"Before Buffy, before Charlie's Angels, before Purdy and Emma Peel there was Modesty Blaise".
It is now fifty, yes fifty years since the first Modesty Blaise book was published which is a lowering thought as I remember them when Peter O'Donnell was first published.
I read these as a teenager and, at the time, these were regarded as pretty daring with a heroine who slept quite freely with her current lover, who was skilled in marshal arts, could climb a mountain, pothole, deep sea dive and all this looking immaculate. She had made her money running the Organisation, a syndicate with Robin Hood tendencies (cannot have a heroine being a real villain now could we?) with her partner Wilie Garvin, and had retired on the proceeds. She now lived in a penthouse apartment in London furnished with the finest antiques, where she fenced to keep her figure in trim and, just as a hobby you understand, installed a workshop where she cut and faceted priceless jewelry. Modesty spoke several languages, wore designer clothes, attended the opera and was, in short, a paragon. I always found her extremely annoying. However, these books portrayed a strong, independent woman who took no prisoners and at this time, despite the fact that women were burning their bras and we were in the Swinging Sixties, characters like this were pretty thin on the ground so, for that reason alone, they were worth reading.
Madeleine Brent was shortlisted twice for the Romantic Novelist's Association of the Year award and actually won in 1978. The novels were published in eleven countries and were best sellers.
Now I do not wish to claim hindsight or that I am perceptive or clever or eagle eyed or any of these things, but it is the plain truth that way back then I remember thinking how many qualities both Modesty Blaise and Brent's heroines shared. Perhaps this is why I enjoyed both of them so much.
Years passed and it was not until the 1990's that I discovered by sheer chance that Madeleine Brent and Peter O'Donnell were one and the same person and suddenly it all became crystal clear. THAT was why I had spotted the similarity between these spunky heroines. And then Modesty Blaise and Madeleine Brent - same initials. Missed that totally.
Happy Birthday Modesty.