Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Quiller Memorandum: Adam Hall

Quiller is a British secret agent for a covert organization of spies, unacknowledged by the government. He is very unusual (for a hero of spy fiction) in that he doesn't smoke, drink, or carry a gun. At the point that the book begins (in the 1960s), he is in Berlin and has finished a long string of assignments to find Nazi war criminals and bring them to trial. He is planning to return to England the next day, but is enticed into a new assignment when another agent is killed.

This novel is also unusual in that the plot is taut, a straightforward telling of Quiller's relentless search for Heinrich Zossen, a Nazi war criminal who Quiller detests. It does have a good bit of action with  tense moments of suspense but still a cold, often matter-of-fact story.

All of these descriptions are negatives, yet I liked the book quite a bit, and I like the character. Maybe because he is so believable. Spying is not romanticized. The first person narration pulled me in immediately.

For me this book doesn't rank up there with those of Deighton, le Carré, or McCarry but then I have only read one book in the series, so maybe I will be won over in future books. The style is unique. There are another 18 books in the series, written over 30 years, and I will definitely be reading more of them.

This book was originally published in 1965 under the title The Berlin Memorandum. Adam Hall is a pseudonym for Elleston Trevor, and you can learn more about him at The Unofficial Quiller Web Site.

There is a film adaptation, starring George Segal, Alec Guinness, Max Von Sydow, and Senta Berger. I did not find that the film measured up to the book. It was a very loose adaptation, and I thought the story was confusing. It did move pretty fast but it seemed to be more of an art piece than an action film. However, there are many fans of the movie and I would love to hear other opinions. I will probably be watching it again. The director was Michael Anderson and the screenwriter was Harold Pinter.

See these sources for more detail and other opinions:


Publisher:   Tom Doherty Associates, 2004 (orig. pub. 1965)
Length:      220 pages
Format:      Trade Paperback
Series:       Quiller #1
Setting:      Berlin
Genre:       Espionage 
Source:      From my TBR piles; purchased in 2014.


Anonymous said...

I have to admit, Tracy, I've heard of Hall's work but not read it. Interesting that you find the first person narration effective in this one. Sometimes it works well....sometimes not. I'll be interested in knowing whether you get more drawn in to the series as you read more entries (if you do).

George said...

I read THE QUILLER MEMORANDUM when it was first published. I've read a few of the other books in the Quller series:The Berlin Memorandum (1965)
The 9th Directive (1966)
The Striker Portfolio (1968)
The Warsaw Document (1971)
The Tango Briefing (1973)
The Mandarin Cypher (1975)
The Kobra Manifesto (1976)
The Sinkiang Executive (1978)
The Scorpion Signal (1979)
The Peking Target (1981)
Quiller/Northlight (1985)
Quiller's Run (1988)
Quiller KGB (1989)
Quiller Barracuda (1990)
Quiller Bamboo (1991)
Quiller Solitaire (1992)
Quiller Meridian (1993)
Quiller Salamander (1994)
Quiller Balalaika (1996)

Mathew Paust said...

I liked the movie a lot, Tracy, altho it's been years since I've seen it--twice, I believe. My memory of it is mostly of Segal's role, and, as you say of the book, he's a believable spy--sort of in the vein of le Carré's Alec Leamas. I read the book around the same time I saw the film, but I don't remember much about it--I did like it enuf to have read one or two more by Adam Hall. I don't remember the titles, but I don't think they were part of the Quiller series. Now that you've piqued my interest again I think I'll check him out in the Kindle bookstore.

TracyK said...

I will be reading more, Margot. In order of course, if I can get them easily that way.

TracyK said...

Thanks for the list, George. I honestly don't know why I haven't read some of these books before now (unless I did and forgot about it). I have always been a fan of spy fiction. Anyway, I have The 9th Directive, which I will read soon, and one other one that was published in the 80's and I will be looking for more.

TracyK said...

I probably should not have watched the movie so close to reading the book, Mathew. I always get too picky about comparisons. I look forward to reading more about Quiller. I love spy fiction and if I had to narrow my reading to one genre that would be it. But I am glad I don't.

J.P. Choquette said...

Love all the links you provide at the end of the blog posts for further research/reading. Thanks! You're very thorough in your reviews, too, which is a treat. Have a great weekend!

TracyK said...

Thanks, JP. I did like the book a lot, although I am not sure that comes over in the post.

Clothes In Books said...

I read this one many many years ago, and remember next to nothing about it, and also saw the film. the writer was obviously an intriguing fellow - I blogged on another book by him, completely different name, and when I looked him up he had a large number of books and author names...

Yvette said...

I never did like George Segal as a leading man so I won't be watching the film, Tracy. But the book sounds appealing, I do like first person narration so that's a plus for me. I also like spy novels that are straightforward. Thanks for the interesting review.

TracyK said...

Moira, I am surprised every time I look under his legal name, Elleston Trevor, which I often reverse, I am amazed how many books he wrote. I know he wrote Flight of the Phoenix but don't know much about anything else he wrote. It is possible I read some of the Quiller books years ago, who knows?

TracyK said...

I hope you like it if you try it, Yvette, but either way I want to know your opinion. I don't particularly remember Segal in any films.

Anonymous said...

I actually have this one but haven't read it yet. I remember trying to get started with it but set it aside --Keishon

TracyK said...

I definitely found the author's style to be different, Keishon, and the hero is interesting but cold and focused.

col2910 said...

Thanks for the mention. Another series/author I need to get back to! (There's a few.)

TracyK said...

I wish I had acquired more in the Quiller series, Col. There are some series I have a lot of that I am not so eager to read.