Quiller is a secret agent, star of a series of books written by Adam Hall (pen name for Elleston Trevor). They originated as Cold War espionage thrillers, and have made the jump to post-Cold War espionage thrillers admirably, unlike some.

Quiller works for The Bureau. The Bureau is distinct from MI6; it in fact answers directly to the Prime Minister. Quiller is a Shadow Executive. He is run in the field by a Director (DIF), and all missions are codenamed and given an operating Board back at the Ministry in London while they are running. Although this sounds banal, the actual operating procedures of Quiller's world (and of the man, when he breaks them) are integral components of the thrill-factor in the books. Quiller carries the -8 suffix, which means he carries a suicide capsule; and the -9 suffix, meaning he has survived opposition interrogation without breaking. He never uses a gun, preferring his hands and brain.

Hall's books are excellent reading (IMHO) because of the fine consistency of the details, and due to Hall's nearly-unique ability to maintain an intimate level of tension (almost at nerve-snapping point) throughout the entire book. All in all, I strongly recommend them to folks looking for a good, consistent series of spy fiction.

These books are very different from well-known Cold War espionage thrillers like the work of John le Carre. Those books are very cerebral, requiring the reader to do a bunch of work to keep track of what's going on. If you enjoy that sort of thing, the reward for reading those will be high. If you don't enjoy that kind of thing, and prefer to read a story which is gripping because of the tightly-focused experiences of a single character and related events, then the Quiller novels are for you. Since they're told in first person narrative style, and since the main character is a field agent who by definition is told as little as possible about the 'big picture' in case he is captured and interrogated, these stories will be ones you enjoy.

A movie was made of The Quiller Memorandum, starring George Segal - but it leaned towards comedy relief and retains almost none of this critical characteristic of intimate personal danger. The film Quiller is too cool, too suave, and too confident. It's the fear in the books that is so important - the fear that drives and motivates him. The book Quiller is an admitted adrenalin junkie, relying on the fear to drive him through - fear we are brought in to experience with him, to share his adrenalin rush. Segal just...never looks afraid.

Titles include (in no particular order):

  • The Quiller Memorandum
  • The 9th Directive
  • The Striker Portfolio
  • The Warsaw Document
  • The Tango Briefing
  • The Mandarin Cypher
  • The Kobra Manifesto
  • The Sinkiang Executive
  • The Scorpion Signal
  • The Peking Target
  • Quiller
  • Quiller's Run
  • Quiller KGB
  • Quiller Barracuda
  • Quiller Bamboo
  • Quiller Balalaika
...and there are probably more.

Update: Well, of course, there is a Quiller website.

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