Monday, December 28, 2009

On Christmas, each of the boys had a present they were focusing all their attention on, and I was no exception. I got Jake Adelstein's Tokyo Vice, and am devouring it.

There are eight rules to being a good reporter, Jake.

One. Don't ever burn your sources. If you can't protect your sources, no one will trust you. All scoops are based on the understanding that you will protect the person who gave you the information. That's the alpha and omega of reporting. Your source is your friend, your lover, your wife, and your soul. Betray your source, and you betray yourself. If you don't protect your source, you're not a journalist. You're not even a man.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Gregory McDonald's Fletch novels are classic ad you should read every one.

Don't get me wrong, the movie was a hoot, but I have a feeling McDonald's work has been passed over and largely forgotten outside of a devoted few. Sign me up for the devoted few. Just put down Fletch's Fortune on a round trip flight and it was satiating. McDonald's sharp prose and rhythmic, penetrating dialogue are terrific.

The web site says some of his journalistic writing is available again. Have to make a point of tracking that down and pairing it with similar recollections by another Virile fave, Pete Hamill.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Badass of the Week!

Thanks to Art of Manliness for pointing me to this awesome site - Badass of the Week! Check out an excerpt from Ben Thompson's description of Virile Lit. favorite George Orwell for Powell's:

While cracking street thugs in the kneecaps with a billy club was fun and all, it was when the Spanish Civil War broke out that George Orwell really got a chance to get in there and start kicking some serious asses. George had a pretty spectacular hatred of all things Nazi-related, so when a rag-tag group of democracy-oriented Spanish rebels started trading face-punches with German-backed Fascists, Orwell knew it was time to backflip over to the Iberian Peninsula and put the "crazy" in "democrazy."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It was very cold in '63.

I have been meaning to spend more time in the spy genre. This will include time spent with Eric Ambler, an investigation into Alan Furst, tracking down the (out of print?) novels of Richard Condon, and of course, sitting at the feet of the spymaster, John Le Carre.

I read The Spy Who Came in From the Cold many years ago and picked up a fresh copy at Aunt Agatha’s for a re-read. I am no less impressed now than I was then. Le Carre must be regarded by many as one of the best in the genre; certainly, he is also admired because his work transcends genre into capital-L Literature. Not only does Le Carre write realistically about the experiences of spies (although even he thinks his plots are fantastic), he writes about the actual psychological and spiritual damage that is experienced as a result of a life in espionage, the anxiety of duplicity:

A man who lives a part, not to others but alone, is exposed to obvious psychological dangers. In itself, the practice of deception is not particularly exacting; it is a matter of experience, of professional expertise, it is a facility most of us can acquire. But while a confidence trickster, a play actor or a gambler can return from his performance, the secret agent enjoys no such relief.

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold makes the point that in a Cold War, the weapons are people, the scorched earth and ruins the lives of the participants, physically or otherwise. The novel’s protagonist, Alec Leamas, thinks this is acceptable – better for a small group of tradesmen to be degraded or destroyed than for actual bloodshed on a massive, international scale or, God forbid, a nuclear exchange. His lover, Liz, doesn’t see it that way. “They’re more wicked than all of us…” she says of the spy masters. “Because of their contempt.” Contempt for humanity, for love, their employment of people and their human weaknesses as a means to an end, often a very grim end.

The other spy novelist I’ve spent time with, that covers similar ground in that he covers the psychological landscape of the espionage agent, is Adam Hall and his recurring character, Quiller. Quiller kinda wears me out, to tell the truth. Hall has great narration, dialogue and pace but a Quiller novel in my experience is a somewhat exhausting ride in that it’s like watching a chess game and being privy to the racing thoughts and changing stratagems of both players and, in fact, the pieces. I recommend, as does my man at Aunt Agatha’s, starting with The Tango Briefing if you’re going to dip into Quiller.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Where have you been?

Between work, home, and various bloggy projects I have not been doing Virile Lit. justice! I apologize to you, my faithful readers. All three of you! May interest you to know that I blogged about blogging and Virile Lit. here, where I have been a regular contributor.

But! More to come. Recent reads: history, biography, crime, spy genre.