Book - In the Name of the Father

Steve Taylor-Bryant is the reviewer who came in from the cold as he re-reads an old favourite, In the Name of the Father by A J Quinnell...

When you bring up the title in polite conversation nearly everyone will mention Daniel Day Lewis, a few will nod towards the excellent Pete Postlethwaite and, whilst the 1993 film based on Gerry Conlon's semi autobiographical novel is very well done, it's never the same In the Name of the Father that I'm talking about. I'm talking about the A J Quinnell one from the 1980's and a book I'm surprised to learn hasn't had the big screen treatment yet, unlike Quinnell's Man on Fire, so good they made it twice. I'm also surprised that not more of his Creasy novels have made a big screen debut but, in every generation, a spy novel becomes prime film-making fare so the fact In the Name of the Father hasn't happened yet disappoints me. So, to make sure my argument that it would work on the cinema screen was valid, I went back and read it again.

In the Kremlin in 1983, Yuri Andropov is determined to outlive the pope and plots another assassination attempt. Meanwhile, in the Vatican, a trio composed of the top Jesuit, the American head of the Vatican bank and the Dutch priest running Church intelligence in the Soviet bloc combine to plot Andropov's death. They will use Mirek Scibor, a defector from the Polish secret police who has a terrible hidden reason for wanting Andropov dead. Feigning to be a famous kidney specialist, Scibor will travel to Moscow to kill the Soviet leader. Part of Scibor's cover will be Ania Krol, a devout, beautiful nun, posing as his wife. Discovering the Vatican plot, the Soviets throw up massive security, and a series of suspenseful events ensues. Scibor and Ania's travels and travails make up most of the narrative.

This was a novel of its era, a Cold War book with the slight twist of it not involving the American government in any overused way, and reads like a spy film script. Quinnell was never one of those writers who seemed to concentrate much on how the words actually look on the page and his use of dots... all the... time will take some getting used to, along with some moments of absolute Hollywood scripting (yes, "they'll never catch us alive and if they do... We'll die together," I'm looking at you) but the premise is enthralling. A Russian leader tried to kill the sitting Pope once and now he's going to try again so the Vatican secret police will exact revenge? What part of that doesn't scream film? Yes, okay, I'll admit I have a soft spot for espionage and secret mission stories and so I'll let quite a lot go and not be as highly critical as maybe I would be in a superhero genre but come on! Russian leader v's The Pope? You have to be up for that right?

This was quite the tense read, glorified Hollywood plot aside, and the characters were worth the time invested reading them. Quinnell seems to write with a filmic quality and to ignore his source material seems astounding, especially when you consider the shit Dan Brown gets away with. If you like Cold War era spy stories, if you like high level assassination plots, if you want some fast moving fun, put down the Dan Brown novel and move into the glowing light that is A. J. Quinnell.

Image & Synopsis - Amazon

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