Review of the “The Little Drummer Girl” by John LeCarré–the Television Series

“The Little Drummer Girl” by John LeCarré, was reworked into a televised series of 6 episodes. Since John LeCarré is at the top of my favorite authors list, I decided to watch this. I was not disappointed. This was a very entertaining adaptation of a great story.

“The Little Drummer Girl” concerns a low level actress who is recruited by Israeli Intelligence to infiltrate a group of Palestinian terrorists. She is recruited because of her acting skills, and her slightly leftist past provides a possible infiltration strategy. Her infiltration is successful, but conflicts over the risk she must take versus the benefits of the information she may provide increase as the series progresses. Also, she may have a love attraction with her control in Israeli intelligence as well as with some of her Palestinian contacts.

I was riveted for 6 hours watching this. Michael Shannon was particularly chilling as the Israeli agent orchestrating this operation. The other acting was highly professional, but just not standout for me. I felt there was some confusion at the beginning of the series as to what was happening. The fact that I had read “The Little Drummer Girl” some time ago helped me to follow the plot, but I imagine someone not familiar with LeCarré’s work might find it difficult to keep up with what is going on. The beginning seemed pretty true to LeCarré’s story, but the ending seemed quite different from what I had remembered from the book. It was still very much a LeCarré ending, however, albeit somewhat foggy and a little bit confusing.

Overall, this was an outstanding effort. If you are a fan of LeCarré’s brand of story, you will find this a great ride.

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Review of “The Canonical Order” by T.R. Kurtz

Canonical Order CoverI joined a group on Goodreads with the subject of espionage. Within this group, T.R. Kurtz offered a free electronic copy of “The Canonical Order” in exchange for an honest review. I took Mr. Kurtz up on the offer and within a few days I received a copy of the book on Kindle. I read the book, and enjoyed it a lot. I had email exchanges with him and gave him a much more detailed review. I do hope it helped him in some small way on his publishing journey. It is fun to correspond with writers who are at different stages of the process, and I would like to congratulate Mr. Kurtz on completing and publishing a very decent military thriller. I hope he continues, and I look forward to reading his next work. I published the review below on Amazon and Goodreads, giving The Canonical Order” 4 out 5 stars.

Overall I was impressed with this book. The author’s knowledge of weapons and tactics is excellent. I saw nothing that seemed incorrect or out of line.I think the writing of the action scenes is excellent, particularly those taking place at the conclusion of the book. I enjoyed the final action scenes the most. There was a lot of really gripping tension at the conclusion of the book, along with a few clever twists at the end. The story is interesting and comes to a very believable ending.

The weakness of this book had to do with the premise that the protagonist is a member of a military organization that supports the Catholic Church. I think this notion is what differentiates “The Canonical Order”. I think it has to be fleshed out more to fulfill its potential . Please don’t get me wrong, this is a very enjoyable and well-written thriller.

The Critique Group

The writers’ group I recently joined had its first critique night since I joined.  The way this worked was that you uploaded a 2500-word maximum of something you wanted critiqued by members of the group. You needed to do this about a week before the meeting. Anyone who paid dues for the year was free to submit something. You didn’t have to submit a first chapter, but you needed to add an introduction if you submitted something that was not a first chapter to put it into context. There was neither pressure to submit anything, nor pressure not to submit anything. If you were willing to critique someone else’s work, you could email the leader of the group and state your preferences for what you wanted to critique. The group had an informative, entertaining and very well-done video available of a puppet telling you how to critique something. I listened to the puppet since this was to be my first experience with a critique group. The group leader would form the groups based on common interests as best he could.

I chose to submit a chapter from the middle of the novel that had some action involved. Since I have never written any action scenes, I wanted to test myself to see what I had done. I spent a good deal of time polishing my manuscript before submitting it. I volunteered to read things in the thriller and science fiction genres, but said I would read anything except poetry for which I have no talent whatsoever.

Within about four days of the meeting I received my reviewing assignment and spent time giving it a decent review. It was science fiction, and it was really good. Very intimidating! I wished I had written it. The submission was a first chapter of a novel at the conceptual stages, and it did everything a first chapter is supposed to do. I had to look pretty hard to find things that could be improved. I was pretty effusive with my praise. The chapter deserved it. I also tried to offer a few suggestions and found a few typos. I was assigned to a group of three people. Only one of them made a submission.

I was a bit intimidated by the process, since I had the sneaky feeling that I was probably the least experienced writer in the room. When the groups formed, I found out I was correct. The piece that I reviewed was from a science fiction writer who actually makes his living by writing. He had published about 17 novels on Amazon. He really knew what he was doing. The other member of the group was a full-time editor. I was out of my league.

The critique went well. I learned a lot in the process, and I have to say the other members of the group were very helpful and supportive. I could not have asked for more. Each had constructive comments, and I was surprised how different each of the participants saw the work.

All in all it was a very valuable experience. I felt supported and valued, which was probably the most important part of the process. I felt I had something to contribute to the group, and I felt like I could hold my own in a group of writers who had far more experience than myself.

If you are looking for a little friendly support and hoping to network a bit, look around your geographic area for a writing group. I was very surprised how many there were within a reasonable driving distance. I have learned a lot from this group in the short time I have been associated with them, and I hope to continue working with them. They are a group of very decent people with a lot of knowledge about the craft of writing and the business of publishing.