Friday, November 18, 2011

Forgotten Books: Hopscotch -- Brian Garfield

Some picky folks have quibbled that the books I mention here aren't really forgotten. Well, sure, not by them. What I mean by "forgotten" is that they're forgotten by most casual readers. I suspect that there are a lot of people who read crime fiction these days who don't even know who Brian Garfield is, and they certainly haven't read his novels. Maybe some of them have seen the movie based on this book, but as is often the case, the movie is very different from the book.

Kendig is a CIA agent (the best who ever did it) who's retired after being forced into taking a desk job. He soon discovers that life has no meaning for him without the game of espionage, so he decides to play again. How? By making the CIA come after him to retire him permanently. That is, if they can catch him. So he writes a tell-all book about the CIA and sends chapters to all the major publishers, worldwide. However, he withholds all the corroborating evidence, with assurances that he'll send it along to the highest bidder. He also sends the chapters to the CIA.

Naturally the agency can't allow the book to be published, so the hopscotch game begins. The agency puts the current best man on the case, with Kendig hopping around the globe, leaving clues so that the game stays interesting for him.

Hopscotch is fine lightweight entertainment. Kendig's schemes work perfectly, and he manages to stay one step ahead of the agency, up until the last 1/3 of the book, when things begin to get a little dicey for him just as he'd decided that he wants to go on living, after all. Along the way there are some amusing comments on publishing, the CIA, the FBI, and other things. Lots of fun.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Loved the movie with Walter Matthau although it may have not been faithful to the book. I sure do miss him. He brought so much to his parts.

George said...

I read all of Brian Garfield's books and enjoyed them. The guy knew how to tell a story.

Todd Mason said...

But does the protagonist spend a lot of time in his boxers and a reddish bathrobe? Hah?

I've been meaning to read this and see the whole film for years.

I try not to bite the heads off folks when they jump salty with me about how forgotten these books might be, too, but, you know, conditioned reflexes.

Anonymous said...

Great book. Edgar-winner for Best Novel. Great movie. Available from The Criterion Collection. Both book and movie are highly recommended. It would be nice if all of Brian Garfield's books were back in print. One of my favorite writers.


Bill Crider said...

I agree, Steve.

Cullen Gallagher said...

Mysterious Press is bringing back a boatload of Garfield's books as eBooks.

I went on a big Garfield kick earlier this year, and am planning on going on another one this winter, and HOPSCOTCH is going to be the first one I dive into.