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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Spies in Pop Culture...How Do I Love Them, Let Me Count The Ways!

I have a confession...this blog will not deal with spies who made any impact on the events of nations...nope, these spies weren't even real. My blog this month is a tribute to spies in pop culture. I've always been a fan of spy movies and television shows. Even now, I do a little glee-filled dance each time a disc with old episodes of the Avengers arrives in the mail. I love the characters of Emma Peel and John Steed, and must admit that I am among those in the world who loved the Avengers movie with Uma Thurman and Ralph Fiennes, regardless of the critics' opinions. Intrigue, sophistication, and secrecy...delightful! Perhaps it's because I'm a Scorpio. Perhaps it's because I love the gadgets and cars. Who knows why...I only know that I love spies in pop culture.

Of course, the most well-known pop culture spy is Bond, James Bond. Despite his many incarnations with actors who don't even resemble each other (of course, one could say the same of Batman), one thing stays the same: he's the alpha male's alpha male. Daring, smart, and never in need of a nap, he's virility and daring personified. Many think Sean Connery's portrayal of Ian Fleming's creation is the superlative incarnation, but I think Daniel Craig has made the character his own. Gritty and real, he brings a human quality to the Bond character that I feel Connery lacked. I also liked Roger Moore's twinkle in the eye...a totally different take on the character, but very much in keeping with the irreverence of the seventies.

Emma Peel is my idol. Nearly fifty years after the Avengers first aired, Diana Rigg's portrayal of the sleek agent remains the epitome of a female spy. Witty, sophisticated, and the intellectual superior of the men who were foolish enough to confront her, she set the bar high. Ah, to slink along in a cat suit and disarm men with a well-placed kick...such is the fodder of my dreams. Her partner in espionage, John Steed, was immaculately attired and painstakingly well-mannered, yet he could kill a man with his hat and his umbrella without breaking a sweat. Impressive, indeed!

And then, you have Austin...Austin Powers, that is. Yeah, Baby! This character blends the suave, lady-killer spies of the sixties and seventies into one "hairy-like-animal" creation who's bold, a bit obtuse, and ultimately quite a sympathetic character. As a fan of sixties spy flicks, Mike Myers' homage to slick spies like In Like Flint's Derek Flint, James Bond and Michael Caine's Harry Palmer with a touch of Dr. Strangelove mixed in for good measure was a perfect guilty pleasure. I admit to feeling a surge of excitement each time there's a mention of Austin Powers 4 in the works...oh, if only my dreams would come true...

My new release from Ellora's Cave, Claimed by the Spymaster, was inspired by my longstanding fascination with spies. If I had to say which pop culture spy I had in mind, it would be Ralph Fiennes' portrayal of John Steed. British spy Alec Jameson is sophisticated, cultured, and lethal, and he'll stop at nothing to capture a traitor to Queen Victoria's empire. 

Here's a little about the story:

Russian actress Valentina Baranova travels to England to marry, but the arrangement is definitely not a love match. Betrothed to a cunning and ruthless English lord, she’s the sweetener in a deal that will put stolen British documents in Russian hands and curry the Czar’s favor for her father. Determined to escape her loathsome intended, she flees him—and promptly falls into the hands of his most bitter enemy. An enemy who stirs her like no other.

Spy for the crown Alec Jameson, Lord Carrington, is on a mission—unmask the traitor responsible for his brother’s death before the blackguard can further betray Queen Victoria’s empire. Capturing Valentina to use as bait, he spirits her away from London. Despite his efforts to resist the alluring captive he’s snatched from his enemy’s grasp, Alec claims Valentina in the most carnal way possible. Once the beauty has been in his bed, he wants her for his own. But she must lay siege to a long-untouched part of Alec’s existence—his heart.

Claimed by the Spymaster is available from Ellora's Cave

Next month, I promise a more serious look at spies throughout history. But my thoughts as summer winds down, my thoughts are focused on much lighter fare. Hope you'll leave a comment and sound off on your personal favorites in the world of fictional espionage!

Speaking of spies, if you perform some reconnaissance among the Seduced by History postings for the month of August, you can enter the Seduced by History contest. Here are the details:

SEDUCED BY HISTORY AUGUST CONTEST: Seduced by History Blog is hosting a month-long contest in August. One winner will receive a ‘basketful of goodies.’ All you have to do is check in on each blog during the month, look for a contest question to answer and September 1-5, 2011 send in your answers to seducedbyhistoryblog@yahoo.com. For full details, read the information on the right or click the CONTEST page.

My question:
Which fictional spy inspired the character Alec Jameson in Claimed by the Spymaster?


J K Maze said...

Interesting post. I like spy stories too, in whatever form, movies, tv, whatever, and instantly fell in love with Sean Connery, and then with every single one after that. Your book sounds intriguing. I'm putting it on my list, especially since I just bought a Nook yesterday.


Tara said...

Thanks, Joan! I love the boldness of James Bond...talk about the ultimate Alpha Male!

Kirsten Lynn said...

Matthew Macfadyen in MI-5 is a favorite fictional spy. And I loved the look into the British spy world.

Daniel Craig is fast becoming my favorite Bond, and fictional spy. Although, I do love Austin Powers (and quote the movies more than I should). :o)

Joan, Your new book sounds fabulous. I love spy stories, and will definitely be picking a copy of CLAIMED BY THE SPYMASTER.


Tara said...

Thanks, Kirsten. I've never seen MI-5...I'll need to add that to my Netflix cue.

I think Daniel Craig is a terrific Bond...Pierce Brosnan was good and certainly eye-candy, but I didn't feel he had the intensity for the role, and unlike Roger Moore, he doesn't have a tongue-in-cheek quality to offset that lack of intensity.

Beth Caudill said...

I love spies. Burn Notice on USA has become my favorite spy show.

My first love of spies came from reruns of The Man from U N C L E. David McCallum (Ducky on NCIS) starred in many of my teenage dreams.

Tara said...

Burn Notice looks intriguing, and of course, Man from Uncle is a classic!