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THE DRINK MENU: CLASSIFICATION OF SPY FICTION IN TERMS OF BEVERAGES

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message 1: by Samuel , Director (last edited Aug 15, 2015 04:54PM) (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
This group is dedicated to spy fiction. So here's to the assassins, intelligence gatherers and assets.
The genre however can be divided into several schools, each with their own style like the one pioneered by Ian Fleming, the one pioneered by David Cornwell and the ones in between. A handy guide for you to use when buying your next spy novel:

Martini Flavored (shaken, not stirred) Spy Fiction is what you might call the Tuxedo Approach. This involves glamorous parties, fast cars, hot women, cool gadgets, brutal fights involving guns and fists and big explosions (swap those adjectives around as you wish). Despite the glamor, spying is not for the faint heart and is fraught with danger and the stakes are massive. A Death Trap is par for the course. The main example here is of course James Bond (the movies in particular). This is the Hotter and Sexier spy game, with Spy Catsuits and Sex Face Turns by the dozen. The Tuxedo Approach as a whole is more glamorized and idealistic with clearly defined "good guys" and "bad guys", they often have a bit of an "action movie" feel.

Stale Beer Flavored Spy Fiction could also be called the Trenchcoat Approach. "More realistic," pre-dating the other approach but seeing a resurgence as a deconstruction of it, this is the more gritty style of espionage. It involves dead-drops, brush-pasts, blackmail and morally iffy things. Spying is stressful and you may end up an alcoholic or worse. This is the approach taken by Len Deighton and the Bourne series (the books and films alike), John le Carré, and by Callan, the classic counterpoint to James Bond. This is the Darker and Edgier spy game. Ironically, the original James Bond novels are like this and both Timothy Dalton and Daniel Craig played the character this way. The Stale Beer approach as a whole is more gritty and morally ambiguous, spying reflects power politics between whichever nations or organizations are involved and other nations and people are caught in the crossfire.
In other words, the Tuxedo Approach would have a Soviet defector be a gorgeous, aloof Slavic beauty with whom the hero will probably elope at some point; the Stale Beer Approach would have a Soviet defector be a shaken, morally gray individual looking probably more for personal profit than for any virtues of right or wrong.

Stale Beer Served in a Martini Glass Spy Fiction is the gritty style of espionage taking place in glamorous international or domestic locations, such as Tokyo, Italy, Spain, Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Hawaii, etc. I Spy and the Daniel Craig James Bond films exemplify this trope.

Bathtub Gin Flavored Spy Fiction applies to civilians drawn knowingly or unwittingly into the world of espionage that is either "martini flavored," "stale beer flavored," or a "dirty martini." They may have or not have transferable skills to help them survive, and they may or may not become realized agents at some point. Examples include: Mrs. Peel, The Avengers (in the opening voiceover intro, she is introduced as a "talented amateur"), Chuck, Chuck; Amanda King, Scarecrow and Mrs. King; the show Masquerade (where civilians with special occupational or avocational expertise are drafted to help the government on one-off missions; and Tom Hank's character in The Man With One Red Shoe. Alfred Hitchcock also exemplified this to a tee in his earlier films, especially in such stories as North By Northwest, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and The 39 Steps.

Bleach and Ammonia Flavored A common variant of this genre full of Government Conspiracy plots in which Anyone Can Die, often filled with disposable henchmen - a situation in which even the protagonist may even find himself/herself. Naturally Darker and Edgier than other versions of this genre. Examples include films such as Safe House and Three Days of the Condor.


message 2: by Feliks (last edited Aug 15, 2015 05:12PM) (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) Fun exercise, but this kind of thing can so easily get out of hand...

:D

Good writing tho!


message 3: by Samuel , Director (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
Feliks wrote: "Fun exercise, but this kind of thing can so easily get out of hand...

:D

Good writing tho!"


