Thursday, January 1, 2015

Gerard de Villiers Comes to America

I first discovered Gerard de Villiers' Malko Linge series in the '90s when I found a Pinnacle paperback of West of Jerusalem at the library that had been printed in the late '70s. Here we have a French author writing about an Austrian freelancer for the CIA. It was a quick read, little of it remains in my memory, and I never found another one. Flash forward many years later, and Vintage Crime is bringing out new translations of de Villiers' work, starting with The Madmen of Benghazi and Chaos in Kabul. As of this writing, three more will follow. With over 200 titles in the Malko series, there are certainly many more they can translate should the market

De Villiers' appearance in the U.S. back in the '70s reprinted around a dozen Malko books, which you can find used at a variety of high prices.

I hope there is a demand for more, because The Madmen of Benghazi, if the translation is true, shows de Villiers as a crisp writer, who plots tight and keeps the pace moving without a lot of description to slow you down. The scenes feel a little hollow because of that. It would be nice to know what kind of room two characters are talking in. You'll read that Malko enters an office to pow-wow with a CIA honcho, but that's about it. The rest of the scene is all dialogue. It works. The pages keep moving. De Villiers loved to throw in a lot of graphic sex that would certainly bring his books an XXX rating were they subject to the same scrutiny as films, but, after all, he is French. . . .

De Villiers is said to have had so many close contacts in the intelligence community that his books are full of inside information. I suppose that's true. Unless somebody points out those details, though, they fit so seamlessly into the narrative that it might as well be hyperbole. His book don't read any better than any American or British author; if it wasn't for the fact that he wrote 200 Malko episodes, had an amazingly long career with quite a legend behind him, the books would be just OK also-rans. Malko was never going to take over for James Bond, no matter how much de Villiers hoped his character would.

But you should still give de Villiers a chance. The Malko books are quite fun, and I'm about to dig into Chaos in Kabul and eagerly await Revenge of the Kremlin, coming later this year. I'm also going to start looking for the Pinnacle reprints and add those to the collection.


  1. Medallion also did one book "A Game of Eyes Only". I want to say it was the 80s and from memory it might have come out about the same time as one of the two movies.

  2. Check this out from 2012 :)

  3. Scott, Thanks for the link! That's the first one I read, all right!

    Brad, I will look for that book too. You can watch the trailers to the Malko movies on YouTube and they look quite cheesy.