Saturday, August 29, 2009

Modesty Blaise: The original girl who played with fire

I've reached the stage in Stieg Larsson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo where Lisbeth Salander is starting to come to the fore. So far she reminds me strongly of another young fictional woman with mysterious origins, a horrible past, a quiet demeanor, and wide-ranging and dangerous talents: Peter O'Donnell's Modesty Blaise.

The affinity is so strong and so obvious that someone else must have remarked on it. Who else has noticed the similarities?

(Stieg Larsson's English translator, Steven T. Murray [a.k.a. Reg Keeland], will be a member of my panel on crime fiction and translation at Bouchercon 2009.)

© Peter Rozovsky 2009

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70 Comments:

Blogger Kiwicraig said...

Here's a paragraph from my 2000wd feature on Swedish Crime writing in the August issue of Good Reading magazine (Aust-based mag):

"It’s the character of Salander in particular (“The Girl”) that has fascinated readers worldwide. In his only ever interview about his crime writing, Larsson told bookstore industry magazine Svensk Bokhandel that Salander was inspired by strong-willed redhead Pippi Longstocking in Astrid Lindgren’s famous children’s books. “What would she have been like as an adult? What would she be called – a sociopath?” he mused. “I created her as Lisbeth Salander, 25 years old and extremely isolated. She doesn't know anyone, has no social competence.”

August 29, 2009  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

Never having read anything featuring Modesty Blaise, I was unaware of any similarities. Should I read O'Donnell?

August 29, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Craig, thanks for the comment. Among other things, it lends an extra dimension of sly humor to the Pippi Longstocking references in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Thanks, too, for putting me back in touch with Good Reading, It's on my favorites list, but I had not looked in in a while.

It's also intriguing to learn that Stieg Larsson gave only one interview about his crime writing. I suspect that he regarded crime writing alternately as a supplement to and a refuge from his other, highly serious pursuits in life.

August 29, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Linkmeister, the Modesty Blaise phenomenon grew to include quite a number of novels and the awful 1966 movie in addition to the comic strip. I've read the first novel, Modesty Blaise, and one collection of the comic strips. It's the novel, which emphasizes Modesty's origins, that reminds me of Lisbeth Salander. And yes, it's worth reading.

August 29, 2009  
Blogger Maxine said...

I have several times made this comparison between Lisbeth and Modesty Blaise - it occurred to me back in Dec 2007 when I read the first book and reviewed it in Jan 08 upon first UK publication. I was taken to task by BookWitch for the analogy, I believe. We've also had much discussion at Friend Feed and DJ's Krimblog (Dorte), also Crime Scraps (Norman) about the Astrid Lindgren aspects - Pippi Longstocking and Kalli Blomkvist - Dorte explains how Lisbeth and Blomkvist can be seen as those characters as adults. Much of these discussions have taken place in the comments fields of people's blogs so aren't easily retrievable, but certainly the "modesty blaise" angle has been mentioned by those with long enough memories to remember her.

PS My reviews of the first two books in the Millennium trilogy are at Euro Crime (www.eurocrime.co.uk)

August 29, 2009  
Blogger Maxine said...

I've just checked my review of "Fire" and I do indeed mention the modesty blaise likeness in that: "Lisbeth is almost a Modesty Blaise-like figure at times..."

http://www.eurocrime.co.uk/reviews/The_Girl_Who_Played_With_Fire.html

August 29, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Good God, this is fun. I'm glad I held off reading Stieg Larsson as long as I did. I'll try to hold off reading the blog discusisons until I've read more Larsson. Subsequent development of Salander could make the Modesty Blaise parallels less apparent than they seem now.

Incidentally, I don't remember Modesty Blaise from her original incarnation. I've discovered her only recently. She was nothing more than a name to me until well after I had started this blog.

I shall keep Modesty Blaise in mind as I read, and perhaps I may browse my mythic archetypes for further parallels and analogies.