Thanks.


message 4: by Samuel , Director (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
My favorite kind is a "dirty martini". The paramilitary gunplay from the martini side, mixed with the psychological brutality and realism from the stale bear sector.


message 5: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin | 167 comments What about the Vodka-drenched type spy fiction involving ex-KGB agents, or Scotch-soaked spy fiction featuring ex-British SIS agents on the lam?


message 6: by Samuel , Director (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
Michel wrote: "What about the Vodka-drenched type spy fiction involving ex-KGB agents, or Scotch-soaked spy fiction featuring ex-British SIS agents on the lam?"

Hasn't gotten big enough yet. And they can be easily slotted into the stale bear classification.


message 7: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin | 167 comments Samuel wrote: "Michel wrote: "What about the Vodka-drenched type spy fiction involving ex-KGB agents, or Scotch-soaked spy fiction featuring ex-British SIS agents on the lam?"

Hasn't gotten big enough yet. And t..."


Oh, sorry! (returning to my stale beer).


message 8: by Samuel , Director (last edited Aug 15, 2015 06:06PM) (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
Michel wrote: "Samuel wrote: "Michel wrote: "What about the Vodka-drenched type spy fiction involving ex-KGB agents, or Scotch-soaked spy fiction featuring ex-British SIS agents on the lam?"

Hasn't gotten big e..."


Heh. Funny ;)


message 9: by Samuel , Director (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
There are three spy fiction films of note in 2015.

ROUGE NATION= Martini in a stale beer mug.

THE MAN FROM UNCLE= Full blown Martini.

S.P.E.C.T.R.E= Dirty martini.


message 10: by Samuel , Director (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
Vince flynn and the counter-terrorist thriller sub-genre? Stale beer mug half filled with martini (namely the paramilitary/shooting terrorist parts)


message 11: by Feliks (last edited Aug 18, 2015 09:49PM) (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) There's something about this whole line-of-thought (drinks) that disorients me. Its the equivalent to something else, some big aesthetic battle in some other genre..that I (and others) have railed against. Just rhetorically, mind you. But yeah I think it harkens back to some critical habit that has long since fallen out of use: maybe in art, maybe in music. Wish I could remember. 'Applying a hierarchy or scaffold of unrelated values to a field which fully well already has its own internal gradations'? Something, some controversy of this sort.

Let me ask this instead. Samuel, what do you think of Graeme Shimmin's spy-fiction plot-synopsis website? He's a member here, right? He says there's four basic spy story plots. Now this is something to seek one's teeth into.


message 12: by Jack (last edited Oct 09, 2015 01:44PM) (new)

Jack (jackjuly) | 145 comments My protagonist Amy Lynn likes Dr. Pepper. At the end of the second book she has some coconut Icees (pena Colada's) but she doesn't know what they are and gets really trashed. In the third book, her alter ego Fenian, likes Scotch or Irish Whiskey and water. But she's just a sipper. If you don't count the the time in the Shannon Pub. But, you'll have to read #3 to get that. But mostly, it's Dr. Pepper.

I think it's a wonderful plot tool for a protagonist to have a signature drink, a favorite food, a way they feel the most comfortable dressed. etc. It humanizes the character.


message 13: by Andrew (new)

Andrew | 159 comments Love the "Dirty Martini" term! Now my ambition is to write a book that would fit that description!


message 14: by Samuel , Director (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
Very easy to do Andrew. Find a glamorous backdrop, and fill it with the gritty, brutal and unglamorous reality side of espionage.
A good example of the 'dirty martini' spy fiction type is Burn Notice.

Set in Miami Beach, it involves an intelligence officer who has been abandoned by the CIA trying to find out who burned him. While the backdrop is the sort you would find in a martini type spy thriller the characters of Burn Notice have to increasingly deal with the moral grays on their profession, betrayals by individuals siccing the US intelligence community on them and ultimately juggle the question of whether the psychological costs of participating in the spying game are worth it.

