Posts Tagged ‘Modesty Blaise’

Time for me to have some sweet revenge.  Or as I like to call it, justice and truth.

Sure, Modesty Blaise doesn’t believe in revenge, but in her stories she inflicts a lot of “justice.”

cat accidents

My own Charity MacCay is hot tempered and pursues getting a secret justice against real life American Robber Barons in the 1860’s (the Koch brothers of the Gilded Age).  She even has the chance to drown a couple of them but doesn’t, and regrets this because the Robber Barons live and go on to damage America.

As for Layla Daltry — she is so the personal justice type.

Then there’s me.  For this week and in the months to come I’ll go after a few evil *#!!$ who deliberately hurt me professionally and financially.  Sure, I exercised forgiveness, but while that emotionally and spiritually helped me, I’ve learned that a couple of them have become even nastier and have hurt more workers in their firm.

There’s also the fact that one of them once laughed about how he killed any cat that came on his yard, and his wife (and fellow boss) laughed along with him.  To this day I’m ashamed that I never contacted the ASPCA or other authorities.  That may not have done any good — my word against theirs — but once I was out of that firm I should have done something.

Anyway, it became clear that these Evil Ones will not stop their abusive ways — or treat people more humanely — until someone takes a whack at them.  Figuratively speaking.

Why shouldn’t that someone be little ol’ me?

With this noble idea in mind, I collected old papers from my files (I’m a packrat for documents and personal notes) and Googled like crazy.  In the end I collected helpful information.  My next steps will be to…

This is where I can’t tell you about my plans.  Sorry, but some things have to be hush-hush until they’re completed.  And even then I’ll never talk about a few details because I’ve got to watch my back.  I just hope I can make a difference for a few innocent people.  And wandering cats.

How about you?  Have you ever tried to obtain retro justice in your stories or in your life?

And on a slightly different but very Layla note…

I’m trying a new Action Hero workout with the Essentrics “Flexibility Workout for Athletes” one hour routine.  I did it twice this weekend and all I can say is…  Ow….  Ow….  Ow….

50 Weeks of Living My Novels

As a pretend Fictional Woman of Action (is pretend plus fictional redundant?), the first must-do on my list is to clean out my energy.

Did you expect me to say, “Work out hard”?  Oh please, I’m already in pretty good shape, and no doubt I’ll spend a few of these 50 weeks hurling myself into harebrained jock stunts.  In the meantime, it’s my mind/ body connection that needs a lube job.


My character Layla doesn’t do any meditation stuff in her story, but in her backstory she’s dabbled in it.  My character Charity MacCay, in contrast, can be superstitious but doesn’t have a mystical bone in her body.  But then there’s Modesty Blaise, who I want to be in my next life and who spent time in India mastering advanced mind control.

Me? Hell, I’ll try anything.

Thus I found myself… um… kinda naked, lying flat on my back on a table in a dark room and receiving the sometimes painful energy massage of a Lomi Lomi ritual.  It’s from the Hawaiian spirituality of Huna, which has long fascinated me, and during it I felt  very exposed.  And weird.   Especially since I can get self-conscious over things like nakedness.

For me, relaxing and concentrating took a lot of effort on my part, but I though I succeeded.

Turns out only my mind went where I wanted it to.  The Lomi Lomi therapist told me that parts of my body never seemed to let go.   This explains why some muscles in my legs and hips that have tightened up from injuries still won’t stretch normally.   I’ve really got to work on physically relaxing.

See, one reason I used to meditate is ’cause I can go to bed and sleep while still so tense I’ll wake up sick.  Once I woke up with bad hives from nerves. Physical relaxation that others can take for granted I’ve gotta work at.  And Action Women have GOT to be in control of their bodies.


Funny and way-too-smart Mike Offut (www.SLC and I both have a thing for the show Sleepy Hollow, and he suggested that we pose a question to each other each week on our blogs.

Mike asked me, “How would you describe the moment you realized Sleepy Hollow was something you would watch faithfully every week?”

My answer:  When I saw Ichabod Crane, as played by Tom Mison, and fell madly in love with him.  And because I really liked Abbie’s character and how she and Crane used their brains and skills to escape the headless horseman.  Then there’s the atmosphere, which reminded me of Halloween, and the way Police Chief Irving appeared to be in on Sleepy Hollow’s ancient secrets, which go back to the American Revolution.  Oh, of course I’m a history buff.

I’m FINALLY changing this ol’ blog around.

