Friday 15 July 2011

The Striker Portfolio (Quiller #3) by Adam Hall; Book Club Edition, 1970 (Originally Heinemann, 1969)

Next up in this series on Elleston "Adam Hall" Trevor's novels starring secret agent Quiller, another book I bought on my birthday day out way back in the mists of time (er, March):

This is the 1970 hardback edition of the third Quiller mission, The Striker Portfolio, published by The Book Club, Charing Cross Road – originally published in hardback in the UK by Heinemann in 1969. I picked this up in one of my favourite bookshops, Much Ado Books in Alfriston, East Sussex, on the same day on which I also bought the 1965 first edition of the debut Quiller, The Berlin Memorandum. I'd actually seen this copy of The Striker Portfolio sitting on Much Ado's crime fiction shelves on previous visits to the shop, and even handled it a couple of times, not really knowing what it was. However, on this visit, having been made aware of Adam Hall by Jeremy Duns, I snapped it up for a few quid.

Regular readers of Existential Ennui will know that ordinarily I steer well clear of book club editions, but I rather like the dustjacket on this one, the colourful – but unfortunately uncredited – line-and-watercolour illustration on the front of which is different to the 1969 Heinemann first, which you can see on the right. On top of that, prices on the Heinemann and Book Club editions on AbeBooks are pretty similar – in the five-to-ten-pounds range – so it's not as if the first edition is noticeably more valuable or anything – and indeed the American Simon & Schuster edition preceded the Heinemann one by a year anyway. I haven't read the novel yet, so if you want to know what it's about, click on the jacket flap blurb above, or head over to the indispensable unofficial Quiller website, which has a pithy summary of the novel and a cover gallery.

That leaves just one more post to come in this run of Quillers. And for that finale, we turn to a novel from much later in Trevor/Hall's career, which I picked up during my recent fortnight's holiday, and which I'll be using to illustrate what a tricky proposition Adam Hall is for book collectors...

Thursday 14 July 2011

Lewes Bookshop Bargain: The Quiller Memorandum (Quiller #1) by Adam Hall; Movie Tie-in Edition (Fontana, 1967)

So, from one edition of Elleston Trevor/Adam Hall's debut Quiller mission... to another:

This is the 1967 UK paperback of The Quiller Memorandum, as published by Fontana. I spotted this copy lurking on the bookshelves outside – yes, outside – Lewes' famed 15th Century Bookshop. It has, as you can see, been battered by the elements – said shelves are shuttered when the shop is closed, but when they're open there's little protection from rain and so forth – but as I was in the midst of a Quiller collecting spree, I couldn't resist picking this paperback up – even though it's almost exactly the same as the book I blogged about in the first post in this series.

See, as outlined in that previous post, Hall's debut Quiller outing was originally titled The Berlin Memorandum when Collins issued it in hardback in the UK in 1965. But that, as it turned out, was the only instance the novel was destined to appear under that title (at least in English; there have been a few foreign language editions over the years bearing the same title). By the time the book was published in the States, by Simon & Schuster that same year, it had acquired a new title: The Quiller Memorandum (dustjacket front cover on the right there). And from that point on, in both the US and the UK, that was the title the book was published under.

I'm not sure why the title changed for that American edition. Possibly it was because the 1966 Michael Anderson-directed movie adaptation – for which the Fontana paperback is the tie-in edition; that's George Segal as Quiller on the front – was in the works by then, but not having a copy of the Simon & Schuster edition to hand (the cover above right was "borrowed" off the internet), I can't verify whether the then-forthcoming film is mentioned at all on the jacket. Certainly once the movie was out, I can see why that title stuck; but was the movie the reason for the title change in the first place? If any Quiller aficionados are reading – I know a few of you found your way to the previous post from the Quiller Yahoo Group – and know the truth of the matter, feel free to set me straight in the comments.

I haven't seen the 1966 movie (very remiss of me, I know – it's rare for me not to have seen a flick like this; must get meself a copy), but the excellent unofficial Quiller website has a page dedicated to it, which boasts links to various reviews, as well as to screenwriter Harold Pinter's own page on the film. Next in my Quiller-centric series of posts, however, I'll have a colourful British edition of Quiller's third literary mission...

Tuesday 12 July 2011

The Berlin Memorandum (Quiller #1) by Adam Hall: a Review of the First Edition (Collins, 1965)

Time, I think, for another series of author-centric posts, in the grand tradition of such former, lauded (er, by somebody, somewhere... probably) series of author-centric posts as this one on Patricia Highsmith and this one on Anthony Price. And this time it's the turn of a spy fiction author who excites great interest and fervent devotion in certain sections of the espionage-fic fratenity; a man who wrote well over a hundred novels in his lifetime, under a variety of pen names – one of which would eventually become his legal name – and in a variety of genres: Elleston Trevor.

