Friday 30 July 2010

Faber Thrillers Class of 1996: The Achilles Heel by Reg Gadney / Walking Back the Cat by Robert Littell

Right then. Better get started blogging about all these books I've acquired recently. And we'll kick off with the ones bought in Bookworms of Shoreham, which is a strange old shop on Shoreham seafront on the south coast of England. We'd driven past it once or twice previously, on our way to or from somewhere else, so naturally I was interested in checking it out. Turns out it's not great for fiction (it seemed more history and military inclined) – or rather, for first editions; there are plenty of paperbacks in there, but not really anything collectible. But while I wouldn't recommend going out of your way to visit the place, I still managed to bag three fairly cheap books there – two of them thrillers published by Faber in 1996, nestling next to each other on a shelf with a scant few other hardbacks. First up:

That's a UK first edition of British writer Reg Gadney's The Achilles Heel, published by Faber in 1996. I'd never heard of either of the authors of the two Faber thrillers I bought (I don't think I was doing an awful lot of reading in 1996...), but I've now discovered The Achilles Heel is the second of Gadney's series starring Alan Rosslyn, an officer in HM Customs & Excise. Usually I steer away from the countless fiction series featuring police officers or detectives – I'd rather follow quirkier series about criminals (stand up, Parker) or reporters (take a bow, Fletch) – but Customs & Excise is an unusual environment to set a thriller in, and this book pits Rosslyn against child pornographers, which again is a bit different.

Gadney has written either eleven or thirteen novels – depending on who you believe on the web – plus a few non-fiction titles. Interestingly, he doesn't have a Wikipedia entry. I know Wikipedia's an unreliable source of info at the best of times, but it's usually a good start and can lead to more reliable sources. Not in Mr. Gadney's case though. Hmm.

And the other Faber thriller was this:

A first UK edition of Walking Back the Cat by Robert Littell, published by Faber in 1996. Again, I'd never come across Littell before, but he's a US writer with sixteen novels to his name, plus one non-fiction title and one somewhere-in-between title (called If Israel Lost the War, which posits an alternative outcome of the Six Day War, a conflict I coincidentally know at least a little about, having read Jeremy Bowen's excellent Six Days). Many of his novels are espionage-themed, and Walking Back the Cat seems to lean in that direction too, focusing, as it does, on the battle of wills and wits between a deep cover KGB agent and a Gulf War I veteran on a Native American reservation.

Oh, and the jacket design on both of these is by Pentagram. I'm assuming that's not the heavy metal band. As for the third book I bought in Bookworms... see the next post.

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