January 15, 2009

Vicki Delany on Modesty Blaise

In this wonderful blog piece on "forgotten books," Canadian author Vicki Delany has this to say about Modesty Blaise:

"My forgotten book, isn’t a single book, but a series, a character really: Modesty Blaise, star of the books by Peter O’Donnell, written roughly in the late 1960s and 70s. Like many women who were once girls, I particularly remember being introduced to Nancy Drew, ‘girl detective’. Nancy was a girl just like us. Well, just like us, except that she was wealthy, beautiful, popular, and adventurous. But we all knew that eventually Nancy would grow up, leave school, marry Ned (or some equally suitable boy from her social set), have 2.5 children, and a Golden Retriever, and start popping Valium. But Modesty was nothing at all like us. She was exotic, mysterious, and had a shady criminal past. She was grown up and she STILL had an exciting life. Modesty had once been the leader of a notorious criminal gang called 'The Network', and now, having given up her life of crime, she and her side-kick Willie travelled the world fighting crime. Even when Modesty was a criminal, she was a ‘good’ crook.

I read the Modesty Blaise books when I was in my late twenties, settled down with house and children and dog. I think those books were my first realization that adult women could still be strong and fearless and independent. I was living in South Africa at the time: I don’t think the books got much attention in North America. In the crime-writing world today there are plenty of strong women, but Modesty blazed the trail. If there is an earlier adult adventure/crime book in which the female is the main character, and the male the side-kick, I don’t know it. It’s interesting that the books were written by a man. As a crime-writer, and as an independent woman, I owe a lot to Modesty Blaise."

You can read more about how Modesty influenced Vicki's writing in this exclusive interview piece.

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