Friday, May 10, 2013

Forgotten Books: Hawke - Ted Bell

This post originally appeared in slightly different form on August 18, 2007.

Recently I got the urge to read a long book, which is rare for me, and at nearly 600 pages in the Pocket Books Premium edition, Ted Bell’s debut thriller HAWKE certainly fits the bill. When I was younger and had more time to read, I plowed through many a doorstopper novel without really thinking about it. The summer between eighth and ninth grades I read all three books in the Lord of the Rings trilogy back-to-back-to-back, something I’d never attempt today. DOCTOR ZHIVAGO? GONE WITH THE WIND? No problem.

But to get back to HAWKE, I thought, well, I’ll try it, and if I don’t like it, or if it’s taking too long to read, I’ll just stop. I liked it right away, though, and had no trouble sticking with it to the end. It’s just the sort of over-the-top, swashbuckling, action-adventure/espionage novel that I enjoy. Lord Alexander Hawke is a handsome, debonair playboy/billionaire businessman/freelance secret agent who takes on dangerous assignments for the American and British governments. A lot of the reviews compare him to James Bond, but to me he seems like more of a tribute to Derek Flint and Amos Burke (for those of you with long memories), with just a touch of Austin Powers but not nearly as silly. This book involves a military coup in Cuba that replaces Fidel Castro, a giant Russian stealth submarine, and biological warfare.

But that’s not all, to quote the late-night TV pitchmen. In addition to the secret agent stuff, you also get a storyline involving murder, revenge, and hidden pirate treasure. If that’s not enough, there’s also plenty of Clancy-ish technobabble about weapons, good and evil mercenaries, some big battles, and a climactic swordfight (well, a machete fight, but that’s close) that’s a dandy. You can tell that Bell had a lot of fun writing this book, and I had a lot of fun reading it. I was interested in Bell’s work because I read his story in the THRILLER anthology and thought it was one of the best ones in that book. He didn’t disappoint me with HAWKE.

Is the book too long? Yeah, probably. But the padding isn’t too blatant and for the most part the pace clips right along. A while back I read a thriller by another big-name writer that had a pretty good plot, but all the way through it I kept thinking “Nick Carter could’ve handled this problem in a third as many pages -- or less!” That didn’t happen with HAWKE. There are three more books, so far, starring Alex Hawke, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be reading all of them.

One reason I’m sort of interested in books like this right now is that I recently finished writing a big international thriller (a ghost job) with lots of short chapters, a big cast, and several interconnected storylines. It’s an appealing format, although I wouldn’t want a steady diet of it as either a writer or a reader. If I can ever find the time I might try to write one of my own, one of these days.

UPDATE: I read the second book in this series and liked it, too, but I never got around to the others, and even though I have all of them, I think, I don't know when or if I'll get around to reading them since my attention span is so lousy these days I often have trouble reading short novels, let alone behemoths like the ones Bell writes. As for the connection with my writing, I'm still ghosting the occasional big thriller (working on one now, as a matter of fact, and have a couple more lined up) but still haven't done anything like that under my name. Like reading the rest of Ted Bell's books, I don't know when or if I'll get around to it.


RJR said...

I reads the first Game of Thrones book and really enjoyed it, but haven't been able to get myself to start another 600 pages epic.


James Reasoner said...

I'd love to read that series, especially after watching the first season of the TV series on DVD, but I can't bring myself to tackle them. If my attention span keeps getting worse, eventually I may have to start breaking my rule about reading only one novel at a time.

Brian Drake said...

I couldn't get through this one and haven't bothered with the others. I can't remember why I didn't like it, but I gave it 100 pages and a little more, and it just didn't do anything for me. Obviously I am in the minority and I don't mind that at all. I've listened to a couple of Ted Bell's interviews and he's very charming and funny, unlike certain *other* thriller writers I could think of, one of whom was referenced in this review. Hahaha.

Rick said...

I was intrigued by GoT on HBO so bought the first novel and buzzed through so bought the next three and flew through them as well but when I picked up the fourth I couldn't get beyond the first 200 pages. I haven'tbeen able to read anymore of it nor watch the show. I filled up too fast and can't go back much like never being able to drink gin due to one night of hogging a quart in my drunken youth.