I began this thread on the archived forum.
You can catch all the older details here:
Jason Love - Spies, Spoofs & Spin-offs - CBn Forums (commanderbond.net)
My recent follow-up post.
If I ever get to see the full movie of WHERE THE SPIES ARE, I’ll add something on.
LOVE AND THE LAND BEYOND (1979)
When I read the James Leasor’s Jason Love case-histories back in 2014, I couldn’t track down a paperback copy of the good Doctor’s 1979 adventure LOVE AND THE LAND BEYOND. It transpires this novel never had a paperback publication. I can only assume this was due to poor hardback sales. However, jump forward five years and the James Leasor Estate has taken the action of reissuing through private publication all of the Jason Love novels (and some others of the author’s work) which has allowed me to purchase a nice, clean, fresh soft cover edition of my missing edition.
Was it worth the extra wait? Well, yes and no. I had a brief look back at the reviews I wrote when originally dissecting these thrillers and was surprised how much I praised them. My memory of them now is that they were rather staid affairs and suffered from a formulaic approach and unimaginative writing. I praised some of the plots, remarked on the suspense and tension and even noted the dry humour. I had a soft spot for the genial country doctor who kept getting into scrapes and scraps and used his military training, his karate expertise and his ingenuity to rescue him from various life-threatening situations. I did retain some reservations. People pop up in hotel rooms far too easily. There is a tremendous amount of gin drinking. I don’t get the fascination with Cord cars, which must have seemed odd in the sixties but is positively alien fifty years on. Some of the plot ingredients were head-scratchingly obscure. I disliked the character of Parkington, a roaming special agent who kept appearing at opportune moments, but who, being as good as an invalid, was spectacularly useless. I also disliked the fact all the stories bar one occurred fortuitously. Only in his debut, PASSPORT TO OBLIVION, was Dr Love dispatched on a mission by MI6. Every other time he happened to stumble across the villain’s plan at the precise moment MI6 became involved. This was repetitive and made little sense. It also became annoying that, while Dr Love resolved the immediate problems he faced, his sometime boss McGillivray, would sit in his London office and quietly join all the dots of these escapades, which often spread across the globe. This usually resulted in a coda of extreme tedium where he had to explain how all the disparate elements slotted neatly beside each other.
It all happens again in LOVE AND THE LAND BEYOND. There’s not a lot wrong with the writing. For most of the novel’s 200+ pages, it’s on point. Leasor does the action right enough and there’s a smattering of intrigue and some moments of taut, well expounded tension. The novels starts with the cruel, mysterious murder of a British tourist in the Algarve and plunges Jason Love into a stand- off between rival smugglers all competing for a secret magic formula contained in a sealed metal container on board a rusty old steam ship. The novel is easy to read, swift and has enough juicy goings-on not to disappoint. So why did I feel so let down?
I can only assume it’s because the author has stuck so rigidly to his formula, one he hit on for PASSPORT TO PERIL and has not relinquished. Everything I disliked is obvious and prominent. Everything I do like is still there too, but I struggled to get past the recurring features of Leasor’s [Love’s] adventures. This is book by solid numbers.
It had been a while since Jason Love’s last foray into print – the fast paced Aristo Autos opus HOST OF EXTRAS – and Leasor doesn’t even bother to note the passing. He does suggest Parkington has registered as an alcoholic, although this doesn’t stop him drinking a ton of gin. McGillivray is older, greyer and still dreams of country cottages. That’s about it for character development. Having caught a few clips on You Tube etc of the movie WHERE THE SPIES ARE – I can’t seem to track down the whole film – which starred David Niven as Jason Love – I now couldn’t get the debonair actor of him out of my head when reading the novel. In fact, given the doctor’s handy ability to pass off each event with a droll quip, to meet each individual with a generous handshake and a genial manner, to stay suave under pressure, stay besuited and chic, and to drink so much gin, I rather fancy Leasor actually started to model his hero on Mr Niven.
Perhaps the worst offense and the reason for the book’s lack of success is the dreadful title. It is explained in a short descriptive paragraph. The action is set on the Playa du Luz in Portugal, near the western-most tip of Europe. The locals refer to the sea here as ‘The Land Beyond.’ This is way too ambiguous for a book title. It might work for science fiction, but for a thriller, it doesn’t conjure anything remotely exciting. Inserting ‘Love And…’ before the phrase simply makes the adventure sound as if it’s escaped from the canon of Mills and Boon. ‘Passport to Lisbon’ might have been better, even if it’s geographically incorrect, or ‘Love and Death,’ perhaps.
I was pleased to complete my collection. Jason Love’s adventures are certainly better than most spy stories of the sixties and seventies, yet their repetitive nature is a recurring disappointment. As the novels progressed it becomes a barrier to enjoyment. This novel is probably the start of a steep slippery slope [my reviews of the final two adventures in the series were resoundingly negative] and, while I won’t damage Mr Leasor’s reputation by suggesting he’s a poor writer – he isn’t – I can’t say he’s an inventive one and the approach he provided for the Love novels hampers his style and my enjoyment.
A thumbs up, overall then for Jason Love, but this particular novel is a bit so-so.