Hostage of parental love

February 6, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

L’otage du triangle d’or, by Gérard de Villiers. (252 pages) This book hasn’t been translated into English. The title means “The Hostage of the Golden Triangle”

In the hall of our local library stands a basket where readers can drop their books and other people can take them home for free. A couple of weeks ago, my daughter picked up L’Otage du triangle d’or by Gérard de Villiers, while she was at the library with the nanny. I thought she had chosen it because of the cover, but no, the choice was even more thoughtful. She explained to me that she knew I wouldn’t like the cover but she chose it anyway because I enjoy reading crime fiction. She had read a few pages, thought it was very descriptive and that I would like it.


Face to face with such a love as only children can give, I had no other solution as to read the book, which turned out to be, as expected, a painful experience. It brought me back to school days, when I had to read books I found boring. I have vivid memories of me, lying on my bed at my parents’ and urging myself “come on, only 50 pages left. You HAVE to read this for tomorrow”. I started reading a few pages only to discover that my mind had gone wandering far away from the book and that I couldn’t remember what I had just read.


But, back to the glorious Gérard de Villiers. He is a prolix author of hundreds of books of a series named SAS. Thankfully for Anglophone readers, his books haven’t been translated in English. When I type his name in the search engine of my online French bookstore, there are 420 results. All crime fiction, I don’t know which genre, the one with spies, CIA, DEA, drug dealers and nasty dictators.


The plot is the following: In Thailand, the CIA agent Matt Gritt is kidnapped by Khun Sa. The local CIA officer, Mike Herald is informed that Matt Gritt will be liberated if a drug dealer kept by the DEA in a drug traffic investigation is freed too. The drug dealer made a prosecution deal and is to be extradited to the USA. Malko Linge, who seem to be the recurring character of the series, is called upon by the CIA to clear this mess.


It’s like an indigestible lasagne dish: one layer of violence, one layer of sex, one layer of violence, etc. It is full of wicked Chinese and oriental torture methods, like cut fingers. Women are only objects, bought, used as sex toys. The male characters are caricatures. A book aimed at pleasing lobotomised male readers. I hope my daughter didn’t browse through page 43 where the first blow job is meticulously described.


The language is terrible, full of English words and American expressions with footnotes for the translation (!!) I thought the French dictionary included enough words and insults to satisfy such a silly writer, but apparently not. So, here are little excerpts of Villiers’s fine “Frenglish” prose:


“Ces types sont la crème du Crime Organisé à Bangkok. A bunch of fucking rats.”

“Matt Grit est un des meilleurs assets de la Company.”

“Tiger Trap va faire beaucoup de mal aux bad boys

“En tout, il en a plus de soixante. Outstanding!

If someone is interested in the translation, feel free to ask in the comments. I spare you the footnotes to translate the English words.


I told my daughter she couldn’t have known I wouldn’t like it and that it was sweet of her to give books to me. I explained to her that sometimes we don’t like the book we read, that we can’t know it before. (Half lie, I know…) I think she understood. Lying to her was out of the question anyway. At least, this has been an opportunity to talk about books with her.


PS: Do I have to mention that I DON’T RECOMMEND this book, unless you have to make a gift to your worst enemy?

  1. February 7, 2011 at 2:16 am

    Sounds like one of those mindless boring action flicks but this is the print version. No wonder someone dumped it in the free box. At least you didn’t pay for it. That would have made it more painful.


    • February 7, 2011 at 9:01 am

      I can tell you it’s been quite a shock after Proust and the wonderful Maugham short stories.
      These books are to crime fiction what Harlequin is to romance. You’ve read enough of me by now to know I would NEVER have spent any money on such a book. I think the person who dropped it sincerely thought he — it can only be a “he”– was sharing something with other readers. Unfortunately.

      Do you know the genre “Roman de gare” ? Does that exist in English ? Well, that’s one of them. De Villiers is the kind of “writer” — the French slang word would be ‘pisse-copies’– who 1) do harm to other prolix but gifted writers like your dear Simenon 2) gives an image of crime fiction as being low-brow literature.


      • February 8, 2011 at 12:30 am

        I think an equivalent would be a “beach read.” Although that might not really reflect the crime genre.

        Have you seen the film Roman de Gare?


        • February 8, 2011 at 8:42 am

          I have created a “beach & transportation” category for books you can read on a train with people talking around you or on the beach and still keep an eye on the children.
          I haven’t seen Roman de Gare, but I’ve searched it and I should watch it. Thanks for the idea.


  2. February 7, 2011 at 9:13 am

    Sounds very awful. The Frenglish is hilarious.


    • February 7, 2011 at 9:24 am

      I could have typed pages of those sentences. And I spared you the thai words included everywhere. Really irritating.


  3. leroyhunter
    February 8, 2011 at 11:53 am

    Sounds terrible!

