Some of the many adventures of
Modesty Blaise by Peter O’Donnell
Titan Books, prices vary (used)
MacGyver was resourceful on television, while “Q” provided high-tech gadgets for James Bond to destroy onscreen. But before
all of them there was Willie Garvin, the ingenious, inventive, and
highly resourceful sidekick and partner of Modesty Blaise.
The fictional duo are successful international criminals who
retire to England after they become rich. Despite their luxurious
lifestyles, retirement soon palls. They snap at the opportunity to
get back in action by working for the Special Intelligence Section
of the British Foreign Office. We’re introduced to Garvin’s skills in
the first novel, Modesty Blaise (O’Donnell wrote 10 more between
1965 and 1985). There he demonstrates some tricky devices
designed to give Blaise a sneaky edge over the bad guys, like
lipsticks that also give off a blast of tear gas, to gain a few vital
seconds of advantage. His inventiveness is not limited to the
bench — he is equally adept at improvising in the field.
As criminals Garvin and Blaise had stayed alive by being smarter
and better prepared than their competitors. This talent remains,
and readers are treated to escapades and escapes made possible
by the ingenious use of whatever is at hand. I won’t give you details,
since it’s more fun to revel in the creativeness of the moment.
Makers of Necessity
Home-Made by Vladimir Arkhipov
Fuel Publishing $35
“In the depths of those stagnant times, when there were shortages
of everything ...” begins a typical description in this incredible
collection. Shortages of everything, that is, save ingenuity. Shovels
made of street signs, television aerials made of forks, a colander
patched in four different places, and a bubble wand for children
made out of a spoon — each page has a description of how an
object came to be. Many were made to entertain cranky babies,
mollify grumpy husbands, or help elderly aunts navigate their
uncomfortable outhouses in the wintertime.
Vladmir Arkhipov began assembling his collection of eccentric
and beloved objects 13 years ago — “things that were never meant
to be for sale.” It’s really the portrait of an era, the era of perestroika,
when “everything had just disappeared” from the shops. There was
no money, nor was there anything to buy. But always, life continued to
be lived, and tools were needed: hair clips, kettles, playing cards, toilet
seats, and a contraption to keep your boots dry.