Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Pg. 69: "The Last Spymaster"

Gayle Lynds is on one of the more impressive book lists I've come across in recent memory: her book Masquerade is #8 on Peter Cannon's list of the "Top 15 Spy Novels." That's not the Top 15 of 2006, but the Top 15 ever ... which puts her in some very impressive company.

Gayle's most recent book is The Last Spymaster.

I asked her to apply the "page 69 test" to the novel; here is her reply:
I'm tremendously curious about the choice of page 69.... When I look at the cuddly position of those two digits, I think of yin and yang, and of course, being from Iowa, I'm reminded of a certain sexual position that when I was growing up was practiced (and repracticed) but went unnamed except by those so sophisticated that everyone knew they were destined for the greatness (hedonism) of New York City or maybe, a poor second-place choice made better only because palm trees were included, Los Angeles.

And all of that has absolutely nothing to do with The Last Spymaster.

But maybe it does. Page 69, which is the last page of Chapter Eight, contains only this:

whose guns hung from their hands. The black orbs of their sunglasses peered up at the plane.

Tice studied the angry faces, adjusting for the years he had been away.

"Recognize any?" Westwood wanted to know.

Tice sat back and glanced at Westwood. Betraying no emotion, he lied: "No. Nothing but strangers."

Check out that first sentence with orbs and hanging guns. Where did those blatant phallic symbols come from? Me? I blush.

On the other hand, my college lit teachers would be in seventh heaven. Interestingly, there's little sex in the book, and now I'm regretting it. Well, what's there is pretty good though. You'll have to tell me what you think.

Moving right along, and doing the same sort of word picking.... We know that the gunmen are "angry," that "Tice" has "been away" a number of years, that he "recognizes" one or more of the gunmen, and that he "lies" so his companion won't know that.

If you sense danger and dark secrets, you'd be right. Tice is the last spymaster of the title, and he's been in prison for several years, charged with giving U.S. secrets to the Russians. Now he's being chased by a CIA hunter as well as a group of men whom he is just starting to identify. Considered one of the greatest spymasters of all time, Tice becomes an unwilling mentor to the hunter, and we discover with them who the men are and what they're really up to.

I'm delighted to tell you that the book was named Novel of the Year by the Military Writers Society of America. If you enjoy spy tales, I hope you'll try The Last Spymaster.
Many thanks to Gayle for the input.

Click here for excerpts from The Last Spymaster.

Among the praise for The Last Spymaster:
"Today's finest espionage writer unleashes an instant classic."
--Lee Child

"...fascinating characters, nerve-tingling pace, and a great story. It reminds me of Robert Ludlum at his very best. This cements Lynds' reputation as one of the premier espionage authors of our time."
--Vince Flynn

"A sizzling thrill ride... seamlessly melding global politics, cutting-edge technology, and the dark world of espionage into a compelling, full-blooded novel. [Lynds is] a master of the spy thriller."
--Steve Berry
Last month Dick Adler put The Last Spymaster atop his list of contenders for the best mysteries and thrillers of the year.

Click here for a Q & A with Gayle, and here for her interview with the

Elaine Flinn (herself a "page 69" veteran) had this exchange with Lynds "On the Bubble" at Murderati back in May 2006.

Earlier this year Gayle made the case that we are in the midst of The Decade of the Spy.

Click here for articles and interviews with Gayle, including a radio interview with KPFA, a YouTube video of Gayle discussing the difference between thrillers and mysteries, and more.

Visit Gayle's official website.

