A few memorable dialogues/passages from thrillers

At the onset, I must say I wish to skirt the high/low culture issue and certainly do want to avoid extending support to one side and disparage the other.  But in spite of where own inclination may be, I will be circumspect and avoid revealing my loyalties.

With this disclaimer, I will come to the issue at hand…. a few memorable dialogues/passages from some books which would have certainly deemed “penny dreadfuls” in a much happier era – unfortunately irretrievably in the past  – and are now termed “action thrillers” in this day and time. Though they may not be the best examples of literature, may have a lot of gratuitous violence and worse, cardboard or stereotypic characters and huge continuity gaps, but it cannot be denied, some have their points.

Let me share some of my favourites….

I will attempt to begin in a chronological order

To Catch a King (1979) (also known as the The Judas Gate) is by British novelist Harry Patterson, better known by his principal pseundonym Jack Higgins and is a fictionalised version of a 1940 mission for SS-Brigadeführer Walther Friedrich Schellenberg, to intercept the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (the abdicated Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson for all of you not familiar with the chequered history of the British royals) and try to persuade them to work for Germany. The mission was a failure; Schellenberg managed only to delay their baggage for a few hours.

The book was one of my favourites since I read it after obtaining it from a library (and later acquiring it). I wonder if I still have it, or it has gone in the February-March despoiling of my collection. I fear the latter.

However, the novel has Schellenberg, who rose through the ranks of the SS to become the head of foreign intelligence following the abolition of the Abwehr in 1944, play a more stellar role and watch in admiration as the Duke pulls a fast one over the Germans.

However, the high points are when Schellenberg, who is saddled with two Gestapo thugs – who he rightly believes have their own agenda, foils one of their heavy-handed attempts to kidnap the Duke, showing up at the spot with a senior Portugese security official in a car like the Duke but using the back entrance to flush out the two and ensuring the real car drives on safely.

At the completion, he says: “Interesting. I mean me having a car like the Duke. It proves something though I am not sure what.”

Much more poignant is the point where the book’s heroine (yes there is one and Schellenberg comes to her assistance at least twice) pleads with him to abandon everything and join her and he declines, wryly remarking: “Life, my dear, has the tendency to seize one by the throat and never let go. Its really very sad.” (or words to that effect).

There were some more examples… oh well, I suppose I have to cite this one though I don’t remember all the details.

Somewhere in the beginning, Schellenberg comes to the assistance of the heroine in a particular dramatic fashion, striding over alone when she is cornered by a group of louts on the street. Accosted, he just has to show his id to scare them off, but teaches them a more salutary lesson with the aid of his security detail in his trailing car. Later he goes on a walk on the Berlin streets, despite the drizzle (something I have often emulated….. it is an experience in itself).

The next day, he is questioned about it by his boss, who happens to be the dreaded SS-Obergruppenführer and General der Polizei Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich, the chief of the Reich Main Security Office (including the Gestapo, SD and Kripo police agencies) and ending up the Stellvertretender Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia (where he was assassinated). As I said, I don’t recall exactly what Heydrich says…. but it was something interesting that cause it to linger on in my redoubtable mind.

To be continued….


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