Tag Archives: thrillers

The Monday Book: Istanbul Passage by Joseph Karon

We apologize for recent glitches in the blog timing. We were experimenting with presetting, and it’s not been going well. We’re going back to manual settings and will be good for Monday, Wednesday and Friday regular blogs henceforth. Technology wins again…. :] and now, Jack’s review of ISTANBUL PASSAGE
I’m a sucker for spy novels, and Wendy and I recently spent two weeks in Istanbul, so this screamed at me when it came into the shop.
I wasn’t disappointed!
Karon is often compared to Le Carre and Greene and my first observation to Wendy was “this is a cross between ‘The Third Man’ and ‘Smiley’s People’”.
The plot is both dense and enthralling – I was continually sucked in and drawn along. To begin with I was confused (actually, after finishing the book I had to go back and re-read the first few chapters). Wendy and I had not only visited Istanbul, but also Romania (not to mention Rumania and Roumania), so all the settings meant a great deal to me. Did being familiar with the places make the book more meaningful? I really don’t know!
Having said that, I definitely got an extra jolt from knowing the settings of the story.
Briefly this is a tale set in Istanbul just after the 2nd World War and as the Cold War is getting going. I had either forgotten or never realized that Turkey was neutral during that war. It was, therefore, one of those strange places like Switzerland and Portugal where the spies, diplomats or black-marketeers could mingle and play out their dramas. One of the main characters is an American businessman who’s become a ‘semi-detached’ spy and another is a Romanian double-agent. In the end the story ends up being about their relationship as much as anything else.
The descriptions of Istanbul rang very true. The book is set in 1946, but all the descriptions of streets and landmarks are just familiar enough to take me back there. Not just that, but the atmosphere as well!
When Wendy and I were flying home from Istanbul after our 15th anniversary vacation last year, one of the movies on the plane was the latest James Bond, which started with a scene in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar – we’d just been there and one of the settings in Karon’s book is also there. Not just that, but Wendy had almost been pick-pocketed there as well.
In the end the book is about choices. Who you owe most to and where your loyalties lie.
There’s an interesting interview with Karon at the end of the edition we have where he says that the best spy novels are not about spying but more about moral dilemmas. I wonder whether all the best books, no matter what the genre, are about those?

Leave a comment

Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, Wendy Welch, writing

An Open Letter to the Kellermans from a Bookshop Owner

Dear Jonathan and Faye Kellerman:

IMG_3621Please, for the love of God, stop. Have mercy. Have pity. Have some personal pride. Stop.

We get it. You’re brilliant thrillerists. Yes. Fine. You’ve thrilled and titillated us–accent on tit–for years. Thank you.

Don’t you think now is a good time to rest on your laurels, before you actually have to come up with a second plot device?

That day could be coming. Once you pass 100 uses of the same stock characters, readers start noticing. And no matter how much they love you, readers may pick up on other subtle clues as well. Like the assumptive arrogance of publishing a book that doesn’t have a title on it.IMG_3623 Or any printing on the back. Or front. But with a lot of back on the front. That’s kind of a giveaway that you think you’re stronger than market forces. Or your readers’ minds.

But hey, what do I know? I’m just the bookslinger who keeps taking your books in trade. And taking, and taking, and taking. Selling, umm … not so much. Which is where the problem lies. Martha Stewart has this really nice pattern for paving a driveway with hardbacks. We’re thinking of naming it “Kellerman Lane.”

Now don’t get mad, Mr. and Mrs. K; we appreciate all you’ve contributed to the literary world. What is the key to your success? The titles below? Which, if they happen to spell out anything, is completely accidental.


No no, I’m certain there is IMG_3625Justice in the world. And that your legacy will live forever. More’s the pity. But couldn’t you accept that you have left a great–okay, vast–body of work behind, and retire to some island you could buy with pocket change? And leave us poor bookslingers to get on with finding shelf space–or floor space, or space bag compactors–enough to hold your many fine contributions? Without, oh, say, involving your children? Because of all the scary stories you’ve ever cop–er, devised, this is the scariest: IMG_3629

We don’t wish you ill, dear, kind Kellermans. You’re probably in real life very nice people who plant flower gardens and take the neighbors soup when they’re sick. Please, please, show the same consideration for bookshops. We need just a little shelf space for other authors. There’s that King fellow, and the Clancy lad; they seem to be crowding in. So couldn’t you, wouldn’t you, take a little breather, and give us some breathing room?

Thank you, on behalf of second-hand book shops everywhere.

Sincerely, A Desperate Bookslinger


Filed under book reviews, bookstore management, humor, publishing, Uncategorized