August 29, 2009  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

What I found interesting was that you could see the development of Larsson from a journalist trying to write a novel, including vast chunks of information that slowed the narrative to a crawl in TATTOO,on to a real novelist after the first 200 pages of FIRE.
I became a Larsson convert after not being overwhelmed by TATTOO because we all have a soft spot for the underdog and the diminutive Salander seems so helpless until she uses her special skills and dangerous talents.

August 29, 2009  
Blogger Dorte H said...

I have also seen the Modesty Blaise comparison without remembering where, but as Maxine mentions, I have focused on the Pippi Longstocking idea, because I knew Stieg Larsson saw it that way himself.

If you´d like to see my post on Salander, it is here:
Lisbeth Salander

And one on Michael Blomkvist as another Lindgren character:
Meet Kalle Blomkvist

And the reason why Stieg Larsson was only interviewed about his crime fiction once must be because he died before they were published.

August 29, 2009  
Blogger Reg said...

I read in some Swedish article that not only was Lisbeth modeled on Pippi, but also on his own niece, Therese. I'll post her pic on my blog soon. http://reg-stieglarssonsenglishtranslator.blogspot.com/

August 29, 2009  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

Jeepers, Uriah. After the action Salander took against her "guardian," helpless is not the term I'd have used to describe her. ;)

August 29, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

What I found interesting was that you could see the development of Larsson from a journalist trying to write a novel, including vast chunks of information that slowed the narrative to a crawl in TATTOO,on to a real novelist after the first 200 pages of FIRE.

Uriah, I remember your having made that assessment of the book. Larsson deposited gobs of expository prose in Tattoo where a more experienced novelist might have integrated them better. I have not found those gobs book-stoppingly vast, though. It now seems obvious that Larsson was feeling his way as a novelist with his first book. I'm not sure how many people were confident or brave or smart enough to say so before the second book appeared.

August 29, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Dorte, thanks for the links. I remember the Kalle Blomkvist post. It sheds yet more light on Mikael Blomkvist's frustration with his nickname of Kalle. And I urge anyone who's reading this to follow the links. Larsson has some interesting things to say about Salander (and there's another interesting touch -- the first book's frequent references to the character by just her last name. This is am eye-catchingly unusual way of referring to a woman, at least for North American and, I think, British readers).

August 29, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks, Reg. I'll take a look. I wonder how his niece would have feel having such a character modelled on her.

Incidentally, nothing I have read or heard suggests that Stieg Larsson knew of or read Modesty Blaise. I suggest merely that the two characters have a similar appeal and even whiffs of the mythic -- the lost, then found child, the avenger and so on.

Larsson said he tried to imagine Pippi Longstocking as an adult. Lisbeth Salander could be something like a novelist's reimagining and updating of the comic-book character Modesty Blaise.

August 29, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Or comic-strip character, to be accurate.

August 29, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Linkmeister, that's a big part of the similarity between Salander and Modesty Blaise: they're physically unimposing but physically dangerous, even lethal; and, more to the point, the reader learns only gradually, if it at all, how and why the characters acquired their dangerous skills.

August 29, 2009  
Blogger R. T. said...

Pippi Longstocking???
Wow! Well, Dorte, I have to do two things now: (1) refamiliarize myself with Pippi (which might be a fun, return-to-childhood adventure); (2) read Larsson's books again because i obviously missed something in my reading of the Lisbeth Salander character.
As for the Modesty Blaise connection, Peter, it seems as though I have to do the same two things.
Damn, so much reading and so little time!

August 29, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

R.T., I haven't read Pippi Longstocking, and I suspect that if I had, Lisbeth Salander would not immediately have reminded me of her. But I think Stieg Larsson said something about the character as his imagining of an adult Pippi -- not Pippi herself, in other words, but a projection.

It seems to me that a number of novelists have done similar things with comic-book characters in recent years: written novels about them, which presumably means more fleshed-out versions of the characters. A number of super-heroes may have received this treatment, and I know that Tintin has.

I think it's interesting that for all his reputation as a crusading journalist and an activist, Larsson loved storybooks, mysteries, detective stories and maybe comic books, too.

August 29, 2009  
Blogger Reg said...

