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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Spy vs. Spy

My high school Latin teacher, Mr. Miller, was not only a great teacher, but an aficionado of spy novels, especially those of Ian Fleming. For our third-year Latin class, he carefully translated Casino Royale (James Bond) into the ancient language, and we spent the better part of that fall semester translating it back into English—an enjoyable task that not only inculcated us into the finer nuances of advanced Latin, but introduced us to the thrilling adventures of James Bond. I have been enamored of great spy-versus-spy novels ever since.

Notice I said "great". This is not the case, however, of The Spy Who Jumped Off the Screen: A Novel *, by Thomas Caplan, which was published in hardcover and e-reader editions this past January and is due out in paperback this month. Two months ago, I read an advanced copy sent through the auspices of AuthorExposure.com. Here is my take on it.

I dub thee, Ty Hunter, heroic protagonist of Thomas Caplan’s fourth novel, The Spy Who Jumped Off the Screen, “Sir So-So Spy”, because you don’t quite live up to the hyped potential of your stunningly handsome Hollywood face and macho military training so cunningly and expertly described in this spy vs. spy novel. Sorry, but while the convincingly complex and sprawling plot line penned with a quirky, jarring writing style does have intriguingly exciting moments, James Bond you are not. Your good looks and brilliant wit quicker than the CIA operative assigned to help you find three purloined nuclear warheads being brokered by a nefarious, snarky villain and his billionaire mentor don’t quite cut it for me. Not even when you easily wily-woo devastatingly beautiful Isabella Cavill from the supposed love of her life as you pose undercover on her godfather’s sumptuous yacht, the Surpass, the most interesting character in the book.

Okay, you can sit there smugly satisfied on a plush leather seat of the Quiet Supersonic Transport as you fly Mach 1.5 over the North Pole on your way to dinner with the President after your hard day’s spine-tingling adventure saving the world from mass destruction. But what did all that brushing with certain death get you? Fame and fortune, which you already have? World recognition? Already your actor antics are written about daily in every newspaper. How about the girl, whom I knew from the very start you’d win? Okay, just maybe, if this was a true-to-life-story—which any reader with a half a brain could easily imagine it really happening–you’d get my undying thanks and gratitude.

Okay, Sir So-So Spy. Thanks. At least I had the opportunity in an advanced paperback copy to meet you. My hero. [Long sigh]

But, golly, if there’s a hinted sequel for you to star in again, make sure Caplan gives you more credibility and less shallowness. I mean, while you had your engaging cannot-put-it-down moments, you come off as a wimp in the first two-thirds. It wasn’t until the last 100 pages that you masterfully took control and (finally!) stood up to bat, hitting a nail-biting ninth inning tied-score grand-slam home run deep into center field. Now, that’s the kind of spy thriller cum romance that juices up my estrogen and  testosterone levels, keeping me up at night reading. Well, almost.

Please also ask your author to watch for inconsistencies and beef up your lines with more crisp creativity and less trite tripe, such as “I’d like to kiss you." "“Please do.” Ex-cooose me? But that is not exactly what an up-and-coming Bond successor says. How about “I’m going to kiss you”? Then do it. Sexily. Forcefully. Politeness does well at cocktail parties, but not in an exciting adventure-packed international techno-politico spy novel with the potential of being a real thriller. It almost made it.

Maybe, like the villain, Caplan, and you will come back again—and be more successful. I’ll be waiting.


* © 2012 Thomas Caplan; 384 pages; ARC edition of paperback, December 2012. Viking Press, New York, NY.  
12:54 pm est          Comments

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June J. McInerney, the host of this Literary Blog, is an author, poet, and librettist. Her currently published works include a novel, a book of spiritual inspirations, two volumes of poetry, stories for children (of all ages) and a variety of children's musicals. Her titles include:
Miss Elmira's Secret Treasure: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
Colonial Theatre: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Roarin' 20s 
Phoenix Hose, Hook & Ladder: A Novel of Phoenixville during World War I
Columbia Hotel: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
the Schuylkill Monster: A Novel of Phoenixville in 1978
The Prisoner's Portrait: A Novel of Phoenxville during World War II
Rainbow in the Sky
Meditations for New Members

Adventures of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Spinach Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A Collection of More Spiritual Poems

We Three Kings

Beauty and the Beast


Noah's Rainbow

Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding Hood



Originally from the New York metropolitan area, June currently lives near Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania with her constant and loving companions, FrankieBernard and Sebastian Cat. She is currently working on her sixth novel.

June's novels can be purchased at amazon.com, through Barnes and Noble,
at the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area,
the Gateway Pharmacy in Phoenixvile, PA

For more information about her musicals, which are also available on amazon.com,