November 5, 2013
Posthumous publication deal for a French spy novelist
by Nick Davies
Last week, French novelist Gérard de Villiers—a writer frequently compared to Ian Fleming—passed away at the age of 83. De Villiers began writing his S.A.S. series of spy novels in 1964, and in his New York Times obituary, Robert F. Worth says this might be the longest running fiction series written by a single author. now, Publishers Weekly reports that Vintage will publish several of his popular titles in the US and Canada, in “the first major launch” of the author on this side of the ocean.
De Villiers created his fictional protagonist Malko Linge based on three people he knew in real life: a French intelligence officer, an Austrian arms dealer, and a German baron. Linge—also known by his alias that gave the series its name, Son Altesse Sérénissime, or His Serene Highness—is an Austrian aristocrat whose motivation for working for the CIA is to pay for his castle’s upkeep. Worth describes de Villiers as “unapologetically formulaic” in his ambition to to provide what he described as “fairy tales for adults,” complete with kinky sex and the series’s cover art motif: scantily clad ladies holding guns.
Many of the books in the series are rooted in real life and de Villiers’s career as a journalist. He worked with real spies and diplomats in the KGB and the Mossad, many of whom were pleased to see themselves represented under pseudonyms in S.A.S.. In 2011 he wrote books (de Villiers was prolific, often churning producing five books a year) about the uprisings in Syria and Lebanon that eerily predicted the violence that would take place there.
Per PW, the first American release from the S.A.S. series, The Madmen of Benghazi, is due out next year.
Nick Davies is a publicist at Melville House.