ebook.

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    3. Wow, you don't hang about! I'll expect to see your review, by the time I'm up in the morning!

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  3. I think I might have even seen the film of this one, back in the day. I read one book by Brian Garfield, years ago, about a schoolboy spy (The Paladin, I just looked it up, can't believe how many books he's written)- which I loved, just because I loved the derring do, children's comic concept I think.

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    1. Moira, after Prashant's comments I also had a look at his output and couldn't believe it. There are others of his I'd like to read, but I'll only get them if I cross paths, rather than actively seeking them out. I'd never stop buying book otherwise.

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  4. I have been wanting to read this book since we watched the movie for the first time (sometime in the last year). I loved the movie. Comparing the movie to your review, the two stories are a bit different but the basics are the same. And it starred Walter Matthau, one of my favorite actors. I am glad to hear you liked it so much.

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    1. Tracy, yes when I read the summary of the movie it is a little bit different. It's one of those films I need to keep an eye out for if it repeats on the TV over here at some point. I think Glenda Jackson is very good as well as an actress.

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