Regular readers of Mike Ripley’s crime blog, Getting Away With Murder, already know three things about the author: he has a wry sense of humour, he reads a hell of a lot, and he is keen to resurrect the dead. Well, the moribund, let’s say, novels that Time has almost forgotten. Not a month goes by without a fond recollection regarding one or two or even half a dozen titles of crime novels or thrillers that once took the world by storm.
“Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” takes Ripley’s lifelong love of thrillers to its logical conclusion: indeed, he has written a brilliant history of the genre. He charts with rare insight the flowering of the British adventure story in the 1950s, its evolution into the spy fantasy of James Bond, and its transition into the cooler and more cynical spy fiction which arrived with the Cold War. The tearing down of the Berlin Wall might have changed all that, except for fact that thrillers refused to be torn down. If you enjoy John Le Carrè, Alan Furst, or David Downing, you will love the generation of writers who were working in a period “when the reading public was steeped in an espionage culture.”
This is an expert guide for those who would like to know more.
“Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” kicks off with a Spoiler Alert which announces all the spoilers you could possibly hope for, and adroitly lays down the history of post-war Britain, when the war was won, but the Empire was shrinking, suggesting that the thriller followed the shifts and the tides of British social history more closely than any other genre, recounting many fascinating tales behind the books and the authors who wrote them, and summing up one trend thus: “When it came to villains, you couldn’t beat a good Nazi.”
I was amazed by just how many titles the author mentions, even more surprised to learn that I had read quite a few of them. On the down side, however, it reveals just how much popular literature is in the process of being buried beneath the dust. Inspired by Ripley, I am kindling my way through a host of classics I had never read, adding new titles by Desmond Bagley, Alistair MacLean, Jack Higgins, Anthony Price, and… God help me, there are still another thirty-four names on my to-be-read list!
“Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” will open up a world that the reader will enjoy, I guarantee.
Mike Ripley is the author of over twenty novels, notably the ‘Fitzroy Maclean Angel’ series.
“Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” by Mike Ripley (Harper Collins, May, 2017).