PETER O’DONNELL

Peter O’Donnell died in 2010 in his early 90’s after a long and productive writing career. He is best known as the creator of Modesty Blaise. I discovered these books at the age of 20 and now own copies of all the novels, anthologies and several collections of the comic strips.

There is an ease of flow and simplicity of description to his work which I regard as the benchmark for popular fiction. When I first sat down to write seriously with a view to producing a novel it was Peter’s books I pulled out first for inspiration and instruction.

Like Harry Potter I’ve re-read the Modesty Blaise books multiple times and they never fail to entertain and get you wondering how to write something of your own that little bit better. Peter’s occasional interview and various commentaries also demonstrate in detail the quality of attitude and quiet joy of writing which makes this very lonely profession so worthwhile. His perceptive lens was both impartial and very, very sharp.

So it was with dismay that I learnt of his death a few months after the event. I also realised shortly after, that the possibility of a successful Modesty Blaise movie died with him.  He was forever disappointed with the Losey and Tarantino attempts. That’s putting it politely; most people regarded both films as utter trash; travesties (although the Tarantino one had a few passable moments).

No one in film land seemed capable of grasping the essence of the books. As I’ve commented elsewhere (Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files) the ‘lack of knack’ amongst genre writers (for film) seems to be endemic which is why success appears to be arbitrary.

The Modesty Blaise novels have action to die for, plot twists a plenty and a central relationship which is unique in my opinion. It’s a real pity that even the possibility of bringing this story to film is now gone.

While Angelina Jolie has encapsulated the MB persona in many roles (notably ‘Wanted’) the essence of the character has never been fully deployed. And the delicious contradiction that is Willie Garvin remains untapped.

So, bittersweet in joyful remembrance and the slamming of a long-hoped-for door.

iDM

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