Following on from Wednesday's post on forgotten espionage author Thomas Cauldron, let's stay with the spy fiction for the moment and return to Anthony Price's splendid series of novels featuring the operatives of the Ministry of Defence's Research and Development Section, with another book review and a very special announcement about Mr. Price. I'll unveil that announcement in a short while, but first, let's take a look at this:
October Men is the fourth book in Price's series, and was first published in the UK by Gollancz in 1973, although the edition you can see above is a later Gollancz printing, from 1992; of all of Price's novels, this one has proved the hardest to track down in first (which isn't to say I won't keep trying). The novel follows in the footsteps of The Labyrinth Makers (1970), The Alamut Ambush (1971) and Colonel Butler's Wolf (1972) – all three of which I reviewed last month – in that, although written in the third person, once again the tale is told from the perspective of a different protagonist – or rather, in this instance, from that of two protagonists. As with the previous novels, Price's lynchpin, the clever, iconoclastic Middle East expert Dr. David Audley, does feature – indeed is central to the plot – but by and large events are related from the viewpoints of two other men, one of whom has appeared before in the series, the other of whom has not.
On the other side of the ledger is Pietro Boselli, personal assistant to head of Italian security General Montouri in Rome. A confirmed desk man, Boselli is thrust to the front lines when, quite by chance, the General spots an old adversary at the airport – a wartime Italian Communist known as the Bastard. For reasons which are unclear, the Bastard was following Audley and his family, who had just arrived from the UK. And further muddying the waters, somewhere in the middle of all this is Eugenio Narva, an Italian oil man who apparently invested in North Sea oil exploration before it had even been established there were significant deposits off the coast of Britain – which begs the questions, who tipped him off, and how?
They're also both agreeable company. Boselli in particular makes for an unusual central character. He could uncharitably be described as something of a coward – he's forever fearful of sticking his neck above the parapet or in any way endangering his position – although Price is actually more sympathetic towards him than that would suggest. In the way in which Boselli is buffeted by events, frequently finding himself in situations over which he has no control and in which he has little to no experience, he's probably closer to how you or I might react in a similar position (as opposed to the clever-clogs Audley or the more militarily-inclined Butler). At one point he's accidentally credited with shooting an assailant during a firefight, and his panic at being found out is palpable. Although destined never to appear again in the series, in his fumbling, terrified, very real manner, Boselli offers further evidence of Price's deft, varied and increasingly confident characterization – all of which bodes well for subsequent books.
The interview is fairly long, so I'm going to split it into two posts over the course of the week. So do, please, if you can, join me next week for an interview with Anthony Price. It'll surely be worth your while.
Very cool! I look forward to reading the interview. I wish I had already read a couple of his books. But I'll get there.ReplyDelete
Pietro Boselli is the biggest reason I love this book so much. As you say, he is a nebbish, a clerk from the back office who is disrespected and gets bullied by the field agents. Suddenly he finds himself filling in for the Italian version of James Bond, chasing bad people and having to deal as an equal with the British. I love the way, too, the British have pegged him as a hard-core ruthless killer, so that, at the climax of the book, Richardson is tasked to keep an eye on Boselli and keep him for going on a homicidal spree. Price shows an awful lot of sly irony in October Men.ReplyDelete