RARA-AVIS: "Motel Noir"

From: Mark D. Nevins (nevins_mark@yahoo.com)
Date: 12 Jul 2009

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    Ron, two that come to mind from some recent reading:

    - Harry Whittington, A TICKET TO HELL (available in Black Lizard MMPB pretty easily). Much of the action takes place in and around a classic '60's motel, populated by many of the usual suspects. This was my first Whittington, and while I thought at points the prose was clunky, the pace and sensibility were just great, and some of the lines were priceless. Nice semi-surprise ending, too.

    - Ian Fleming, THE SPY WHO LOVED ME. This one is undoubtedly everyone's least favorite of the original Bond novels, including Fleming itself. The entire story takes place in a desolate end-of-season motel in upstate NY. I like this book because I am very interested in "genre-busting novels" (to coin a phrase--and that might be another whole conversation thread). Fleming plays with the spy genre in the earlier FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, making you wait until almost halfway into the book before you meet Bond. TSWLM pushes the envelope even further: the novel is told in the first person by an unlucky-in-love young woman who's fled to the USA to start her life over. James Bond does not appear until literally the last third of the book: the first 2/3rds describe the narrator's life and love affairs in the UK (offering, to my mind, some interesting views into the social mores of the time) and how she wound up at this particular motel and in peril. In the
     scenes at the motel you can almost smell the pine needles and hear the rain, and when Bond does finally show up the tension is high and the action quick and brutal. Also, for those of you who are so inclined, this book is probably also the most sexually explicit of the Fleming Bond novels (meaning it might get a PG-13 today). Anyway, TSWLM is a strange one--but I really like it, and if you hang in there you'll get your motel and some good action too.

    Best, Mark Nevins
    (Who, it should be noted for the record, is an unabashed Fleming fan and apologist.)

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