R.T., Please read the NEW translation of Pippi published by Penguin, done by my wife Tiina Nunnally. She corrects some of the racist and other blunders perpetrated in the 1949 translations (there were both US and UK versions).
To wit, Pippi's father was definitely NOT a "cannibal king." That was back in the day when all dark-skinned people in foreign climes had to be cannibals, with their little cannibal children...

August 30, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Hmm, that makes me want to investigate Pippi Longstocking for the first time, to compare new translations, old translations and the original versions of some of those passages.

August 30, 2009  
Blogger Reg said...

Good idea, Peter. Tiina will probably mention it at Bouchercon as a good example of what can happen.

August 30, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Introductions to new translations of literary classics will often justify the necessity for offering a new translation. It sounds as if Tiina would have much to say on this subject. Were the blunders in the earlier translations simply mistranslations, or were they accurate but unfortunate examples of attitudes of the time?

Sixty years after a previous translation is probably within established range for publication of a new one. An interesting question: What crime novels have been been translated more than once into the same language?

August 30, 2009  
Blogger Dorte H said...

R.T., I think it is an excellent idea to read Pippi Longstocking. It is one of the best Scandinavian books (a trilogy really) that have ever been written for minor children. It shouldn´t take you long, either - unless perhaps if you read them in Swedish.
As Reg says, her father is certainly not a cannibal king. My childhood version said ´negerkonge´(negro king) which was just the term one would use about people of African descent at that time.

August 30, 2009  
Blogger Reg said...

To clarify, Pippi's father, a ship captain, was shipwrecked in the South Seas. So these "Negros" were not even of African descent, but probably Micronesian. He became their "king." I would say that Anglo prejudices of the time informed the translation -- the errors seem to have been deliberate editorial choices: rewrites, not "innocent" mistranslations. Whether it was the fault of the translator or the editor, no one will probably ever know.

I once had an album of 78s with a picture book inside, "Bozo and His Rocket Ship" -- the racial stereotypes in that one were astounding! When it was released on LP it apparently had to be heavily edited.

August 30, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Dorte, did you read the book in Swedish, or in Danish? Would negerkonge or a similar Swedish word have appeared in the original?

August 30, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Reg, I'm tempted to ask what connotation and explicit meaning neger or its Swedish equivalent would have had when the book was written, but I suspect that the introduction to the new English translation might answer such questions.

August 30, 2009  
Blogger Dorte H said...

Well, Pippi was probably read aloud to me long before I started school. It would have been a Ingrid Vang-Nyman´s illustrated versions (Danish, probably from the 1950s).

At that time I thought Swedish was a strange & foreign language while Norwegian was somewhat easier; it is only as an adult I have realized that Swedish is not much harder.

I really believe negerkonge would be accepted by anyone in the 1960s, just like American articles from that time use the term Negroes.

August 30, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

OK, thanks. I was wondering if the term was more analogous to negro or to the ugly epithet derived from it.

August 30, 2009  
Blogger Reg said...

"Neger" definitely just means "Negro" in Scandinavian. However, in the old days ('60s) it did appear in words such as "negerbolle" (a chocolate-covered marshmallow cookie), which I believe is now called "flødebolle," (cream ball) right, Dorthe? I haven't lived over there in years, so I'll defer to the teacher for today's fine connotations.

The Swedish term in Pippi I believe was "negerkung." Not that her father was black, but that the natives of the island made him king.

August 31, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yep, that white-guy-rules motif would raise eyebrows today. Alan Moore's Tom Strong comic puts an interesting spin on that old trope.

August 31, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

I just watched Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds and to quote Tarantino himself what a way to destroy the mythology. 3 really terrible films in a row. IG is a stinker - even as some sort of black comedy.

Anyway back when I thought QT was good I did like the fact that John Travolta was reading Modesty B. on the toilet when he got machine gunned by Bruce Willis.

August 31, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I remember you mentioned Travolta's crapper reading during an earlier discussion of Modesty Blaise. And it's a coincidence you should happen to mention MB in connection with a bad film. I posted some time back about the godawful 1966 Modesty Blaise movie.

