A white lie a good many people tell is that when they say that they have read a literary classic or a best-selling novel, they have only seen its celluloid adaptation. They fail to realise that in virtually every case the screenwriters have made changes _ adding and deleting characters, changing venues, often the ending of the story.
Solo by William Boyd 325 pp, 2013 Jonathan Cape Paperback. Available at Asia Books and leading bookshops, 550 baht
What sticks in the mind are the films' stars, not the books' characters. Who did Judy Garland play in The Wizard Of Oz? Gary Cooper in High Noon? Katharine Hepburn in A Lion In Winter? Lana Turner in The Three Musketeers?
You'd remember if you read the book or saw the play.
In a word-association test, the response to "James Bond" might well be "Sean Connery" because they saw him portraying 007 more than once and it skipped their mind that Ian Fleming created him from his imagination. While millions bought his books, tens of millions only saw the films.
I am both an avid reader and a cinebuff. The advantage of movies is sitting in a theatre for two hours (including coming attractions) and watching a story unfold. A book takes days _ weeks, months for some _ to peruse, language triggering the mind to visualise the characters, their problems and solutions. They leave a more indelible impression than films.
James Bond is the quintessential spy, the British Secret Intelligence Service agent with a licence to kill. He's the role model for government hitmen. An official assassin. A murderer who is above the law. Ordered to kill only when authorised, he offs people on his own when he feels he has just cause. Maiming is his second choice.
More than one author has been given the nod by the publisher to try to imitate the late Ian Fleming. In Solo, it is Ghana-born Brit William Boyd. To his credit, he's come closest to depicting famous protagonist. Bond's chain-smoking, drinking, womanising are spot-on. As are M and Miss Moneypenny.
The story is set in a fictitious small West African country, sitting on an ocean of oil. But it is engaged in a civil war, which M orders him to end. Needless to say, he succeeds, the CIA interfering. He pillows two luscious women, one of whom shoots him ("Sorry, James").
There's some nonsense about two brothers exchanging identities. Lots of fighting, hangings on trees. Heroin smuggling into the States is thrown in for good measure. Bond stops that, too. Our hero returns to London for his next mission.
The Night Ranger by Alex Berenson 406 pp, 2013 Headline paperback. Available at Asia Books and leading bookshops, 375 baht
With the native Africans displacing their Western masters, it was expected that the aura of freedom would brighten the Dark Continent. Peace and prosperity. Every country there having a deserved place in the commonwealth of nations. Alas, events proved otherwise.
Wars, genocide, dictators, warlords, corruption came instead. Banditry was commonplace. Militias. Mercenaries on the side of the highest bidder. Nature contributed to the mayhem and misery with its droughts. People became refugees as they crossed borders, where they hoped the grass was greener.
Thousands, hundreds of thousands of foreigners streaming into countries that didn't want them, wouldn't make room for them, refused to feed them. It fell on outside agencies, the United Nations and non-profit organisations, to provide them with the needs of life.
Volunteers were called to come to the camps and help in any way they could _ working in infirmaries, distributing food being trucked in, schooling children. In The Night Ranger by Yank author Alex Berenson, a camp in Kenya is focused on, the refugees from neighbouring Somalia.
Five American college friends (two women, three men) volunteered to go and were accepted as a group. Their idealism is sorely tested by the poverty. Of the sheer mass of humanity, they are instructed to keep alive. To their credit, they draw on all their strength to do so. Until they are kidnapped.
Somalis are infamous for their piracy at sea, but they aren't above land abductions. The US demands their return. This ignored, a parent calls on the book's hero to do the job. Ex-Delta Force and CIA agent John wells heads for Nairobi. Gathering information isn't cheap, but he keeps paying in greenbacks until he learns who, when and where. The latter chapters have him negotiating their release. In time, the CIA enters the scene. There are deaths along they way, not to mention Wells' encounter with a poisonous mamba snake. Nobody in Africa comes off well. Not the greedy Kenyan police, least of all the cruel Somali gangs.
The Night Ranger has the requisite number of pages at just over 400, but the finish drags. John Wells is the standard protagonist in thrillers.