The Trevor nom de plume I'm concerned with is Adam Hall, under which moniker Trevor wrote nineteen first-person novels starring British secret agent Quiller, published from 1965 to 1996. I've only read the first one thus far, but it was so strange and fascinating and gripping that I'm planning on making my way through the entire series. There's plenty of info and commentary on Trevor/Hall's oeuvre online, so rather than proffer my ill-informed thoughts on his life and career, I'll instead direct you to this comprehensive website, which contains everything from articles on and interviews with Trevor to details about each of the books; this interview with Trevor's son, JP, by friend of Existential Ennui and author of the Paul Dark spy novels Jeremy Duns (Hall is Jeremy's favourite author; it was Jeremy that turned me on to him); and this dedicated page and this series of posts on Matthew Bradley's website.

Quiller's first appearance came in this novel:

The Berlin Memorandum, published in hardback in the UK by Collins in 1965 (prices – with dustjacket – on this first edition range from six or seven quid to over £50, depending on condition; I bought this one from secondhand bookshop Camilla's in Eastbourne on my birthday day out all the way back in March) – although it was actually the second novel Trevor wrote under the Hall alias, following 1963's non-Quiller debut The Volcanoes of San Domingo. Operating in Cold War Berlin on the orders of shadowy British outfit the Bureau, in turn liaising with the Z Commission, Quiller's ongoing mission is to bring to justice those Nazi war criminals who have thus far escaped prosecution, and who continue to operate at all levels in German society. But when a fellow agent is killed, Quiller is tasked by the Bureau to hunt down former SS Obergruppenführer Heinrich Zossen, a man who Quiller saw at his ruthless worst during the war. Before long Quiller finds himself up against underground Nazi organisation Phönix, in the process uncovering a plan that could have devastating consequences for Europe and the wider world.

In his own way, Quiller is as weird a creation as another of my abiding preoccupations-cum-obsessions, Donald E. Westlake/Richard Stark's Parker. Obviously there are major differences between the two – Parker is a career criminal; Quiller is a secret agent – but there are also parallels: the single name (we never learn in either case whether "Parker" or "Quiller" is a surname or a pseudonym); the single-minded dedication to a cause to the exclusion of pretty much everything else (romance, home comforts... er, hobbies...); the machine-like nature of each protagonist. Indeed, based on the evidence of The Berlin Memorandum, Quiller is as much an espionage automaton as Parker is a heisting one.

Quiller's narrative style – and therefore Hall's prose – is curiously elliptical and staccato in nature. Quiller frequently deploys shorthand phrases – trademarks, really – for a number of situations: for danger ("red sector"); for an intractable problem or blocked avenue ("no go"). Often he'll close out a statement abruptly with a curt "So forth". His narration is thick with espionage nomenclature and terminology: "flushing tags" (getting rid of a tail); "cover" (agents deployed to watch one's back). He also has a tendency to lapse into bizarre almost bullet-point summaries of his position as he reasons out situations and explores options.

This being an espionage thriller, there are the expected double- and triple-crosses, and there's also a memorable interrogation sequence, with Quiller battling the effects of a truth serum, hallucinating badly but desperately trying to hold on to reality. Interestingly, Quiller doesn't carry a pistol, believing guns to be more of a hindrance than a help; he even informs us that a gun is merely "a penis-substitute and a symbol of power". Take that, 007, licensed to kill. He continues:

The age range of toy-shop clientele begins at about six or seven, rises sharply just before puberty and declines soon after the discovery of the phallus and its promise of power. From then on, guns are for kids and for the effete freaks and misfits who must seek psycho-orgasmic relief by shooting pheasants.

And take that, the landed gentry. Consequently, Quiller often has to think his way out of a jam rather than fight his way out. Perhaps the most ingenious example of this comes when, having failed to extract the information he needs from Quiller, Nazi interrogator Oktober turns instead to Inga, the damaged young woman with whom Quiller has become involved. With Inga being tortured and raped in the next room in order to force Quiller to talk, Quiller comes up with quite a creative solution: he faints, thus making the torture redundant.

That's just one remarkable passage from a novel that's stuffed with similarly noteworthy scenes and events. It's an impressive first outing for Quiller, although if the opinions of Messrs Duns, Bradley et al are anything to go by, there's even better to come. But in the next post in this series, instead of looking at a subsequent Quiller adventure, I'll once again be examining The Berlin Memorandum – except under a different title. Because as it turned out, the 1965 Collins edition was the only time the novel was destined to appear under the title of The Berlin Memorandum – at least in English (there have been a handful of foreign language editions, one of which – a 1967 Spanish paperback – you can see above on the left). Thereafter, it would assume a perhaps more familiar moniker...