Best 1958 Adventures (4)
August 23, 2018
One in a series of 10 posts identifying Josh Glenn’s favorite 1958 adventure novels. Happy 60th anniversary!
William Haggard’s Colonel Charles Russell espionage adventure Slow Burner.
In his debut outing, we meet Colonel Charles Russell — chief of the Special Executive, a (fictional) British counterintelligence service; the man who gives orders to field agents, that is to say; he is not himself an agent. Although there is some bang-bang action, here, Russell is primarily concerned with political maneuvering: Personal antagonisms within Britain’s intelligence community eventually lead to murder. At the same time, there’s a slow-burning plot-line about a British scientist selling top-secret military tech. Here we meet for the first time not only Russell but his assistant, Major Mortimer; Sir Jeremy Bates, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry; and Russell’s friend, the eminent scientist Dr. William Nichol, who directs a project developing a secretive nuclear fission process known as Slow Burner. Why are epsilon rays — the signature emission of the Slow Burner process — emanating from a suburban home outside London? Mrs. Tarbat, who lives in the house in question, has three lovers — is one of them a traitor? Charlie Percival-Smith, a disavowable third party, is brought in to investigate…. And there’s a frantic attempt, near the end, to prevent a nuclear accident near Oxford!
Fun facts: Colonel Russell would go on to feature in a further 24 novels. “Haggard lacked [Ian] Fleming’s snooty dilettantism,” Christopher Fowler has written, “and was better at creating subtle layers of political intrigue.”
JOSH GLENN’S *BEST ADVENTURES* LISTS: BEST 250 ADVENTURES OF THE 20TH CENTURY | 100 BEST OUGHTS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST RADIUM AGE (PROTO-)SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TEENS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TWENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST THIRTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST GOLDEN AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FORTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FIFTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SIXTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST NEW WAVE SCI FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SEVENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST EIGHTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST DIAMOND AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST NINETIES ADVENTURES (in progress) | 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | NOTES ON 21st-CENTURY ADVENTURES.