KISS KISS, BANG BANG by Mike Ripley

The subtitle really does say it all: The Boom in British Thrillers from Casino Royale to The Eagle Has Landed

Though I sadly missed the launch party last week due to an international incident (but which sadly I can’t discuss due to a slew of D notices) Mike Ripley’s history of the modern, post-war British thriller, with a foreword by Lee Child, is now finally in the shops. It is available  in hardback, e-book and audio versions courtesy of Harper Collins after making its way through the courts. It reveals – inter alia – that, though Britain may have lost an empire, her thrillers helped save the world.

You’d you’d be a fool to miss this book – and  here’s why:

When Ian Fleming dismissed his books in a 1956 letter to Raymond Chandler as ‘straight pillow fantasies of the bang-bang, kiss-kiss variety’ he was being typically immodest. In three short years, his James Bond novels were already spearheading a boom in thriller fiction that would dominate the bestseller lists, not just in Britain, but internationally.

The decade following World War II had seen Britain lose an Empire, demoted in terms of global power and status and economically crippled by debt; yet its fictional spies, secret agents, soldiers, sailors and even (occasionally) journalists were now saving the world on a regular basis.

From Ian Fleming and Alistair MacLean in the 1950s through Desmond Bagley, Dick Francis, Len Deighton and John Le Carré in the 1960s, to Frederick Forsyth and Jack Higgins in the 1970s.

Many have been labelled ‘boys’ books’ written by men who probably never grew up but, as award-winning writer and critic Mike Ripley recounts, the thrillers of this period provided the reader with thrills, adventure and escapism, usually in exotic settings, or as today’s leading thriller writer Lee Child puts it in his Foreword: ‘the thrill of immersion in a fast and gaudy world.’

In Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, Ripley examines the rise of the thriller from the austere 1950s through the boom time of the Swinging Sixties and early 1970s, examining some 150 British authors (plus a few notable South Africans). Drawing upon conversations with many of the authors mentioned in the book, he shows how British writers, working very much in the shadow of World War II, came to dominate the field of adventure thrillers and the two types of spy story – spy fantasy (as epitomised by Ian Fleming’s James Bond) and the more realistic spy fiction created by Deighton, Le Carré and Ted Allbeury, plus the many variations (and imitators) in between.

The book is available from all the usual online and bricks and mortar establishments – for more information, visit the official Harper Collins website.

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This entry was posted in Adam Hall, Alistair MacLean, Clive Egleton, Eric Ambler, Frederick Forsyth, George Smiley, Gerald Seymour, Ian Fleming, James Bond, James Mitchell, John le Carre, Lee Child, Len Deighton, Mike Ripley. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to KISS KISS, BANG BANG by Mike Ripley

  1. This looks fantastic, Sergio. I’m already interested; it sounds both comprehensive and quite readable. Thanks for sharing.

  2. tracybham says:

    I want this book. I love the title and the cover and I am sure I will love the contents. Can’t get it here yet though. I have it on pre-order.

  3. Paula Carr says:

    Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is also the name of one of Pauline Kael’s collections of movie reviews. And also the name of a Robert Downey Jr. movie that I absolutely love and highly recommend. Enough rough stuff for those who go for that sort of thing, but also howlingly funny.

    • I love the Shane Black film with Downey Jr and Val Kilmer with that title, quite agree. His more recent The Good Guys is almost a remake. I believe the phrase may have originated with James Bond, as in Italy he was known as “Mr Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” and was the event considered as the title track for Thunderball – here is the less common Shirley Bassey version: https://youtu.be/j4m9ptFefwo

      • And here is the better known version, also ultimately unused as it didn’t have the word ‘Thunderball’ in the title, sung by Dionne Warwick:

      • Paula Carr says:

        Glad you like that film, too, Sergio. I’d have been very, very disappointed in you if you didn’t!

        • Sooner or later I would like to get a copy of the Brett Halliday novel it is derived from.

          • I LOVE this film too, it’s one of my absolute favourites, and a great one for a classic family film evening. Glad to find other fans. Sergio, someone told me that the book is much more straightforward, the film added all the fun bits.

          • As I understand it, the script really just took some elements of the novel only – ‘inspired by’ rather than ‘adapted from’ I reckon 🙂

  4. Thanks for the heads-up on this book, Sergio. I grew up with those thrillers.

  5. Dave says:

    This looks great – and that cover is striking. Does anyone know what novel it is taken from?

  6. Matt Paust says:

    Read my first Bond novel after learning JFK was reading them. Then migrated to Deighton and LcCarre, and never looked back. Afraid if I read this I’d get hooked all over again.

  7. Totally ordered a copy after reading this!

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