I didn’t know the great drummer Lawrence Leathers that well: I heard him several times with Cécile McLorin Salvant and Aaron Diehl, we played a session or two, and once we spoke at length about his Michigan mentor Randy Gelispie.
Leathers had a secure and flexible beat and just the right touch for straight-ahead jazz. While he already sounded terrific, I also suspected that he was still finding his way into something resolutely personal.
It is hard to process the surreal news of his shocking death yesterday.
Espionage author Anthony Price had become unproductive, unfashionable and almost invisible by the time he died last Thursday at age 90. His books featuring David Audley are a genre unlike any other, where detailed war history meets a pro-British sensibility. Price’s essentially conservative politics might make him a kind of opposite number to American spy novelist Charles McCarry, whose passing I wrote up a few months ago.
Book maven Nick Jones hosts the only interviews with Price online. I love Price’s comment about another dated thriller writer, William H. Haggard: “He was more right wing than even me! He made me look like a liberal!”
At one point I read almost all of the nineteen Price novels. The first one or two show the author finding his way a bit before the run settles into a smooth collection of ten or so excellent books including one universally acclaimed masterpiece, Other Paths to Glory. Something starts to go a bit awry in the last few stories as Price struggles to manage the natural aging of his characters, so it might not have only been fall of the Berlin Wall that caused Price to put down his pen.
In Crimes of the Century I wrote about Other Paths to Glory:
Old wars still scar the present. The David Audley series is strong, with a long through line and many interesting characters viewed from different angles, but Price’s eternally pro-British politics wear after a while. Other Paths makes every list; for an alternate, try The Old Vengeful featuring an unusual amateur heroine.
Who were the greatest British espionage authors of the 20th century? Pride of place goes to Somerset Maugham for the slender yet crucial Ashenden. Then there’s Eric Ambler, who might have had the most sophisticated voice of all. I can’t choose between the two prolific poets John Le Carré and Len Deighton, who together have given me countless hours of pure pleasure. And, of course, we must include Ian Fleming at the top table. For all of his many flaws, Fleming is absolutely one of the greats. And next…who is next? Well, for my money, before I’d move on to Childers, Bingham, Follett, Forsyth, MacInnes, Buchan, Household, MacLean, Hall, Allbeury, Haggard, Oppenheim, and the rest, I’d have to say Anthony Price.