First published 1959 by Robert Hale Ltd Corgi edition published 1961
The orders were simple - the road past the fort at Ma-Kouie must be denied to the enemy artillery for five days. Time is essential for planes to bring in reinforcements urgently needed at Dien Bien Phu otherwise all Laos falls to the Viet-Minh. The problem is that by the time these orders arrive at Captain Renoir's HQ he has just eighteen men left alive. But these men of the French Foreign Legion are a tough bunch and prepared to carry out their orders. After all there is very little choice though the mission is totally suicidal. The plan is simple. First destroy the bridge over the Ma-Kouie River. Second hold the fort for twenty four hours after the enemy arrive. Third pull back to a grassy knoll where Renoir will place mortar positions. The fort is placed under the command of Sergeant Steve Brent, a tough uncompromising 'Limey'. With him is the American Corporal Bud Galland who loves hard as he fights; Johnny Hellwig, a young German deserter who becomes a man. Others are memorable like Me'n Fou with a fly tattooed on the end of his nose and Mohaffy the Irish American with a grudge against the sergeant. Then there is the big built Marie with a hatred for the Viet-Nimh who killed her husband and son - a woman determined to go down fighting. And Ly-Lin, a prostitute hopelessly devoted to Bud Galland who stands by his side through thick and thin.
Derrick Wright has written a character driven book about men and war that still stands up today. The reader gets involved with the story and as the numbers begin to dwindle you feel the loss. The battle scenes are well described - in such a way that you can see it happen as though it was a movie. This was one of those books that went around my class at school and I still have it.
What a weekend coming up. Saturday sees the scooters coming down to the beach followed, on Sunday, by the motorbikes. A touch of deja vu here but Brighton it is not. Friday and Saturday the 24th and 25th June sees the Coasters Scooter Club celebrate it's 50th Anniversary at Trimley social club. Money raised goes to the Air Ambulance. Formed back in 1961 as the Felixstowe and District Scooter Club they can be found holding court every Wednesday at The Steam Boat Tavern in Ipswich, Suffolk. Live bands and DJs will supply entertainment and there will be a ride out to Felixstowe on the Saturday morning.
Then on Sunday 26th June Hamilton Road in Felixstowe plays host to the second Motorcycle Show. There will be a ride in from Stonham Barns near Stowmarket to raise money for St.Elizabeth Hospice.
In 1967 Adam Diment was about to rewrite spy fiction. There had been many contenders for Ian Fleming's and James Bond's throne. 'Boysie' Oakes in John Gardner's 'The Liquidator' (Gardner would take over the Bond franchise) and Doctor Jason Love in 'Passport To Oblivion' (filmed as 'Where The Spies Are'). Add to the list John Sanders with Nicholas Pym, the 'James Bond' of Oliver Cromwell's Secret Service.
So, enter Philip McAlpine. Tall, good looking and a love of fast cars, fast living, pot, sex and all manner of things mod. Truly a sixties child. Suddenly his creator, Adam Diment, was the 'big thing'. Both he and his creation were hailed as the true successors to Fleming and Bond.
'The Dolly Dolly Spy' is told in the first person and appears to be a slow starter. McAlpine is coerced into working for British Intelligence department 6(NC/NAC) by the head Rupert Quine who is nothing like M. Quine is camp and prone to calling people 'luv' but this is just window dressing for a man who has a nasty, sadistic streak and can resort to blackmail with a smile on his face. Recruited McAlpine is sent to work for the International Charter Inc a company that British Intelligence are interested in. On the surface the company runs package holidays for tourists to the Mediterranean island of Dathos. Underneath there is gunrunning and other clandestine activities going on. As a perk for this McAlpine is well paid and has the privelege of having his girlfriend, Veronica, live with him. But the easy living comes to an end when he has to start earning his money and has to kidnap a former member of the Waffen SS. The only trouble is that the Americans want him too and McAlpine is not a subscriber to any 'special relationships'.
What makes 'The Dolly Dolly Spy' stand out from the crowd is Adam Diment's delivery. His hero says exactly what he thinks and that goes all the way to make McAlpine real - like you were reading an autobiography. There were three more books 'The Great Spy Race', 'The Bang Bang Birds' and 'Think,Inc' the latter in 1971 after a gap of three years. But that was the end as Adam Diment just disappeared from the scene.
There was talk of a movie with David Hemmings but it came to nothing. Though, I do wonder if the McAlpine novels insired Austin Powers though that character does not compare.
