Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Leighton Gage

Leighton Gage’s books are crime novels set in Brazil. The author has lived in Australia, Europe, and South America and traveled widely in Asia and Africa. He visited Spain in the time of Franco, Portugal in the time of Salazar, South Africa in the time of apartheid, Chile in the time of Pinochet, Argentina in the time of the junta, Prague, East Germany, and Yugoslavia under the Communist yoke. He and his wife spend much of the year in a small town near São Paulo, and the rest in Europe and the United States, where they have children and grandchildren.

His new novel, Perfect Hatred, is the sixth book in the series featuring Chief Inspector Mario Silva.

Earlier this month I asked the author about what he was reading. Gage's reply:
I’m re-reading Erskine Childer’s The Riddle of the Sands.

It’s dated, of course, but that doesn’t bother me. I’m a sucker for espionage stories, I still like to re-read Maugham’s Ashenden, and I remain a committed fan of everything Eric Ambler ever wrote. (Speaking of Ambler, you might like to read this review of The Light of Day that I wrote back in February of 2010, for The Rap Sheet.

So what’s special about The Riddle of the Sands?

Firstly, the book itself.

Some say it was the first espionage novel. (It wasn’t. Kipling’s Kim preceded it by a couple of years.)

But The Riddle of the Sands was a tremendously influential book in its day (Winston Churchill later credited it as a major reason for the British Admiralty to establish a naval base at Scapa Flow) – and has enjoyed a longevity given to few genre novels in the history of publishing.

Childers completed it well-over a century ago – and it has never gone out of print.

And then there was the author.

If you’ve never heard of Robert Erskine Childers, then you might want to look him up.

Talk about a gentleman of the old school.

At his execution, he made a point of shaking the hand of every man on the firing squad – and even joked that they might find their task easier if they were to take a few steps forward.

Childers was a scholar, a soldier, an intellectual, a smuggler and a sailor.

I’ve always had a certain admiration for all of those professions (yes, even smuggling – having done a bit of it myself in a small way).

So my admiration goes out to the man as well as the book.

And I think he got a bum rap when they shot him.
Learn more about the book and author at Leighton Gage's website and the Murder is Everywhere blog.

The Page 69 Test: Perfect Hatred.

--Marshal Zeringue