I started reading Colin Forbes’ novels when I was a teenager, growing up in Midlothian. I didn’t have many friends, and turned to books for distraction and to be transported. As part of the 1st Midlothian Scouts, we would often have jumble sales, where I would be able to organise the book stall. This had some clear advantages for someone who loves books, and I would be able to buy interesting volumes myself, including some of my first thrillers, including many by Desmond Bagley and Len Deighton.
However, my first foray into Forbes territory came with “Deadlock”, a tale of searching out a terrorist mastermind before he carries out an atrocity. This story, and most of the others, revolve around a team of investigators, led by Tweed. The tale moves from England, through Switzerland, Luxembourg and Belgium, before ending up in Rotterdam. The characters are well drawn, particularly the main antagonist. I was taken at the time by just how readily he killed people – I hadn’t encountered a character like this in books before.
The next book I bought of Forbes was “The Greek Key”, followed by “Whirlpool”. While these books had some of the things that I really enjoy in thrillers, foreign travel and decent characters, they also began to seem a little formulaic. This is where I would like to know what you readers think. I recently read a number of Forbes’ most recent output, and they seemed to me as though they could have been churned out by a computer. Looking back on how much I enjoyed those early outings for Tweed and co., it seems a shame to have ended up like this. Do you think it is possible for there to be too much of a good thing? Is there a point where an author, even a bestseller like Forbes, should move on to other characters?
I don’t want anyone to think that I’m knocking his writing, but they do seem to get a bit samey as they go on. I also think that they ultimately suffer from something that I see in roleplaying games from time to time – uncontrolled escalation. This is seen in games which start off small, with players only having local influence, and facing enemies on a small scale, but rapidly ends up with both players and antagonists having access to global transport and support, with the weapons getting bigger and bigger. For me, this takes something away from the story being told. With some of the more recent works, I found this happening. It was more fun for me, as a reader, when the enemy didn’t have the ability to fly anywhere, use government agencies, and field weapons just short of nukes.
So, that’s my viewpoint. What do you think? I’d be happy to hear your views, whatever they are. Do you have other favourite thrillers?