Winner of the 1976 Edgar Award for Best Novel
Bored with retirement, an ex-spy challenges his old agency to a game
Miles Kendig is one of the CIA’s top deep-cover agents, until an injury ruins him for active duty. Rather than take a desk job, he retires. But the tawdry thrills of civilian life—gambling, drinking, sex—offer none of the pleasures of the intelligence game. Even a Russian agent’s offer to go to work against his old employers seems dull. Without the thrill of unpredictable conflict, Kendig skulks through Paris like the walking dead.
To revive himself, he begins writing a tell-all memoir, divulging every secret he accumulated in his long career. Neither CIA nor KGB can afford to have it in print, and so he challenges them both: Until they catch him, a chapter will go to the publisher every week. Kendig’s life is fun again, with survival on the line.
“Fun and games: that’s what Hopscotch is all about . . . Garfield is one of the best: he writes as well as any crime novelist around.” - New York Times
“Great fun.” - Otto Penzler
“Once again Garfield shows his genius for weaving history and fiction into a fabric of fast-paced, high-suspense storytelling.” - Robert Ludlum
I’ve previously read Garfield’s Deathwish book which was made into the iconic film of the same name starring Charles Bronson. I recall enjoying it without actually being blown away. Hopscotch published 3 years later in 1975 was much more enjoyable for me. Incidentally this was also adapted as a comedy for the big screen in 1980 and starred Walter Matthau and Glenda Jackson.
We kick off with Miles Kendig, 53, a retired CIA agent, drifting, bitter and resentful after his forced retirement from the agency. Spending time in Paris, he’s approached by the Russians to get back in the game by working for them. Unable to accept, he still needs something in his life to fill the void that retirement has left him with.
Penning his memoirs and drip feeding them a chapter at a time to 14 different publishing houses, offers him the opportunity to prove he still has all the moves necessary to play the game.
What follows, with Kendig anticipating every move his former employer and enemies make, was absolutely brilliant. Garfield brings everything to the table in this 200-odd page long classic.....intelligence, pace, action and humour, populated by a believable, likeable hero pursued by his former colleague and friend, Cutter and his underling Ross, both of whom I grew to like as the novel unfolded.
It’s a testament to the author’s skill when you can empathise with both the protagonist on his last mission and those now in pursuit and tasked with stopping him at any price. Garfield’s novel won the 1976 Edgar for best novel, it’s not difficult to appreciate just why.
5 from 5, and a last minute candidate for my book of the month.
I bought my second hand copy from a local charity shop a couple of years ago.
*Unable to find the exact cover image online, I have taken a happy snap with my phone. I’m unsure why it’s greenish!