Remembering Joseph Hone…
One of the great losses to the spy fiction genre was the late Joseph Hone’s decision to stop writing about it. An author who was, for once, compared quite rightly to Deighton, Greene and Le Carré could have sealed his rightful place in those heady ranks had he carried on writing. His grip on the complexities of any great espionage novel was considerable, his crafting of a story both dark and emotional, he explored the relationships between the spy and their colleagues, friends, lovers and families with real insight and depth, pushing the boundaries of spy fiction and showing the literary set the merits of a great spy novel.
Born in Ireland in 1937 he was an intrepid traveller, he secured a radio programme regaling listeners with his obscure ventures for some twenty five years. Travelling through the Carribean, Russia, Egypt and Africa amongst many others he used his experiences in both his four travel books and his fiction. Indeed it was his spell as an English teacher in Cairo in the late fifties which set the scene for his introduction to the spy character Peter Marlow and the Egyptian backdrop for his first spy novel The Private Sector (1971)
Hone’s childhood was a sorry one, sent into foster care, he would later describe his need to write fiction as a means of escaping the real world and its torments and it was his 2009 memoir of his childhood Wicked Little Joe which won him critical acclaim despite the considerable anguish he suffered from writing it.
Spurred on by the renewed interest in his spy novels and the reissues by Faber, Hone was considering resurrecting Marlow for a final novel set in Lapland before his death in 2016. I would urge anyone who hasn’t read Hone to consider looking out for his novels, he does warrant comparison to those I mention and in the light of recent television and film productions of Le Carré and Deighton I could think of worse ideas than bringing Marlow to the screen.
The Joseph Hone Spy Novels:
(Click on the titles for reviews and information)
The Private Sector (1971)
The Sixth Directorate (1975)
The Paris Trap (1977)
The Flowers of the Forest (1980)
The Valley of the Fox (1982)
Categories: The Reading Room