August 31, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Travolta was also reading MB during the hold up in the diner.

I have seen the film version of MB. It reminded me quite a bit of the film version of Flashman. Big waste of time and talent.

August 31, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You know, I've never read the Flashman books. When was the movie made? I have to think that the movie version of Modesty Blaise was a lethal collision of too much money, too much hipness and too much dope.

August 31, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

The first Flashman's particularly good and resonant set as it is during the British invasion of Afghanistan. I think the film version was somewhere in the mid 70's with all that that entails. (The British 70's I mean - the 70's of Confessions of a Window Cleaner and Carry on Abroad not the US 70's of The Conversation and The French Connection) It's so crap it's embarrassing even to think of it.

I think you'd like 3 or 4 of the Flashman books they're a sort of antidote to Patrick O'Brian who I also adore. (I've listened to the entire series in the Patrick Tull audio versions twice).

August 31, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Speaking of Afghanistan, I can think of no one better than you to consult on this vital matter: Was Swat in the news when Babe Ruth acquired his second great nickname?

August 31, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

OK, maybe his third, but I was never that big a fan of "The Bambino," so I didn't have that one in mind.

August 31, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

I've always liked the Sultan of Brunei myself. A little kingdom in tbe middle of nowhere with oil. Nice. There's also a Dire Straits song called The Sultans of Swing bu I'm not sure if they completely understood the baseball significance.

Jeter BTW is 6 hits from the Iron Horse's all time Yankee hits reecord.

August 31, 2009  
Blogger Dorte H said...

Reg, as someone who was born in 1961, I may not be the world´s most accurate witness to anything that happened in the 40s or 50s. I don´t think one should see negerboller as a racist or derogatory term, though, as Wienerbrød and spanske rundstykker were not. I don´t see any reason why Scandinavians should be racist at that time - because we didn´t have any immigrants. It was quite easy for Scandinavians to criticize the way Americans handled their problems, and I assume that people did. (If/when they did, I wouldn´t hear about it in my home, and we had no television).
Scandinavia needed workers in the 70s and invited ´guest workers´ from Turkey to solve the problem, but there was still no racism, because we needed them, and we thought they would go back home when the work was done. So racism did not appear until unemployment hit us in the 1980s. We had growing unemployment, politicians who could not solve the problem because it was a global problem, and then right wing politicians began spreading the message that the immigrants were to blame.

August 31, 2009  
Blogger Reg said...

Adrian, I'm reading Hidden River right now and loving it. Great way to detoxify after translating a Swedish Crusades book all day. See my blog -- I'm honoring you with quote of the month.

Dorte, the type of racism in Denmark I'm thinking of was the more subtle type, akin to the Jantelov, common over there in the mid-60s -- sort of an undercurrent, before the Danes really had anyone different-looking living in the country. I certainly got plenty of flak from fellow students for any and all American failings -- from civil rights to owning refigerators (if you can believe). But of course in America we can't just put our butter out on the kitchen windowsill to keep it cold...

On topic, I've never read Modesty Blaise or seen the movie. Should I?

August 31, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, it has to have been some erudite sports writer in the 1920s who made up Sultan of Swat. "Swat" has obvious relevance to what Ruth used to do to baseballs, but I'm not sure the term had any currency in the baseball lexicon -- not something that would have been on the average fan's lips. It's not as if he'd been dubbed The High Priest of Home Runs or the Overlord of Extra-Base Hits.

I didn't know Derek "No Nickname" Jeter was so hot on Larrupin' Lou's trail, but I have thought of you in connection with him. Not long ago you were fretting that he was on the downside of his career and that he was a marginal Hall of Famer. Must have been that dour Presbyterian in you, because now, of course, he is being mentioned as a possible MVP and, if the season ended today, he'd be a plausible second-place finisher. He's having a fabulous year.

August 31, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Dorte, thanks for enlarging my stocks of Danish and of food terms.