Previous "page 69 tests:"
Jim Lehrer, The Phony Marine
Julie Phillips, James Tiptree, Jr.
Debra Ginsberg, Blind Submission
Sarah Katherine Lewis, Indecent
Peter Orner, The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo
William Easterly, The White Man's Burden
Danielle Trussoni, Falling Through the Earth
Andrew Blechman, Pigeons
Anne Perry, A Christmas Secret
Elaine Showalter, Faculty Towers
Kat Richardson, Greywalker
Michael Bess, Choices Under Fire
Masha Hamilton, The Camel Bookmobile
Alex Beam, Gracefully Insane
Nicholas Lemann, Redemption
Jason Sokol, There Goes My Everything
Wendy Steiner, Venus in Exile
Josh Chafetz, Democracy’s Privileged Few
Anne Frasier, Pale Immortal
Michael Lewis, The Blind Side
David A. Bell, The First Total War
Brett Ellen Block, The Lightning Rule
Rosanna Hertz, Single by Chance, Mothers by Choice
Jason Starr, Lights Out
Robert Vitalis, America's Kingdom
Stephen Elliott, My Girlfriend Comes To The City And Beats Me Up
Colin McGinn, The Power of Movies
Sean Chercover, Big City, Bad Blood
Sigrid Nunez, The Last of Her Kind
Stanley Fish, How Milton Works
James Longenbach, The Resistance to Poetry
Margaret Lowrie Robertson, Season of Betrayal
Sy Montgomery, The Good Good Pig
Allison Burnett, The House Beautiful
Stephanie Coontz, Marriage, A History
Ed Lynskey, The Dirt-Brown Derby
Cindy Dyson, And She Was
Simon Blackburn, Truth
Brian Freeman, Stripped
Alyson M. Cole, The Cult of True Victimhood
Jeff Biggers, In the Sierra Madre
Jeff Broadwater, George Mason, Forgotten Founder
Alicia Steimberg, Andrea Labinger (trans.), The Rainforest
Michael Grunwald, The Swamp
Darrin McMahon, Happiness: A History
Leo Braudy, From Chivalry to Terrorism
David Nasaw, Andrew Carnegie
Leah Hager Cohen, Train Go Sorry
Chris Grabenstein, Slay Ride
David Helvarg, Blue Frontier
Marina Warner, Phantasmagoria
Bill Crider, A Mammoth Murder
Robert W. Bennett, Taming the Electoral College
Nicholas Stern et al, Stern Review Report
Kerry Emanuel, Divine Wind
Adam Langer, The Washington Story
Michael Scott Moore, Too Much of Nothing
Frank Schaeffer, Baby Jack
Wyn Cooper, Postcards from the Interior
Ivan Goncharov, Oblomov
Maureen Ogle, Ambitious Brew
Cass Sunstein, Infotopia
Paul W. Kahn, Out of Eden
Paul Lewis, Cracking Up
Pagan Kennedy, Confessions of a Memory Eater
David Greenberg, Nixon's Shadow
Duane Swierczynski, The Wheelman
George Levine, Darwin Loves You
John Barlow, Intoxicated
Alicia Steimberg, The Rainforest
Alan Wolfe, Does American Democracy Still Work?
John Dickerson, On Her Trail
Marcus Sakey, The Blade Itself
Randy Boyagoda, Governor of the Northern Province
John Gittings, The Changing Face of China
Rachel Kadish, Tolstoy Lied
Eric Rauchway, Blessed Among Nations
Tim Brookes, Guitar and other books
Ruth Padel, Tigers in Red Weather
William Haywood Henderson, Augusta Locke
Jed Horne, Breach of Faith
Robert Greer, The Fourth Perspective
David Plotz, The Genius Factory
Michael Allen Dymmoch, White Tiger
Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, Civilizing the Enemy
Tom Lutz, Doing Nothing
Libby Fischer Hellmann, A Shot To Die For
Nelson Algren, The Man With the Golden Arm
Bob Harris, Prisoner of Trebekistan
Elaine Flinn, Deadly Collection
Louise Welsh, The Bullet Trick
Gregg Hurwitz, Last Shot
Martha Powers, Death Angel
N.M. Kelby, Whale Season
Mario Acevedo, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats
Dominic Smith, The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre
Simon Blackburn, Lust
Linda L. Richards, Calculated Loss
Kevin Guilfoile, Cast of Shadows
Ronlyn Domingue, The Mercy of Thin Air
Shari Caudron, Who Are You People?
Marisha Pessl, Special Topics in Calamity Physics
John Sutherland, How to Read a Novel
Steven Miles, Oath Betrayed
Alan Brown, Audrey Hepburn's Neck
Richard Dawkins, The Ancestor's Tale

--Marshal Zeringue