Modesty Blaise – A Future Tarantino?

Modesty Blaise – by Peter O’Donnell

Firstly let me open by saying that this book has the campest cover of any book I have ever read. Quite why they went to the trouble of hammering home that Modesty is a WOMAN by making it bright PINK is beyond me – however the cover bears no real relation to the great novel inside.

This is an old novel – written in 1965 it is based around the then popular comic strip character Modesty Blaise and her sidekick Willie Garvin.

Without parents and roaming from place to place as a child Modesty learns different skills from the various people who take her under their wing and soon shows a propensity for combat and an intellegence to match. This leads her to form The Network – an international heist/robbery ring from which she retires when she makes £500,000, a figure she set herself many years ago.

The novel begins with the British Government deciding to bring Modesty out of retirement to work for them – they need someone to get hold of £10m worth of diamonds that have been stolen and figure Modesty is the best person for the job. If she agrees they will reveal the location of her ex-Network right hand man Willie Garvin, who is lanquishing in a jungle prison.

Modesty agrees and after busting her former colleague out of prison in the jungle the two embark on a mission to get the job done.

It’s a fairly short novel (around 250 pages) and the first third is mainly backstory and preparation for the explosive heist itself.

There are a few twists and turns along the way and the book is well written but on occasion is hampered by the era in which it was written – with regards to Modesty and Garvin’s sometimes blunt ‘i’m a girl / i’m a man’ features.

The characters are utterly devoted to one another through respect and loyalty but they are never romantically involved which made for a nice change.

Modesty Blaise is a great spy thriller which was a great read and I suspect I will give one of the other (11 I believe) Modesty Blaise novels a try at some stage.

Upon finishing I thought to myself, that would make an excellent film if done right i.e seriously.

I had a look on Wikipedia and discovered several versions had been made. The first in 1966 was a spy spoof and the follow ups left a lot to be desired. However a few years ago Miramax put out a straight to DVD version as a way of keeping hold of the rights to the property.

Then I spotted this:

“Quentin Tarantino has been interested in directing a Modesty Blaise movie for many years, and at one point Neil Gaiman even wrote a script treatment based upon O’Donnell’s novel, I, Lucifer. So far, nothing has come of these plans.”

If that’s true it would be awesome.

Tarantino and Gaiman? Very very cool indeed, perhaps Modesty will make it to the big screen in the film she deserves after all.

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