Denmark's history with Turkish incomers reminds me of Germany's, of course, with its gastarbeiter. Perhaps any tinge of racism from before the friction with guest workers is the result of (relatively) benign condescension and easy invocation of stereotypes rather than of the harsher, and more real confrontations that came later.

August 31, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Reg, the Jantelov is an interesting phenomenon. Who (or what) was the original Jantelov? Did your flak-slinging critics believe that owning a refrigerator was conspicuous consumption? Did they believe in common ownership of the methods of refrigeration? We in America tend to associate small-mindedness with what we call conservative politics and high-minded, altruistic unselfishness with the other side of things. It's an eye-opener to learn about small-mindedness in the name of progressive, communitarian practices.

Modesty Blaise is worth reading but not essential unless you decide to write a dissertation on the appeal of Lisbeth Salander. The character is a young woman, retired after an unspecified but lucrative career as a criminal and called back into service by the British government. That's un-Salander like so far, but her origins are only gradually revealed, she is not given to expressing emotion, she has highly developed skills (in her case in martial arts and improvising weapons), she's a war orphan. The movie is worth seeing only as a risible relic of its time.

And I never knew a Swedish Crusades book could be toxic (or intoxicating).

August 31, 2009  
Blogger Reg said...

I think I'll skip Modesty Blaise, thanks for the heads up.

The Jantelov was first codified by Aksel Sandemose (1899-1965) in his novel "En flyktning krysser sitt spor" ("A fugitive crosses his tracks") (1933, English translation 1936), based on the town where he grew up, Nykøbing Mors in Jutland. Born Danish, he later moved to Norway after spending some years at sea and in Newfoundland.

The ten rules are:

1. Don't think that you are special.
2. Don't think that you are of the same standing as us.
3. Don't think that you are smarter than us.
4. Don't fancy yourself as being better than us.
5. Don't think that you know more than us.
6. Don't think that you are more important than us.
7. Don't think that you are good at anything.
8. Don't laugh at us.
9. Don't think that any one of us cares about you.
10. Don't think that you can teach us anything.

Further in the book: 11. Don't think that there is something we don't know about you.

I have no idea why Danes in the 60s thought refrigerators were so evil. Anyway, most Danes can't pronounce it. When they slyly ask you to say "Rødgrød med fløde", you can counter by making them attempt "The squirrel went inside the vacant refrigerator." (I made that one up, Dorthe.)

Back to the toxic 12th century...

September 01, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know the name Modesty Blaise, but have never read any of the novels featuring this character.

However, have you ever read any Thomas Perry? The way Lisbeth pulls off the changes in identity so competently was quite reminiscent of Perry's Jane Whitefield character. It really made me even sadder to know that Larsson had passed as I this Lisbeth and Jane would have made one hell of a team if Perry and Larsson had ever chosen to collaborate.

The reference to Salander as a Sociopath also brought to mind Carol O'Connell's recurring character, Kathy Mallory.

September 01, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for the note, Anonymous. I haven't read either Perry or O'Connell, but I enjoyed a description I found of Kathy Mallory as a "baby sociopath." That she has a computer-technology business is also at least vaguely reminiscent of Lisbeth Salander, who uses computers in her own security work. I wonder if Stieg Larsson knew these two authors. Can anyone out there shed light on this question?

September 01, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Reg, this Aksel Sandemose sounds like quite a fellow. In the crime-fiction world, I've enjoyed Colin Watson's Flaxborough Chronicles as well as hhis acidic social history of English crime writing, Snobbery With Violence. Mr. Sandemose might be worth a look, too.

Enjoy your toxins. I have never thought of the Crusades as having extended their reach that far north.

September 01, 2009  
Blogger magster said...

Hi guys, I'm about half way through Fire, and I still dont get Blomkvist's nick name, Kalli? what's it supposed to mean? and why doesnt he like it?

November 08, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for the note. The reference is to a kid detective created by the Swedish author Astrid Lindgren. Presumably Blomkvist hates it because he htinks he's being called a kid.

I think this is explained in The Girl Who Played With Fire, though, so be patient!

November 09, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

In any case, even if it's not explained in the book, now you know. Thanks again for your comment.

