Sunday, May 8, 2011

Paperback 411: Modesty Blaise / Peter O'Donnell (Fawcett/Crest R899)

Paperback 411: Fawcett/Crest R899 (1st ptg, 1966)

Title: Modesty Blaise
Author: Peter O'Donnell
Cover artist: Uncredited

Yours for: $15


Best things about this cover:
  • I challenge the spy-worthiness of those boots. Everything else is sleek and pragmatic (even the pile of hair, which could be hiding, I don't know, throwing stars or a bottle opener or something), but those heels wouldn't last 10 seconds in Abbottabad.
  • She has the look of a McGinnis girl, but there's something ... not quite right. A lifelessness. I mean, I usually think McGinnis girls look a little dead-eyed, but they have a certain something that pops. This woman doesn't have it.
  • This is a movie tie-in paperback. Movie is apparently a kind of spoof of spy movies. The "Modesty Blaise" franchise is weird. Starts in comics (as a female alternative to 007), and blows up from there.
  • As for the background—looks like something borrowed from a kindergarten classroom. What the hell?


Best things about this back cover:
  • Her expression in that second drawing. Is she flipping a man and singing "My Prerogative" at the same time? Impressive.
  • Wow, this cover copy is leaden. Not campy, not funny, not outlandish—just predictable and stupid.
  • "Dirk Bogarde" will now be added to my long list of potential aliases.

Page 123~

"Yet she's all woman," Hagan said, and felt his loins throb with sudden memory of her.

I don't think that's quite how loins work. Even a 16-yr-old isn't going to go from zero to "throb" at the speed of thought.


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Tumblr]


Tulse said...

"Dirk Bogarde" was his alias as well -- the actor was born "Derek Jules Gaspard Ulric Niven van den Bogaerde". Just try to get that on a marquee.

capewood said...

I'd like to meet me a "gorgeous hunk of woman".

Graham Powell said...

Crimespree Magazine had a layout of about a dozen different MB covers through the years. The later ones tended more towards "slutty".

Citizen Dain said...

Read "Modesty Blaise" as a teenager. It is a very fun spy novel. I haven't seen the movie yet, but apparently it is much more parodic than the novel, which maybe tries a little TOO hard to be legitimate.

Also the video game franchise "No One Lives Forever" is an unofficial adaptation of this novel. The artwork, and heroine, and even the supporting characters are all borrowed from this book.

Also, the hardcover version of this book is featured in "Pulp Fiction" -- it is the book Vincent (John Travolta) is reading in the bathroom stall.

Enough "Modesty" trivia for you?

Deniz Bevan said...

"murderous fantasy"?!
These covers just keep getting more and more funny and over-the-top.

Deb said...

Dirk Bogarde excelled in rather ominous roles. He was very good in several Harold Pinter adaptations, especially "The Servant" and "Accident."

McClaverty said...

The cover artist is Robert McGinnis, credited in The Paperback Covers of Robert McGinnis by Scott & Maynard.

Rex Parker said...


Ha. So much for my discerning eye. I guess it was semi-discerning. Anyway, thanks.


PS I love that you all know who this Dirk Bogarde guy is.

DemetriosX said...

Why shouldn't we all know who Dirk Bogarde is? He was a fairly major actor from the 50s to the 70s, playing leads like Liszt and Sidney Carton. He even got knighted for his work.

The cover is terrible, but I would like to put in a good word for the whole series of novels. Like the Bond books, there's a lot more to them than you would expect from the movies. Excellent depth of characterization, decent action. Stylistically, they remind a lot of the Nero Wolfe books, maybe because they're narrated by the sidekick. Highly recommended.

borky said...

1) Wow! Rex! You truly don't know who famous semi-closet gay actor Dirk Bogarde is? Well, now you do, you should rise even higher in the crossword puzzle solver world!

2) As for Modesty's boots' spy-worthiness, I'm sure Bin Laden's missus could've used their heels and toes to do a fair bit of damage with them in Abbottabad!

3) I don't think Modesty's flipping the guy and singing - I think she's yelling, "Hey, don't be surreptitiously grabbing at my left tit just before I smash you face first into the floor!"

4) I suspect Hagan's loins may well've throbbed like that - if Modesty'd previously kicked his bollocks in with those boots!

5) Sorry for being so challenging, Rex, but it's best if it's done by someone who loves y'u!

Stoutcat said...

Hurray! Finally a Modesty Blaise title! Even if it was a tie-in to the (terrible no-good horrible) movie. The novel's storyline is terrific, and by the way,

...[her] pile of hair, which could be hiding, I don't know, throwing stars or a bottle opener or something...]

She frequently hid a kongo in her hair. A kongo (or yawara stick), as any MB fan knows (she also had one as part of a purse handle) is a small hand-sized dumbbell shaped implement used for pressure point strikes and such.

In case you wanted to know.

Well, you asked. Sort of.

Modesty Blaise said...

Few of the Modesty Blaise covers do the books justice, apart from the early covers by Jim Holdaway, Mike Codd, and Robert McGinnis. You can see all the book covers here:

I agree that this one looks 'flatter' than most McGinnis paintings, but IMO it still captures the era well. High heels notwithstanding (Modesty never would have worn those; then again, she also wouldn't have been wearing the bondage gear the Pan covers show).

Fifi [Feeling is First] said...

please enjoy this flat leaden music video of Modesty Blaise