Friday, 15 May 2020
BRIAN GARFIELD - CHECKPOINT CHARLIE (1981)
He's fat. He's old. He's rumpled. He's conceited. He inhabits a violent world - the Cia - yet he is non-violent. He loves two things, and only two, in all the world: eating and practicing his trade. He is an international troubleshooter, and he's the best there is. Misfit CIA agent Charlie Dark waddles and struts and gloats his way through this excellent collection of stories by award-winning mystery writer Brian Garfield.
A book I've had on the TBR pile for a few years and one that I was reminded of after watching the film Hopscotch based on the Edgar winning novel of the same title by Garfield. Checkpoint Charlie is a collection of a dozen stories featuring Charlie Dark. There's also an interesting introduction to the book from the author outlining the origins of the stories and how some characters had to be renamed because of rights issues relating to the film. I think everything is restored to back to the author's original intention here.
Charlie's Story: An Introduction by the Author
Charlie's Shell Game
Challenge for Charlie
Charlie in Moscow
Charlie in the Tundra
Passport for Charlie
Charlie's Last Caper
Spy craft, Russian foes - sometimes borderline allies, American foes, rogue agents, double crosses, information leaks, a hijacking, terrorists, political prisoners, exiles, trying to control hostile influences, retirement, the Mafia, a family member in trouble, globe-trotting..... Berlin, Venezuela, Australia, East Africa and a lot more.
Each and every time Charlie has a mission. Each and every time it seems success is highly improbable, each and every time the antipathy and mutual loathing and co-dependency of Charlie and his boss Myerson increases. They hate each other, but in a modernising CIA they are both anachronisms. If Dark is retired, Myerson will end up losing his position because Dark gets the results that keep him in a job. If Myerson retires, Charlie is out on his ear, because no other chief would have him working for them.
There's an over-riding story arc to the collection in that the hostility between Dark and Myerson increasingly escalates and in the last story explodes. I liked the dynamic of the pair. I enjoyed Charlie's refusal to resort to force or violence to solve any of the problems he faces. I like his imagination, his scheming, his planning and his continually coming up trumps. Some of the cases, almost have a locked room mystery feel to them with a near impossible solution before Dark delivers the desired outcome.
Overall a very entertaining collection.
4 from 5
I've enjoyed a few of Brian Garfield's books over the years.... Deathwish, Hopscotch, What of Terry Conniston? and more recently The Hit and The Marksman. I'll be reading more from him in the future.
Read - April, 2020
Published - 1981
Page count - 280
Source - owned copy
Format - paperback