If you’re one of the many admirers of the finest newspaper comic strip ever drawn, Peter O’Donnell’s Modesty Blaise (and if not, why not?), then a certain bittersweet thought may cross your mind if you pick up this cherishable volume containing more intelligently-written adventures of O’Donnell’s resourceful adventuress and her companion Willie Garvin. But why ‘bittersweet’? Just take a look at the checklist of complete Modesty Blaise strips at the end of the book and you will notice that there is only one more volume to be published in this collected Titan edition of the strips which originally ran in the Evening Standard. Just one more volume! One has to applaud Nick Landau of Titan — the first publisher to put all this superb but ephemeral material between covers in handsome reprint editions — but as we approach the final volume there is clearly only one thing for those Modesty Blaise fans about to suffer withdrawal symptoms: start reading the whole series again from the beginning. And if you haven’t got every volume in the series, I’d suggest you go out and buy them – particularly the early volumes drawn by the great Jim Holdaway.
In fact, Nick Landau and myself were both present at a Reform Club meal organised by the late O’Donnell’s family as a tribute to him, and we both spoke about our memories of the man — who was always great company. But his personal qualities aside, he was quite simply one of the finest plotters in the business, both in the long-running comic strip and the novels which accompanied them.
O’Donnell was a writer’s writer, much admired by those familiar with his skills. He began as a professional writer in 1937, creating (with illustrator Jim Holdaway) the character of Modesty Blaise for a strip cartoon in 1963. The series was eventually syndicated in over 42 countries, and O’Donnell wrote 13 Modesty novels (all published by Souvenir Press).
Perhaps Children of Lucifer has some evidence of a winding down, in that Romero’s art is not as assured as it was in the early days, but it is still perfectly efficient. And Peter O’Donnell’s writing abilities never wavered right up until the day he laid down his pen.
Children of Lucifer is published by Titan Books (9781783298600)