    It’s the thought that counts though…


    • February 8, 2011 at 12:11 pm

      It was terrible. She brought back TWO of these books, but I asked my husband for conjugal and parental solidarity on that one. Now he has to read the other one.


  4. leroyhunter
    February 8, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    Good idea, and only fair! What title did he get?
    I imagine at least it was a quick read…


    • February 8, 2011 at 5:18 pm

      I don’t remember the title, honestly. The cover is alike. A copy and paste of the one I read I presume.
      It wasn’t such a quick read because I was really bored.

      In French we say “L’enfer est pavé de bonnes intentions” which means “Hell is paved with good intentions”. That’s an example, she was so thrilled when she gave me these books.


      • February 8, 2011 at 9:21 pm

        Leroy, I wouldn’t want you to spend a sleepless night not knowing the exact title my husband got. 🙂
        Click here to discover his prize.
        Doesn’t it look just as great as mine? Mine was in Thailand. His is in Greece. Fascinating.


  5. leroyhunter
    February 8, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    Looks like Gérard has a pretty strong brand identity at least…
    Well, all the best with that Mr Bookaround, rather you then me!

    Good intentions, ah yes…mine are too young for that yet, but it’s in the future I’m sure.


  6. February 16, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    Sounds more thriller than crime. I tend to think of them as separate genres. For some reason in the UK crime gets its own shelves (like SF & Fantasy which share shelves much to the occasional disgruntlement of pure SF and pure fantasy fans many of whom have little love for the other’s books). Thrillers get put in with general and literary fiction.

    I tend to think of them as ladlit, the male equivalent to chicklit (which also goes in the main section of the bookstore). Guns, explosions, blowjobs and neat endings. The male answer to fashion, shopping, blowjobs and neat endings.


    • February 16, 2011 at 9:16 pm

      Here, SF and Fantasy are on the same shelves. Crime and Thrillers are together too. We have separate shelves for historical novels. Chicklit has special shelves and display tables sometimes. Books in a foreign language have their own section.

      I like the term “ladlit”. I’d rather say the male answer to fashion, shopping, children or diamond rings and neat endings. In the few chicklit books I’ve read, blowjobs weren’t part of the program.


  7. KAC
    April 25, 2014 at 1:43 am

    I wonder if you’ve actually read any of his books cover-to-cover. Your reaction is so vehement that I speculate you didn’t finish reading the single specimen you own. Having read several of these books myself, I do not find your comment either fair to the author nor is the excerpt you’ve chosen at all representative of his work.

    You might wish to read the NYT Magazine’s (excellent) article on de Villiers by Robert F. Worth. It was published in January, 2013 and might give you a more nuanced, more detailed and more informed perspective on these books. I’ll simply note that you’ve dismissed a body of work extending back to 1965 with a single out-of-context selection, this picked from one sample out of around 200 books, these constituting the longest running series of novels to date.

    If needed as a justification, the “point” of the books is the intelligence (used here as in data) de Villiers was able to ferret out himself, oftentimes in advance of sophisticated and resourceful national spy agencies (see, for instance, La Liste Harrari on the assassination of the Lebanese Prime Minister and also his scoop of the Benghazi debacle). Unlike cartoon-type spies such as James Bond, Malko Linge is oftentimes a failure; usually cautious; occasionally incompetent; in short, he’s more true-to-life than many staples of the industry. Some parts of the books are maladroit, but the same could be more fairly noted of romance, vampire and “50 Shades” genre “literature”. Your review is unfair.


    • April 25, 2014 at 8:09 pm


      Thanks for your interesting comment.

      Obviously, you haven’t spent a lot looking around my blog. Otherwise you’d have noticed a few things:

      – I have an “abandoned books”: it means that if a book isn’t in this category, I have read it from cover to cover. I did read L’otage du triangle d’or from cover to cover, as painful as it was.

      – I have written a very negative review of 50 Shades of Grey, which has common points with L’otage du triangle d’or: the style is very poor and it’s offensive to women.

      – This is a literary blog. Call me a snob if you want, but in my book, style and characterisation matter. They more than matter, they’re essential. I have nothing against entertaining books as long as they’re well written and with a good structure and well-developed characters.

      That said, I have heard about de Villiers’s inside information and that’s a pity that such good plot material was wasted on such a poor style.
      Whatever the story or the genre, there’s no excuse for a poor style, I’m afraid.


  8. April 26, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    I’m not sure it’s much of a compliment to say that it has flaws that can also be found in romance fiction, %) Shades and vampire stuff. That’s an exceptionally low bar.


    • May 1, 2014 at 2:00 am

      You say it better than I do. Thanks


  1. January 1, 2012 at 1:10 am
  2. March 20, 2012 at 12:37 am

I love to hear your thoughts, thanks for commenting. Comments in French are welcome

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