Obviously Becoming Layla needs to be shaken up.  It’s tired.  I’m tired.  And I haven’t updated the ever-so-tame layout since I started this sucker.  It’ll probably take me another month to make the visual changes, but in the meantime we’re two weeks into 2015, which means there are 50 weeks left in the year.  That’s 50 once-a-week postings.

modesty in car

And what I’m gonna do each week for the rest of 2015 is this:

Anything I damn well please.

So long as I spend several hours every week living like a woman from an exciting novel.  Preferably one of my novels, but vintage Modesty Blaise stories (LOVE ‘EM) are also candidates.

I mean, here I am writing stories like The Compass Master and my two Charity MacCay historicals, and even a screenplay with a (very young) brave heroine, and what have I let my weekly life devolve to? Working in the office.  Coming home.  Either doing chores and errands or crashing on the sofa because I’m exhausted.  Putting off writing and editing and publishing because I’m so discouraged as a writer.  Not going out and having fun because of time and money limits or the weather stinks or there’s no one to play with.

So for my own sake and to give you something worth reading, I plan to do some fun, exciting, weird, glamorous, dark, or just plain silly stuff.  Then I’ll write a BRIEF and FUNNY report.  Definitely briefer and funnier than this sad post.

action novel

When I started this blog I wrote about becoming Layla, which entailed my learning to do what my Compass Master heroine could do, from skydiving to paragliding to parkour to lock picking and other challenges.  I’m still an epée fencer, of course, and once the weather warms up I’ll get in more physical action.  But instead of banging myself up this time around I’m going to focus on crazy or serious or just plain very different (for me) experiences.


If you have a book being published or in any way need a shout out from me, I’d be delighted to add them to a post or have a middle-of the week post about you and your novels and stories.

Got any great non-writing plans of your own for the year?

blaise sword

I am way, way too old to be reading graphic novels. Especially ones that are mere collections of comic strips.  Because obviously comic strips are unintellectual, juvenile, and just plain beneath a smart (allegedly) writer person like me.

So maybe now I should confess to my addiction to Modesty Blaise.

You’ve probably heard of Modesty, although she’s a lot more famous in Europe.  Her strips were often absent from U.S. newspapers because she was sometimes scantily clad and on a few occasions naked.

Peter O’Donnell created the Modesty Blaise comic strip in 1963 and continued to write it until wrapping up in 2001.  He also wrote thirteen Modesty novels and one collection of short stories, all of which got great reviews from critics; a few even said they were better than Ian Fleming’s Bond stories.  But while Bond was turned into classic movies, Modesty had the bad fate of appearing in a few stinker flicks, even though one was made by her fan Quentin Tarantino.

While I enjoy the graphic novels, I like the real novels much more.  They’re well written and plotted, come with requisite preposterous villains, and they do a good job of getting into Modesty’s brilliant cool head as well as that of her loyal sidekick, Willie Garvin.  On the down side, several of the older paperbacks have silly, too-sexy and irrelevant covers.

 penthouseA while back I wrote here about the great backstory O’Donnell gave Modesty:  how she was a young orphan refugee who survived WWII and by the time she was a teenager headed up a lucrative crime syndicate (mostly gambling and high-end thievery, and absolutely no drugs or prostitution, which she hates).  While in her twenties she retires—which means she starts to work in an unofficial capacity for a friend in British intelligence.

But it’s the life O’Donnell gave Modesty that really appeals to me.  She is what I wish I were:  wealthy, free, gorgeous, in perfect physical condition, a martial arts expert, speaks about ten languages, is pursued by loving lovers, and is deadly when taking on bad guys.  She has homes in London, Morocco, Malta, and Paris, and servants who do the housework.   She never worries about money.  Above all, she has an inner calm and unshakeable self-confidence.   Mentally and emotionally, she’s not messy like me.

Peter O’Donnell passed away just a couple years ago, and I wish that I had discovered his Modesty Blaise earlier and written him a fan letter.  I’ve never written to any public figure before, yet I wish I could have told him thanks for his creation.

Is there any semi-famous writer you wish you had written to?  Or maybe you’re corresponding with one?

Have a great week.

I gotta confess, lately I’ve been letting some of my action hero workouts slide.

But a couple things going on in the publishing/ writing world have inspired me to refocus my exercise habits away from just maintenance and back into some more kickass martial arts workouts.

BTW, recently I posted here about wanting to lose a few pounds that had snuck up on me.  I kinda dieted for a couple weeks, then just cut back on junk food and sugar (I only have so much discipline, then I kinda slide).  Still, I’ve managed to loose about five pounds, which means my clothes are fitting better.  A few more pounds and I should be good.

But back to publishing and writing.

Some writers are up in arms because the publisher Henry Holt announced that award-winning Irish writer John Banville will resurrect the great Raymond Chandler’s noir detective Philip Marlowe in a new, upcoming novel.

