The new titles from Ostara Publishing’s Top Notch Thriller imprint feature a bleak, almost Kafka-esque spy thriller set in London at the fag-end of the 1960’s and a poignant war story set on the Western Front in 1917, not so much in the trenches but under them.
Drawn Blanc, first published in 1970, was the debut novel of author, lecturer, screenwriter and artist Reg Gadney (who also painted the cover illustration). It starkly portrays the bleak world of the British Intelligence service trying to recover from the debacle of the Kim Philby years of betrayal. The new way of operating is to trust no-one at all and recruit small cells of agents on an ad hoc basis. One such recruit – a very reluctant volunteer – is Czech dissident O.B. Blanc who finds himself mounting a surveillance operation which rapidly turns violent and Blanc realises he could be the hunted rather than the hunter.
When first published, Drawn Blanc was praised by The Guardian for describing “territory bordering on Greene-land and Kafka country.”
In The Tunnellers, first published in 1986, Raymond Hitchcock (who served in the Royal Engineers during WWII until wounded on the Normandy beaches), tells the story of the young British Sappers who dug tunnels 90-feet below the German trenches on the Messines Ridge in Flanders in order to plant huge mines designed to blow an unsuspecting enemy sky high. Except the Germans are not unsuspecting…and are digging tunnels of their own.
Told through the eyes of two young Somerset lads transported from an idyllic rural life to the foul, damp darkness of trench warfare, Raymond Hitchcock’s tense and sensitive thriller pulls no punches when describing the brutality of the underground war conducted by the Sappers who know – with their casualties running at a thousand a month – they are expendable.
Top Notch Thrillers is the leading imprint for reviving and reissuing great British thrillers which do not deserve to be forgotten. Among its authors have been: Geoffrey Household, John Gardner, Duncan Kyle, Adam Hall and Brian Callison. The series editor is Mike Ripley.
Forthcoming titles in 2016: Smear Job and Bonfire Night – the last two ‘Callan’ novels by James Mitchell, plus Foiled Again and Cast Adrift – a brace of ‘Nick Madrid’ comic thrillers by Peter Guttridge.
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