The Bibliophile's Adventurers Club

Exemplars of bookish delight

In retrospect: Modesty Blaise


I’ve been meaning to read Modesty Blaise by Peter O’Donnell for roughly forever. I do love a good intrigue; and the title character is something of a legend. More than likely, that all lent to the reason it remained on my ‘to read’ list for so long: I didn’t want to be disappointed. But for better or for worse, I finally broke down and cracked the cover.

In case you’re unfamiliar, Modesty Blaise began as a comic strip in 1963. In 1965, she made her debut in novel form–a precursor to the 1966 film. The paperback reprints from Souvenir Press, above, include the original artwork. Groovy, no?!

Modesty’s story begins in 1945. A wanderer, escaped from a refugee camp in Kalyros, Greece, she’s no name, no past and thus learns to survive on the mean streets. An old professor–and fellow refugee–named Lob, gives her an education and a name (Modesty–she adds Blaise later, herself). Lob dies when she’s twelve and by the time she’s an adult, she’s amassed enough skill to take control of a criminal organization, which–along with her trusty sidekick, Willie Garvin–she takes to international fame as ‘The Network.’  Long story short, once she has built what she considers a sufficient fortune, she retires. But retirement doesn’t suit her. So she accepts an invitation from Sir Gerald Tarrant of the British Secret Service.

And so begins this book . . .

I’ll tell you now, I was not disappointed. Modesty Blaise pretty much has it all. She’s smart and sexy and can hold her own against any opponent. She and Willie make a memorable team.

Along the lines of James Bond, it’s intrigue with a dash of {sixties} glamour.  Campy? Sure. Can you tell it was written by a man? Pretty much. But it’s a good time all the same–a great escape from a regular sort of day.


Check out this tribute to the Modesty Blaise comic strip on YouTube. Warning! 80’s music ahead  . . .


  1. OOooo she sounds a lot like Mrs. Pollifax, I like her already!

    • amelia

      9 September 2013 at 8:07 pm

      Yes, except younger, sexier, and more deadly. By James Bond I mean fast cars and fast women . . . er, fast men? 🙂

      Now that you mention it, however, Mrs. Pollifax might be more impressive, simply because her background is so humdrum.

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