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Classics > Ken Follett's early works: yea or nay?

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message 1: by Feliks, Moderator (last edited Jul 31, 2016 07:52PM) (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 788 comments Mod
Follett is the odd man out in the espionage and intrigue pantheon. These days he is almost never spoken of in the same breath as LeCarre, Deighton, McCarry, or any of the others.

Stylistically, he's descended from Oppenheim, Household, Buchan, and Ambler. He's close kin to someone like Jack Higgins, if anybody--at least he was headed that way with romps like Lie Down with Lions.

After the highly repeatable formula of his first four books, he seems briefly to be struggling--changing his approach with every new release. Remember Modigliani Scandal? Yes, that was him too. A crime romp!

Anyway. Recall that Follett started off first as a journalist-- which gave a fine grounding of research to his initial flurry of mass-market books. He's also reverted occasionally back to pure nonfiction, see: On Wings of Eagles.

But after establishing himself as a writer of intrigue (with time off for ghostwriting & screenwriting) he then diverted abruptly off into a strangely successful vein of historical/medieval fiction which made his fame explode.

Arguably, he is more famous now for his history yarns than for espionage. When he does take a rare break from these medieval sagas, he sometimes only comes back to pen some homage to romantic-suspense like 'Night Over Water.

Now, I don't know every title he's done in his later career--this thread is about his salad days.

Open question: what do you think of each of his early works? They have handsome covers, one must admit that.

The Man From St. Petersburg
Eye of the Needle
The Key to Rebecca

message 2: by Feliks, Moderator (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 788 comments Mod
They say his first smash hit international bestseller was 'Eye of the Needle' but to me, each of his early-career sorties are quite as healthy as that title. 'Eye of the Needle' actually borrows motifs, themes, and set-sequences already well-established in the other three.

message 3: by Scott (new)

Scott | 11 comments So much so that your comment is echoed by Follett's American editor Neil Nyren: "Eye of the Needle didn't do anything radically new or ground-breaking. what it did do was several things, all excellently."

message 4: by Feliks, Moderator (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 788 comments Mod
Nicely stated. Anyway yeah and then Follett didn't exactly lay around idly. I enjoyed his discreet little heist caper, 'The Modigliani Scandal'; but as we all know, he went on later to truly colossal, undreamt-of success with his series of medieval-era intrigues. That is what put him on the map; that is what made him a household -name around the world. Who would've thought? And he also had a mystifying little 'early period' under assumed names like George Fox. 'Amok' is a hair-raising thriller and the screenplay for 'Capricorn One' is a modern classic.

message 5: by Feliks, Moderator (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 788 comments Mod
One thing which is rather odd about him though is his penchant for racy, graphic sex scenes in most of his books. Seems like he goes out of his way to include this kind of thing.

message 6: by Scott (new)

Scott | 11 comments Oh and what a glorious time the 60's & 70's were for espionage writers; Le Carre, Deighton, Forsyth, Higgins. sometimes we are not aware of the Hey day until it is gone from us. forever.

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