November 09, 2009  
Blogger magster said...

Thanks so much Peter, I've been wondering about it for a while now. I just finished reading "Fire" totally loved it. Today I learned the only way to read the third book is ordering from the UK, any ideas where I might get it in the US?

November 10, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You're quite welcome. You might try Murder by the Book in Houston for The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. I saw some copies there last week.

November 10, 2009  
Blogger Reg said...

Hi folks, just back from Stockholm and Copenhagen, scoping all the hot new crime writers. "Kalle" is the nickname for Carl or Karl, Mikael's legal first name that he doesn't use. It's like when we add -y or -ie to a name. Mainly he doesn't want to be compared to Astrid Lindgren's kid detective.

The Millennium books are all over the Scandinavian airports in many languages...

November 22, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks. Who were the big discoveries? Any new translations in the offing? And were you travelling undercover, or did the airport booksellers know who you were?

November 22, 2009  
Blogger Reg said...

No deals yet, so can't mention any names. But we did get to meet with several of the authors we have translated, including Camilla Läckberg, and mainstream authors Klas Östergren and Klaus Rifbjerg. I'll be posting more info and pix on my blog in the next few days.

And yes, we were definitely undercover (got a great pic from Arlanda for the blog). It rained every day but one for two weeks, cleared up the day we left, of course.

November 22, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks. I haven't read Camilla Läckberg yet, though I have heard good things about her. And I'll keep an eye out for your news.

November 23, 2009  
Anonymous John H said...

I just finished the Hornet's Nest so I'm done with the series until I read it again. I tend to do that with books I really enjoy. I let them sit for about 6 months and read again to see what I missed the first time.
I'm in the US so I had to order Hornet's Nest from the UK. I bought it for about $16 with shipping included and it came via Royal Mail in about 10 days from a store called the bookdepository.com.
After reading this thread I checked out the Modesty Blaise books. I had heard of them but never read any of them until now. They are a lot of fun and I recommend them for light reading. Mainly written in the 60s for the adventure crowd. They are short and fun but I don't see much connection to Lisbeth except both are women and can be deadly.
Looks like I need to check out Pippi. I know nothing about that bunch of characters as I was reading the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew when I was allowed to ride my bicycle to the library.

November 24, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for the comment. I read the Hardy Boys as a youth, and a few of the Nancy Drews, too.

I've heard good things about the Book Depository, and $16 is a fine deal considering some of the outsize prices that some are charging for Hornet's Nest.

Perhaps there are so few deadly women around that one looks for similarities when two do appear. I don't know if Modesty Blaise ever exacts revenge the way Lisbeth Salander does, and she probably has her act more together. But then, I've only read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

I've read the first Modesty Blaise novel as well as a collection of the comic strips. I wonder to what extent Peter O'Donnell emphasized the character's past in the strips.

November 24, 2009  
Blogger Reg said...

John H,
Please read the NEW translation of Pippi Longstocking by my wife, Tiina Nunnally -- it fixes the archaic and racist terminology present in the UK and US versions from the early 50s! Available from Penguin, but so far only in the illustrated version.

November 24, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Reg, I was going to make that recommendation until I saw that you'd made it already, earlier in this thread.

John, scroll up for Reg's discussion of Pippi Longstocking translations.

November 24, 2009  
Anonymous John H said...

Thanks for the recommendation but I imagine an illustrated book is a little expensive for me. I'm not often interested in the pictures anyway. I'd rather see the story through my own eyes so to speak.
Modesty seldom needs to extract revenge. She usually just kills whoever is in her way. If she doesn't kill them then her "boy", Willi Garvin, does.
Much has been made of the chaste relationship between Modesty and Willi but most of the friendly characters in the stories are people they are sleeping with. Sometimes these characters end up with each other and appear in another story as a couple.
Lisbeth may be as ruthless in her heart as Modesty but she generally doesn't kill the people causing her trouble. She tends to do something to make them miserable. However if someone dies she doesn't loose any sleep over it.
So much for that. I'm moving on to Pippi, the girl detective.
Thanks for the blog. I'm glad I stumbled across it and will check out more of the threads. I suspect it will be well worth my while.