It does however balance out this seriousness with the aforementioned beautiful backdrop of Miami, a healthy dose of humor, A-Team cartoon escapades and gunfire (which becomes less prevalent as the show becomes more dark and cut throat) and gorgeous women.


message 15: by J.T. (new)

J.T. Patten (jtpattenbooks) | 70 comments Safe Havens uses Dalwhinnie scotch. A drink known to be consumed by a British SAS regiment.


message 16: by Samuel , Director (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
J.T. wrote: "Safe Havens uses Dalwhinnie scotch. A drink known to be consumed by a British SAS regiment."

I see. The former SAS trooper Andy McNab once said during selection, before the trainers plunged him and the other recruits into a living hell, they allowed the trainees to go to the pubs at Hereford and have a generous amount of the Dalwhinnie.

As for your books, they would be in the 'stale beer' category like John Le Carre's. Brutal, psychologically devastating and far away from the more glamorous/escapist side of spy fiction.
(Reading through that file you gave me. Going well so far, especially the tense bit where an old man is cornered in a closet with only a Glock handgun for company)


message 17: by Andrew (new)

Andrew | 159 comments Samuel wrote: "Very easy to do Andrew. Find a glamorous backdrop, and fill it with the gritty, brutal and unglamorous reality side of espionage.
A good example of the 'dirty martini' spy fiction type is Burn Not..."


Samuel, good call, I LOVE Burn Notice. In fact, I just started watching it over on Netflix, for about the 100th time! I think Season 3 is still my fav.

Andrew


message 18: by Samuel , Director (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
Agreed, Season 3 has some of the great episodes of the show's run. My favorite would be the finale with Michael going up against the killer whose history was cut and pasted onto Michael's as the justification for Westen's Burn Notice, leading to a glorious ironic echo,. ("I want my life back" indeed although in Simon's case, he wanted to return to the old days where he was able to murder and destroy to his heart's content)


message 19: by Samuel , Director (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
My favorite villain from Burn Notice was former CIA officer turned contract killer Larry Sizemore played to perfection by Tim Matherson. Funny, menacing and despite a glaring weakness, competent with a capital "C".

It's such a shame they killed him off at a wrong moment. In the final season, Simon Escher plays a critical part in the character development of Michael Westen. The episode was good but it didn't have the impact that it could have had.

If Larry had been in Escher's place, that scene would have been brilliant.


message 20: by Andrew (new)

Andrew | 159 comments Yes, Larry was a blast! I love the whole "dark echo" angle, a look at what michael could have turned into. Now that I think about, that whole dynamic actually had a big influence on Devil's Due...


message 21: by J.T. (new)

J.T. Patten (jtpattenbooks) | 70 comments Echo. Larry should have been around much longer.


message 22: by Robert (last edited May 01, 2017 04:30AM) (new)

Robert Morton | 2 comments Couldn't help but try and fit my spy series in to these categories. "Stale beer" and "bleach and ammonia" are the first two, with a tinge of "stale beer in a martini glass" sprinkled in. Enjoyed reading this because it helps me further delineate the broad genre (spy thriller, mystery) my series falls in.


message 23: by Samuel , Director (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
awesome.


message 24: by Samuel , Director (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
POI....I'd say stale bear mixed with ammonia and LSD.


message 25: by Samuel , Director (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
Samuel wrote: "POI....I'd say stale bear mixed with ammonia and LSD."

Has some martini trappings but over the course of the story, they're stripped away.


message 26: by Samuel , Director (new)

Samuel  | 4692 comments Mod
Samuel wrote: "Samuel wrote: "POI....I'd say stale bear mixed with ammonia and LSD."

Has some martini trappings but over the course of the story, they're stripped away."


And replaced with moral murkiness.


message 27: by Shannon (new)

Shannon | 1 comments I love this thread! I thought at first that I was a 'stale beer' but I've decided that I'm of the Vince Flynn 'stale beer mug, half dirty martini' clan. Maybe that's actually the 'dirty chai-international delight in a hotel bar' classification (not to muddy the waters 🤣).


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