Salamander (Quiller, Book 18)
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The Quiller series focuses on a solitary, highly capable spy (named after Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch) who works (generally alone) for a government bureau that "doesn't exist" and narrates his own adventures. Quiller (not his real name) occupies a literary middle ground between James Bondand John le Carré. He is a skilled driver, pilot, diver, and linguist, but does not carry a gun.
The series is very stylized, featuring intense depictions of spy tradecraft and professional relationships, surprising jump cuts between chapters, and deep, sometimes self-pitying interior monologues. The first of the Quiller novels, The Berlin Memorandum (1965) (retitled The Quiller Memorandum in the US) won an Edgar Award, from the Mystery Writers of America, for Best Novel. It was filmed in 1966 under its US title with a screenplay by Harold Pinter and starred George Segal and Alec Guinness. It was also adapted into a 1975 British television series, featuring Michael Jayston.
somewhere, so that I could return her hospitality. ‘Tonight?’ She’d sounded cautious. ‘If the spirit moves you.’ ‘Well yes, I - I’d like that. But you don’t mean here at the hotel?’ I thought that was interesting. There were good reasons why I didn’t mean here at the hotel, but she wasn’t expected to know them. ‘Somewhere more private,’ I said. The caution was still in her voice but she said in a moment, ‘The most private place I know is a pension along the river, in Hassakan Street. I’ll
Phnom Penh.’ ‘Yes.’ I didn’t ask her where: if she’d caught it, she’d have told me. She pressed the play button again and we sat listening to the tape as another siren started up across the river. ‘Colonel Choen is cautioning the two women agents particularly against precipitate action. They sound excited, and he’s getting angry with them.’ She started the tape again, and there was half a minute of voices and then a break and the sound of wood splintering and then nothing much more until the
‘Someone like me?’ ‘You like to keep up the pace, from what I hear.’ ‘Lose momentum and you’ve got to deal with inertia.’ ‘How very true.’ He broke some bread, looking past me, nodding to someone. I couldn’t see who it was. ‘Let’s see, you were on Solitaire, weren’t you?’ I didn’t care for the ‘Let’s see’ bit; it was meant to sound casual, and didn’t. Everyone at the Bureau knew damned well I’d been on Solitaire: it had ended with quite a bang. ‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Thought so. Who directed you
- that Dmitrovich is more than happy to see you deliver on time by the nineteenth, without impediment. Tell me, have you ever met him?’ ‘Dmitrovich?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘I’ve not had that pleasure.’ His sense of humour was surfacing, and I noted it. ‘He’s tough,’ I said. ‘Dmitrovich is very tough. You know that. But he’s prone to indulge himself, and for him to watch over your successful enterprise out here as a kind of benevolent patron is rather attractive to him. The bear that refrains from cuffing
first talked to me at the Cellar Steps. They get like that, the controls, after years of pushing the pawns across the board in the signals room: they end up talking like a cipher grid. I waited again. He’d go on when he was ready. ‘We can’t see the wood at the moment, you understand, even by satellite. What we need is to confirm the evidence, physically.’ I didn’t answer. He was out of his bloody mind. ‘Then everyone would know that action could be taken on a sound premise, and would therefore