Tuesday, May 11, 2010

R.I.P. Peter O'Donnell, the man behind Modesty Blaise

The Rap Sheet wrote last week about the death of Peter O'Donnell, creator of Modesty Blaise, the beautiful, mysterious action heroine who enjoyed a long life in comic strips, novels, and a ludicrous 1966 movie.

I had written about creator and character from time to time, including an observation that Modesty Blaise reminded me of Stieg Larsson's Lisbeth Salander.

I also enjoyed a collection of the comic strips as examples of brief, punchy storytelling, and I linked to an excellent interview with O'Donnell in Crime Time that revealed the real-life inspiration for Modesty.

And here's part of my answer to a challenging comment on my post about Modesty Blaise and Frank McAuliffe's Augustus Mandrell:
"What makes her a hero a reader can identify with? She does everything you wish you could do, only she does it better: retired from a successful business she started herself, lives an independent life, has money, has sex and love on her own terms, etc. Maybe my earlier reader's comment about wish fulfillment was more to the point.

"In fact, if I were to expand on my comments (but blog posts are best kept short), I'd have noted all the folklore elements that play into her story: the foundling, the wandering child, etc.

"Re gadgets, I'd say they figure into the plot more than now and then, at least in
Modesty Blaise [the first novel]. Remember the exploding tie?

"But maybe there's a very subtle message in O'Donnell's use of gadgets. Yes, he'll have Modesty and Willie use them, in part, perhaps, to lull an audience accustomed to such things from James Bond. But, in the end, the deciding factors are more down to earth: Modesty's body and Willie's knife, especially when Modesty uses her body, say, to distract a sadistic jailer, then whacks him with a concealed gadget."
© Peter Rozovsky 2010

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