November 24, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for the comments and the kind words. I hope you'll keep reading.

I'm not sure the Modesty Blaise strips I read are classics of the art, but they are interesting for several reasons:

a) It's instructive to see how comics and a novel handle similar material in two very different media

b) U.S. readers can see the strips that they may have missed because of American censorship during their original run. Modesty occasionally appears topless, you see, and the public could not be allowed to see that.

You may have read more of Modesty Blaise than I have. She is a free agent drafted into government service. Perhaps in line with the times, Lisbeth's aims are more personal.

November 24, 2009  
Blogger Reg said...

John, most any library in the US or UK should have the book, it's been a big hit. You don't want to read that Pippi's father was a "cannibal king," do you?

November 24, 2009  
Blogger Reg said...

P.S. Pippi isn't a detective: she lives in a house by herself with her monkey and horse... a free spirit.

November 24, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I like the idea of living with a monkey and a horse ... the idea, more than I'd like the earthy reality, I think.

November 25, 2009  
Anonymous John H said...

OK Reg, off to the library I go. Libraries are great but you have to give the books back. I like to keep them until I'm really finished with them.
As for the offensive language I must confess it doesn't really bother me. I'm a product of the 60s and remember quite well a lot of things that were very acceptable then that would outrage people today. Besides after being lectured back then about American prejudice by my European friends I get a kick out theirs coming to the forefront.
Living with a monkey is really disgusting. I had a friend who tried. The monkey learned how to take off it's diaper.
Back to Modesty for a moment. I've read 8 of them to date and got to thinking that no one has mentioned Willi Garvin. In fact he is the other half of the Modesty character in many ways. She may come up with the plan or decide to take on a project but Willi is there figuring out how to make things work. In the books he can make whatever they need out of almost nothing. He's also much bigger and stronger when the need for brute strength is needed.
The more I think about it the less I connect her with Lisbeth. Socially they opposites with MB being a very gracious and outgoing young woman with a real love for people even though she or Willi generally kill anybody in her way.

November 25, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I know I've mentioned Willy Garvin before, perhaps in my original discussion on this blog about Modesty Blaise. Naturally I noticed the strength and the chastity of their relationship.

I'm trying now to remember why the Modesty-Lisbeth parallels seemed so strong. Perhaps it was both characters' obscure origins and emotional reserve. Of course, you've read a lot more of Modesty Blaise than I have and thus have a better idea of how the character develops.

Modesty can be outgoing, as she is with her old Arab sheikh friend. For the most part, though, she holds those social skills in reserve, I think.

November 25, 2009  
Anonymous John H said...

Back to Modesty for a moment. I've read most of them now and find no resemblance between MB and Lisbeth aside from the fact they are both women who had very tough childhoods.

MB does a few favors for the head of the British Secret Service but mostly trouble just finds her. She and Willi Garvin are simply trouble magnets and they thrive on the adrenalin. Usually they go into action when a friend is in danger.

They are both very friendly and enjoy simple everyday living. Things like going to the county fair and Christmas caroling. Both take on a number of lovers and these characters often show up in later books. In fact I believe that either one would make a wonderful neighbor.

Lisbeth on the other hand isn't really very social at all. She has a few friends but most are her online buddies. She makes no real attempt make friends with anyone because she is either embarrassed about herself or is afraid of rejection.

While Lisbath certainly is strong willed and unbending I think of her as a very vulnerable person without the social skills or confidence to give enough of herself to be close to someone.

I'll move on to Pippi now.

December 06, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'll have to defer to you, since you have a wider acquaintance with both characters. It's also been a while since I've read Modesty Blaise, novel or comic. Perhaps the earlier stories emphasized her mysterious origins more than her mingling with others. I don't recall her taking on any lover in the first novel or in the collection of comic strips that I read, for example.

December 06, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I don't remember any caroling or trips to the fair, either. Perhaps O'Donnell gave her a more normal life only after establishing that she was an exceptional character.

December 06, 2009  

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