“If I told you, I’d have to kill you!”
- Book: The Spy Who Inspired Me
- Location: France
- Author: Stephen Clarke
“A spoof with suspense!” is how its author, Stephen Clarke describes this book and I probably couldn’t agree with that more. The pitch, pace, style and overall tone of the story, was apparent from the very first line and kept true to its beginnings, right to the very last full stop!
This unique and unconventional book still held on loosely to what I personally enjoy as a format for any story; it had a good opening which had me intrigued; a storyline that kept me wanting more and with some serious undertones which I also found interesting, but also a few laugh out loud moments; to an ending which although totally in keeping with the characters and as I soon worked out the wider spoof theme of the book (for any of you who are B*nd fans), wasn’t what I had expected, but left me satisfied with the outcome.
Whilst all the names in the book have been changed and aliased, including a good few notable names from the literary world, in an extremely humorous and clever way I might add, their real-life counterparts are fairly obvious for all to detect, in this full-blown parody of a story about one of the world’s most favourite fictional spies, as he embarks on what might well have been his debut adventure and which makes a fitting prologue to the long running book and film series, he has since made his own! Or, is this nothing more complicated than a nod to said spy books’ author, as he sets out on his own hypothetical, personal journey, resulting in the germ of an idea from which both stories, characters and films all stemmed!
Some of the nuances are subtle and needed a second take on the narrative to unravel them, some of them are about the size of a brick and hit you full-on in the face, just so there’s no mistaking what they are! That’s what makes this both a fun and frustrating read, at one and the same time.
A good mix of plot and character driven narrative meant I had to be on the ball to keep up with all the innuendo and double entendre, which throughout the book constantly vied for attention with the suspense action scenes, where the much more serious subject of the actions of the World War Two French Resistance took centre stage, despite such forays still being treated to the skilled writing of a Stephen Clarke ‘makeover’.
I didn’t really find myself engaging with either of the two main protagonists, one of whom is as secretive and insular, as the other is gregarious and flamboyant, and neither have much genuine depth or loyalty. But I think that is exactly how Stephen intended it to be, as their union and mission are a transient moment in time, from which they are both destined to move on.
Margaux is the much stronger and multi-faceted character of the two and finds herself tasked with having to ‘babysit’ Leming, which she does with ill disguised disgust and contempt (although I suspect that she does come to have a grudging respect for him by the time the operation is over), whilst she completes her latest and definitely most difficult mission. She discovers that she personally has to pay a high price to avoid The Resistance being infiltrated and brought to its knees, which she does without hesitation and only the slightest of wobbles. I had thought that at this point she might have shown a modicum of emotion or distress, however Stephen has made her of sterner stuff than that and she leaves a very open-mouthed and quite distressed Lemming standing, as she moves quickly on.
Whilst our reluctant, chain-smoking, hero moans and grumbles his way through just about every aspect of the mission; from the fact that he can’t shower and shave daily, to his cigarettes have almost run out; that he has to share a pen with the pig in order to evade capture, to having remember how to ride a bike fast enough to outrun his captors and then have enough lung capacity to do it! I guess what really makes this self-confessed, lady-killer most upset though, is that Margaux has been given authority to run the show and she doesn’t trust him enough to confide in him what the mission is – plus she doesn’t immediately fall for his charms and has no intention of sleeping with him at the first opportunity which presents itself! There are signs that Lemming is beginning to realise just how self-centred he is, that he is not a team player, that he genuinely believes he is better than everyone else, and that he definitely believes he is God’s gift to all women!
So is this leopard about to change his spots? – Ah! now that would be telling!
Whilst I might have been asked to consider the idea that F*eming’s spy character B*nd might have indeed been inspired by a woman, as a keen B*nd fan and having watched the many characters who have taken and adapted his persona over the years, it appears to me that the character of Lemming is B*nd down to a ‘T’ and definitely nothing like his uber organised and methodical female companion.
This book is a timely and fitting tribute to the late S*an Co*nery, the man who for me, will always be synonymous with the character of J*mes B*nd.
However from Lemmings point of view, I think even he would agree, that the ‘female of the species is more deadly than the male!’