Hold onto your bowler hats! It’s the return of … Britspionage!?
Er, what? I hear you ask. Well, I’m an author and it’s a term I coined to indicate a particular type of British espionage that I’m trying to revive … in an updated, 21st century form.
Britspionage flourished during the 1960s. I’m not talking about John Le Carré here: I’m not really talking about books at all. I’m talking about television and, to a lesser extent, film.
I’m talking about Patrick McGoohan in The Prisoner, Roger Moore in The Saint, Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg in The Avengers; Sean Connery in Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice and Michael Caine in The Ipcress File and Funeral in Berlin. The music of John Barry. Oh, and one comic strip: Peter O’Donnell and Jim Holdaway’s Modesty Blaise.
What have all these things in common? A certain camp glamour, strong sunlight, optimism, whacky gadgets, eccentricity and surrealism, pinstriped suits, umbrellas, exotic locations, central London.
If you look at what’s happened to the espionage story since then, it’s become much more self-important. Everything’s shot in low light two doors down from Costcutter, people mumble, they wear crumpled clothes with words on, they feel bad about themselves, they do most of their work indoors because it’s forever raining outside, they’ve got wrecked personal lives, they drink too much, their feet smell, and all this happens to the soundtrack of mourning whales.
Britspionage is mostly shot outdoors when the sun’s bright and the streets are crowded. When it’s shot indoors, the walls are made of polished walnut. The Britspionage hero or heroine wears smart clothes, but doesn’t care whether it’s ‘designer’. She’s up against a cunning enemy who respects her as much as she respects him. She knows how to use karate (but everyone knows she does, so she rarely has to). She’s got a microphone in her pen. It’s a fountain pen made of solid silver. Given to her on her 21st birthday by her father. Who’s a close adviser to the Queen.
Go too far with this, of course, and you end up with Austin Powers and Dr Evil. No, this is the 21st century, so a liberal dose of John Le Carré is a necessity nowadays. In the age of 9/11 and al-Qaeda, Wikileaks, Edward Snowden, Chinese cyber-attacks and North Korean nuclear testing, we can’t return to the blithe innocence of fifty years ago. No, we need some – perhaps a lot – of political realism mixed with our bubbly nowadays. And much less sexism. By which, I mean: none at all.
So perhaps I shouldn’t call it Britspionage. Perhaps neo-Britspionage.
Yes, a bit of a mouthful but that sounds about right.
If you want to find out what it looks like, I’ve written three exemplars: three Tales of MI7. As far as I’m aware, they’re currently the only novels in this genre. I know, because I just invented it.
Oh, come on, don’t deny it, you just heard me.
Genre – Espionage Thriller
Rating – PG
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Quality Reads UK Book Club Disclosure: Author interview / guest post has been submitted by the author and previously used on other sites.