Falcó by Arturo Pérez-Reverte
I’m not sure whether there is an English edition of this as yet. Pérez-Reverte is perhaps best known outside Spain for his Capitain Alatriste series of historical swashbuckling, and of course for The Club Dumas, the source to Polanski’s THE NINTH GATE.
Falcó is a much more recent work by Pérez-Reverte, his first in a series of three - up to now - Spanish civil war spy thrillers. It was marketed with an emphasis on that typical Hemingway atmosphere we’ve come to expect from that period. And indeed you can find the odd moment of For-Whom-The-Bell-Tolls pathos. Only that’s entirely debunked by the cynicism of its protagonist and the unsparing brutality of events.
What Falcó really is (and why I mention this book here) is a retake on the Bond template, both the character and his creator, to whom Falcó owes more than just a little inspiration.
All the usual Bond paraphernalia is in effect: brand cigarettes, brand lighter, brand clothes and brand gun. There’s an M figure with the rank of admiral, there’s a backstory in the murky world of arms dealing and an unsuccessful military education, there’s womanising, gambling. And there’s torture and bestiality of the worst kind.
And all of the above is blurred - and sometimes inverted - through the lens of the Spanish civil war setting. A Bond thriller if Fleming had been Spanish. And if he had been ruthless enough to tear down the whole romance Fleming so carefully employs in his tales.
Pérez-Reverte knows no such qualms, he tears apart the entire idea with just as much gusto as he used to build it up. And he spares his readers little when an Eagle-Has-Landed adventure turns into a cynical backstabbing op.
Even the ending, bloody and brutal as it is, turns out to be a deep bow towards Casino Royale and its protagonist.