This is something of a first - being able to review a CD before it's commercial release. It has been eight years since the release of 'The Curse Of Blondie' and still Blondie moves on with a kind of re-invention. The Blondie style is always there flipping through trends and styles and mixing it all up. The opening track 'D-Day' is all that. Not the usual toe-tapping, pop arty single type opener but something dark and brooding that creeps up on you. And anyone could mistake 'What I Heard' as the next in line as the sure fire hit single. 'Mother' was the actual single release. On the surface it is about a club the Debbie Harry frequented called Mother. Dig a little deeper into the lyrics and it turns into what you want it to be. As I have said all the Blondie styles are there including a touch of Reggae - 'Girlie Girlie' for example. Although this is a CD of new material there are some tracks that have been around for a while as part of Blondie's live gigs. All in all I enjoyed the 'Panic Of Girls' CD - but then I am biased as I like Blondie and Debbie Harry (er - singing solo - I mean). Blondie's 'Panic Of Girls' is released on the 4th July next.
As 'Riders Of The Range' finished so Jet Morgan and his crew took a 'Journey Into Space'. The series ran from 1953 to 1956. Series 1 had various titles 'Journey To The Moon' and 'Operation Luna'. Series 2 'The Red Planet'. Series 3 'The World In Peril'. Although the first episode pulled in a large listening audience the earthbound storyline saw the number of listeners dwindle. However once the spaceship 'Luna' took off the figures rose with it. The cast consisted of Andrew Faulds as Jet Morgan; Alfie Bass as Lemmy (though David Kossof played the role in the early episodes); Guy Kingsley Poynter as Doc and Don Sharp as Mitch.
In 1954 Charles Chilton, writing his first novel, brought the first 'Journey Into Space' series to the reading public. In a change to the radio show Charles Chilton began the book as Jet Morgan and his crew are preparing to return to earth from the moon. Something is wrong as both oxygen and fuel are running out and there doesn't seem to be any logical explanation. Fortunately Doc, one of the crew, has been keeping a journal and the revelations has heads spinning. Set in 1965, the year Charles Chilton thought that man might land on the moon, it is very close to the real thing. Suspense increases as radio contact with Earth is lost and the radio operator, Lenny, hears strange music that none of the others can hear. Yet there is nothing wrong with the equipment. All the ingredients of the sci-fi series are there including a fleet of UFOs and alien beings. Although the first book was published in hardback in 1954 it was not until 1958 that Pan issued this title in paperback. Although I never missed an episode it was great to relive the series through the written word.
Usually I avoid books that tell of someone else's creation's life before, during or after the events of a novel. I did not know that this book, published in 2001, even existed. However, the first few lines of the prologue grabbed my attention as did the first page of the story proper. Always a good place to start.
The story is set 25 years after the events of John Wyndham's original novel 'The Day Of The Triffids'. Young David Masen (son of Bill and Josella)wakes up to darkness on the triffid free Isle Of Wight. Outside he can hear people going about their normal business. It is not long before David realises that he is not blind and that a trail of space debris has hidden the sun. Masen is a pilot and takes off in an old Gloster Javelin to try and discover what lies behind the cloud. With nothing to guide him he is forced to land on a floating island populated by a 16 year old girl and a forest of triffids. Not only that but the girl, Christina, is immune to triffid stings. It is not long before the pair are rescued by a passing ship with a biological team of Americans aboard who find a fascination with Masen's ability to fly. Their interest is heightened when it is discovered that the Javelin was powered by triffid oil that has been refined by Bill Masen and Croker's efforts. The Captain of the ship is ordered to sail straight back to Manhatten and not the Isle Of Wight. It seems that Manhatten's dictator wants to grab both the refinery process and cash in on Christina's immunity. Manhatten is a surprising place and it is not long before David Masen realises that there is something dark lying behind the bright lights. Indeed, the man in charge of the Manhatten complex is an old enemy - Torrence. And David has struck up a friendship with his daughter, Kerris - and to Masen's surprise she is, also, part of the resistence. If that wasn't enough - the triffids have mutated as well.
On it's own 'The Night Of The Triffids' stands well on it's own two feet. The storyline contains some expansions on John Wyndham's themes not just from the original novel but from some of his short stories as well - especially the baby farms. And there were times when I quite forgot that the book wasn't written by Wyndham - but like it says in the song 'there's always something there to remind me.'