The Chill Factor

I was trawling through my Icelandic newspaper archive recently when I discovered a brief Bagley article that I had overlooked. It was published on 4th November 1972 in Vísir:

Desmond Bagley Running Blind Icelandic media article from Visir 4th November 1972.

Icelandic flight attendant main protagonist in foreign novel

Icelandic pilots and flight attendants seem to be popular protagonists at the moment with writers. Desmond Bagley mentioned an Icelandic pilot in his book Running Blind and now a book called Vegið úr launsátri [The Chill Factor] by Richard Falkirk is being published by Örn and Örlygur.

One of the protagonists in this book is a flight attendant working for Air Iceland. Before them came the book about the American boy detectives, Frank and Joe, who also had dealings with people from Icelandic flight companies.

The greatest joy in finding this article once more was to discover The Chill Factor by the author Derek Lambert, writing as Richard Falkirk, published by Michael Joseph Ltd., in 1971. Here’s a synopsis from the book jacket:

All of Iceland was erupting, and it wasn’t merely the volcano, Heckla, spewing poisonous ash and lava into the air. Anti-American feeling was high and Russian trawlers — which didn’t smell at all of fish — put into secret coves.

William Conran, a British agent born in Iceland, has been assigned to investigate a possible Russian spy ring in what seems to be a routine mission. But then a girl is found dead, her clothes torn and lips bruised. The official story was that she had choked to death on her own vomit whilst hopelessly drunk. But why then were the Americans questioning an American airman? And why did they refuse to hand him over to the Icelanders?

Conran picks up a lovely Icelandic air-hostess, Gudrun, only to find that she is involved in more than her healthy appetite for life would indicate. And Sigurdson, the police chief, what guilty secret does he have to hide?

These and many more other questions are answered in this exciting and gripping spy thriller from the pen of a promising new name on the thriller scene. [sic]

The Chill Factor - Richard Falkirk. Jacket design by David November © Penguin Random House Company.

Lambert’s novel has similar protagonists to those in Bagley’s novel Running Blind, a full complement of spies: British; American; and Russian and of course the familiar landscape of Iceland. Though Lambert portrays a different Iceland to the one described in Bagley’s novel, a slightly seedier one, Reykjavík in particular. Immersed as I have been in the Reykjavík of the 1960’s and 1970’s through my research for this website, I found Lambert’s portrayal of this contrasting Reykjavík to be incredibly accurate, mentioning some of the places I had already written about. Whilst reading the novel I remember thinking that the author must have actually spent some time visiting or working in Reykjavík and Keflavík to have made his accurate observations. All became apparent when I realised that Derek Lambert was an experienced journalist and foreign correspondent in Israel, Cyprus, Africa, India and Russia, and although Iceland isn’t made mention of in his travels, it is clearly evident through his writing that he is very familiar with Iceland.

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang - Mike Ripley. Cover illustration from 'When Eight Bells Toll' © HarperCollins Publishers 1981.Rather fortuitously, the author and critic Mike Ripley entered stage right a couple of days ago, as HarperCollins Publishers sent me an advance reading copy of his forthcoming book Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, which examines the rise of the thriller throughout recent British history. [Click the title or image for the pre-order link].

I’ll be writing more about Mike Ripley’s excellent forthcoming book Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang on this website in the near future.

An excerpt from Mike’s entry on Lambert is shown below:

After working for the Eastern Daily Press and Sheffield Star, he joined the Daily Mirror in 1953, later moving to become the Daily Express correspondent in Moscow. His experiences there led to his first novel, Angels in the Snow in 1969, which brought him both critical and financial success. From then on he concentrated on writing thrillers as well as historical novels under the name Richard Falkirk, more than a dozen in all. [1]

Interestingly Lambert was invalided back to the UK from his Moscow posting with suspected rheumatic fever, with the manuscript for that first novel Angels in the Snow hidden in his wheelchair. [2]

I acquired my copy of The Chill Factor through the secondary market and was glad I did, it’s a nice read and definitely worth seeking out. There are some inaccuracies in the text and Bagley’s novel definitely stands above it, however Icelandophiles with a penchant for espionage fiction most likely won’t be disappointed.

For the sake of completeness I should mention the rest of the article. The American boy detectives refer to the all American crime fighting fictional teenagers, Frank and Joe Hardy, created by the American writer Edward Stratemeyer. Still a popular series, and continuously in print since 1927. The titles in the original Hardy Boys Mysteries series, published between 1927 and 1979, were the work of a variety of authors writing under the collective pseudonym of Franklin W. Dixon. The first and most well-known was Leslie McFarlane, a Canadian author who wrote 19 of the books in the series, other writers include: Christopher Lampton; John Button; Amy McFarlane; and Harriet Stratemeyer Adams. [3]

The Arctic Patrol Mystery - Franklin W. Dixon © Penguin Random House Company.The book alluded to in the article is The Arctic Patrol Mystery, number 48 in the Hardy Boys series, which was published in 1969, the year of Bagley’s own research trip to Iceland. The Hardy Boys become involved in a spine-chilling pursuit uncovering a diabolical espionage plot that threatens the life of a U.S. astronaut and NASA’S moon project.

NASA did in fact send two training missions to Iceland, in July of both 1965 and 1967. The missions, geology field trips, were part of the Apollo program intended to prepare astronauts for lunar exploration and sampling. The astronauts visited the mountain Askja in the Dyngjuföll mountain range, in the Central Highlands, just north of Vatnajökull glacier. Clearly the inspiration for this Hardy Boys mystery.

So popular were the Hardy Boys Mysteries that in September of 1969 an animated television series was created, which aired on Saturday mornings on the American television channel ABC.

The Hardy Boys Mystery Stories are classified as Middle Grade reads (8-12yrs) and are currently published by Penguin Random House, also available as eBooks, so perhaps an ideal read to wean the younger Icelandophiles on before you feed them the Icelandic Noir.

Addendum

It’s really excellent news to hear that HarperCollins Publishers will be republishing Derek Lambert’s superb thrillers just as soon as the Bagley re-releases are finished. [4]


Notes

Images: The Chill Factor & The Arctic Patrol Mystery © Penguin Random House Company.; Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang © HarperCollins Publishers.

1. Ripley, M. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (London: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., forthcoming).

2. ‘Derek Lambert – Obituary’ The Independent 31st July 2001.

3. Penguin Random House (2017). ‘William H. Dixon’ [online]. URL [Accessed April. 28th 2017]

4. Brawn, D. (2017). Post comment on Desmond Bagley Facebook Site [online]. URL [Accessed April. 29th 2017]