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Joseph Hone


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#1 spynovelfan

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Posted 18 March 2005 - 01:31 PM

Spy fiction can be very roughly divided into two camps: Field and Desk. James Bond is a field agent - we follow his adventures, not M's. John le Carre's books tend to follow the people back at base - Smiley is a senior man at MI6 (he later becomes head of it). Field tends to win on the sales front, whereas Desk gets all the critical acclaim.

I like both genres, but I sometimes find myself wishing that the Field book I'm reading was as good at the characterisation and prose as it is at the suspense and atmosphere. Similarly, I often find myself wishing that something would just *happen* when reading a Desk book. It's all beautifully drawn, but are they all going to be seaching for that manila folder forever? :)

Joseph Hone combines the best of both camps. In four novels, we follow the adventures of Peter Marlow, an MI6 desk man either reluctantly or forcibly drawn into the field. The plots come thick and fast, have several ingenious twists in them, violence, mayhem - all the great spy stuff you'd want. But it's all wrapped up in prose so elegant, and characterisation so subtle and pervasive, that you put the books down feeling you've just read a great work of literature.

We first meet Marlow in THE PRIVATE SECTOR (1975), when he is a teacher in Egypt who gradually gets involved in a spy ring. Marlow starts believing in some kind of rules; most - but not all - are broken. This is one of those "innocents in too deep" stories, like THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, or THE 39 STEPS. Its most obvious model, however, is Lawrence Durrell

Edited by spynovelfan, 18 March 2005 - 04:27 PM.


#2 Bon-san

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Posted 18 March 2005 - 04:12 PM

[quote name='spynovelfan' date='18 March 2005 - 08:31'] If you

#3 Lazenby880

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Posted 04 April 2006 - 11:13 PM

Isn't it amazing what fascinating threads one can find while idly and aimlessly looking through the old and forgotten 'archives'?

BTW, nice explanatory intro re "Field" and "Desk". :tup:

Agreed. :D Similarly, I liked the distinction between the popularity of the former and the relative critical acclaim of the latter, an observation I'd say (based on my, admittedly, rather narrow range of facts) was pretty correct. Personally, I prefer the 'field' espionage thrillers to those written by such writers as ('yawn') Le Carr

Edited by Lazenby880, 04 April 2006 - 11:20 PM.


#4 spynovelfan

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Posted 05 April 2006 - 08:46 AM

I should say that I have never heard of Joseph Hone before now, a fact which probably demonstrates the limits of my knowledge of the genre.


Not at all. Hardly anybody knows about him! He's one of the great forgotten masters of the genre. He's an old friend of William Boyd (he edited his early novels) who, despite being a spy thriller nut, has never read any of his books and was stunned when I told him I was a fan.

I am, thus, intrigued. So much so, in fact, that I would rather like to order one from abebooks and see how I go. Therefore for a beginner into his work, which of his novels would you most recommend?


I suggest THE PRIVATE SECTOR. It's better to read them in order, and I think you'd like it. :tup:

#5 Lazenby880

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Posted 05 April 2006 - 01:15 PM

I suggest THE PRIVATE SECTOR. It's better to read them in order, and I think you'd like it. :tup:

Cheers for that, and I look forward to reading it.

This is undoubtedly one of the best things about the internet, discovering writers and the like of whom I had never heard and would be unlikely to hear without topics like this. :D Thanks again.

#6 Lazenby880

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Posted 03 August 2006 - 04:15 PM

This is probably the longest it has ever taken me to finish a novel properly. The first time I read The Private Sector I did so in something of a rush and did not give it the attention it deserves; I felt it an unusually

Edited by Lazenby880, 03 August 2006 - 04:16 PM.


#7 spynovelfan

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Posted 04 August 2006 - 08:08 AM

Glad you liked it, Lazzers, even if it took you a second go. :) Glad you gave it another try. I suppose it all depends on when you read it. I discovered Hone having read tons of le Carr

#8 Lazenby880

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Posted 04 August 2006 - 12:59 PM

[quote name='spynovelfan' post='581283' date='4 August 2006 - 09:08']Glad you liked it, Lazzers, even if it took you a second go. :) Glad you gave it another try. I suppose it all depends on when you read it. I discovered Hone having read tons of le Carr

#9 spynovelfan

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Posted 04 August 2006 - 01:46 PM

Yes, I spoke to Hone on the phone a couple of years ago, and he posted me some of his reviews. He was amazingly well-reviewed. For example, novelist LJ Davis wrote the following in the Washington Post in July 1972, reviewing THE PRIVATE SECTOR:

"There are moments in this book




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