Saturday, 16 November 2013
Slow Burner - William Haggard
More classic British espionage from the so-called "adult Ian Fleming", this from 1958 when naked women with guns were considered exceptionally racy (and, in fairness, the introduction of this one is done with considerable relish). Haggard's secret service (the Security Executive) consists of Colonel Russell, his deputy Major Mortimer, and a secretary, all in a suite of rooms somewhere in Whitehall. Haggard's world is the world of the civil service - the world he himself inhabited - a world of not-quite-good-enough former public schoolboys. Indeed it might be more accurate to describe Haggard as the father of le Carre's Smiley. This is a world where you can deduce a chap's regiment by the length of his stride. Where policemen salute and spy masters doff their bowler in return.
The story here is a good one - the potential loss of Britain's post war super fuel, the Slow Burner of the title. There is some high spirited scientific mumbo jumbo and two women, one more proper than she needs to be and the other nowhere near. There are even intimations of sex. Great fun.