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BOOKS AND READING
A Lifelong passion for Reading
Darren Harrison, Fleming and MacLean enthusiast
22 Feb 2018
As one might guess from the movie sections of this site, I am an admirer of the character of James Bond and the author Alistair MacLean.
Growing up an only-child my early life was essentially that of a loner, who had to rely on my own devices for entertainment. In this pre-VCR, pre-video game era and given the paucity of entertainment in 1970s British TV I found much of this entertainment in reading. I would pore over used-books at Bellingham Fete (an annual spring tradition) searching for books that looked as if they might be interesting. This led me to piecemeal collections of Fleming Bond books and the odd Alistair MacLean here and there.
Indeed in 1979 when I saw the movie tie-in for “Force 10 From Navarone” (Publisher: Fontana / Collins) at the local newsagents I begged for the book, pleas which were rejected by my mother who balked at the notion of paying full price for a new book.

Thankfully I negotiated 50p weekly pocket money following this episode for which I could save up for books that I wanted and allowed me to snap up the 1980 novelization of “Flash Gordon” by Arthur Byron Cover (Publisher: New English Library) which I hungrily consumed. The book became such an important touchstone of my youth that I purchased another copy from Amazon when I moved to the U.S., realizing I had left my original copy sitting on a bookshelf at my family home. I subsequently loved that movie (seeing it while freezing in the depths of winter at a theater where the heating had broken) and have owned it on DVD, Blu-ray and now on streaming video, I am sure that some part of the nostalgia that allows me to overlook the film’s baked in cheesiness is fond memories of reading the novelization.

My middle school had one room devoted to book sales. I forget if this was a regular thing or something that was set up every so often. Regardless, this is where I purchased my copy of “Condorman” by Heather Simon (Publisher: New English Library). Is it a surprise that I still count Condorman as one of my favorite movies? It could be the stunning Barbara Carrera, the gadgets, the chases, a wonderfully sinister Oliver Reed, or it could be the novelization I purchased in 1981, or a combination of all the above. I subsequently saw the movie at the Hexham cinema and own the movie on DVD and streaming (Disney have never released a Blu-ray copy). Like Flash Gordon both movies were intended to launch a series, but criminally audiences steered clear of both and neither transpired. I would have liked to read further novelizations by Cover and Simon, but alas it was not to be.
“It could be the stunning Barbara Carrera, the gadgets, the chases, a wonderfully sinister Oliver Reed, or it could be the novelization I purchased in 1981, or a combination of all the above.”

My reading tastes were certainly eclectic. I read all the Famous Five novels by Enid Blyton and that must have been the late 1970s/early 1980s because many featured stills from the TV series that ran on British television for two seasons from 1978 to 1979 until the production company lost out in that curious British tradition that sees a bidding cointest for the rights to broadcast the ITV signal to a particular section of the country. Whatever the cause, Southern Television was defeated and with it its flagship childrens program.

The cast of the “Famous Five” television series that ran for two seasons (1978-1979).

Those weren’t the only children’s books that I read in my pre-teen years (I would have been 6-years old when the “Famous Five” TV series debuted). My mother had received gifts of Enid Blyton books when she was a child and it was a strange sensation to read an inscription to my mother receiving the book as a gift when she was my age. There were also the “Secret Seven” and the “Adventure” series and I still have the hardback edition to “The Valley of Adventure” with me here in the U.S. today. Of course my reading habits changed over time as I suppose they do for us all. Today we have so many distractions, from popular culture to current affairs. But sometimes it feels good to wrap up on a rainy afternoon and curl up with a book. Though today that would mean curling up with a Kindle or iPad.

My plan for this site is to review books, I will naturally start by reviewing the Bond novels and then move onto the Alistair MacLean works. But it is also possible that I might post my thoughts from time to time on other authors (e.g. I am halfweay through a Bill Bryson book right now). I invite you to take this journey with me.

About The Author

Darren

Born on the English-Scottish border I emigrated to the US after graduating college in 1995 and became a U.S. citizen in 2007. I have served in the U.S. military and my past positions include as an Assistant Managing Editor of The Washington Post Company, a technical writer working on technical documentation for both a construction company and a large government contractor, a graphic designer creating graphics in support of government contract proposals, and as a public affairs officer for the U.S. Navy. which included being assigned as the official writer for the Navy and DoD on the assumption ceremony of a new Secretary of the Navy. I am currently a Web Services Writer for a large government contractor in the Washington, D.C. metro area.

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