Now as y’all know, publishers and authors have long worked at resurrecting popular characters created by now dead writers, from Sherlock Holmes (okay, so The Seven Percent Solution did work) to Scarlett O’Hara.  My own reaction to this news was captured perfectly by Malcolm Jones in an article in the Daily Beast.  He called Banville’s Marlowe plan a “shoddy idea… doomed from the outset.”

…the sequel racket encourages laziness among publishers.  Instead of teasing out the number of 007 titles with inferior imitations, they could be spending that energy cultivating or at least searching for a great, undiscovered crime novelist or spy writer.”


Publishers could also be bringing back into print now neglected books or series that would attract a whole new generation of readers.  In this field, I nominate Peter O’Donnell’s novels about Modesty Blaise.  It’s great that the graphic novels are being published, but unfortunately a few of the (regular) novels are out of print, which has made me scramble to buy them (some with funky 1970’s covers) while there are a few inexpensive copies to be had from used book sellers.  Sure, Modesty Blaise was well known in Britain and perhaps never caught on here in the U.S., but that’s our loss.  After all, even serious British literary writers like Kingsley Amis praised O’Donnell’s series.

Anyway, going back to how I began this post, I can tell you that Modesty’s exploits have inspired me to reintroduce martial arts exercises to my workout.  So it’s appropriate for me to end this post with advice Modesty gives a friend in The Impossible Virgin.

I hope you’ll never face the situation again, but if you do, then never, never, never try to kick a gun or knife out of anyone’s hand. Never. It’s fine on the movies… But it’s not good for real. The hand is a very small, very mobile target. It can move a few inches much faster than your foot can move through a four-foot arc… If you want a general rule, then you go for the man, not the weapon, and you aim to put him out of action fast.”

So who knew Modesty Blaise was one of the first fictional women action heroes? I mean the kind that’s human and doesn’t have superpowers but can still kick ass while looking sexy. A kind of earlier, earthier, criminal version of Nikita or Sydney in Alias, except that she’s her own boss and no one owns her.

When I was growing up I was vaguely aware of the name Modesty Blaise but never seemed to see her anywhere.  I knew that a bad movie about her had been made, and luckily I never saw it.

It turns out that Modesty first appeared in 1962 in what would be a long-running comic strip that ran mostly in Europe.  Maybe because it was just a strip and James Bond had already been around for a decade, she didn’t get as much attention as she probably deserved.  She was invented by the London-based writer Peter O’Donnell, a man who wrote macho action guy newspaper comic strips on the one hand and on the other romantic serials for women’s magazines.  As he later said, “I had been intrigued by the idea of bringing these two genres together by creating a woman who, though fully feminine, would be as good in combat and action as any male, if not better.”

This may not sound original today, but back then this combo was a real breakthrough for women action figures.

What I really like is the back story O’Donnell gives his character.  He considered but abandoned the idea that as a sophisticated teen Modesty was subjected to intense training in all the usual action skills.  Instead he based her on someone he had seen in Persia (now called Iran) where he was stationed as a soldier in WWII.

The year was 1942 and he and his fellow Brits sometimes saw refugees from the Balkans and Caucuses who were escaping the oncoming Germans.  One day a lone little girl appeared.  “On her head she carried a small bundle wrapped in a piece of blanket” and around her neck hung a hand-made weapon.  The soldiers tried to approach her to help, but she was as skittish as a feral cat.  The best they could do was keep their distance and leave some food for her, and a while later tinned food that she could take with her.  As O’Donnell writes, “To this day I can see… that upright little figure walking like a princess as she moved away from us on those brave skinny legs.”

Flash forward to the 60’s, and O’Donnell imagines this little girl reaching a refugee camp where she became the fierce protector of an old man, a professor who would teach her languages and literature and other things.  When she’s seventeen he dies in the desert, she buries him, and goes to Tangiers where she gives herself the name of Modesty Blaise and eventually a leader in the criminal underground.  As the strip opens, she has retired at the age of twenty-seven but is bored and now agrees to work for British intelligence.

Personally, I think this one hell of an action-hero back story.

I got these details and quotes from “Modesty Blaise: The Gabriel Set-Up.” It’s a graphic novel with an introduction by O’Donnell and the first three stories in the strip.  Reading it was kinda weird because “graphic novel” really means just a fat comic book, and I haven’t read a comic book since I was a kid (okay, there was that one time in college when my roomie Ann and I bought a few comics on a lark. But definitely not since then). I also got the Modesty novel, The Xanadau Talisman, which looks like it’ll be fun.

So how about you? Are there any intriguing fictional characters or action heroes from the misty past that you’ve discovered?