It’s with sadness that I interrupt this blog’s usual programme of log-rolling, trumpet blowing and self-aggrandising braggadocio to bring you the news of the passing of one of the 20th century’s greatest writers, Patrick Leigh Fermor (pictured right, centre front row), who died yesterday at the advanced age of 96, and is very probably compiling exploratory notes on Heaven as we speak. To call him a travel writer is to understate the case by a considerable margin; Patrick Leigh Fermor, or more simply Paddy, was sui generis.
Best known for his two-part trilogy A TIME OF GIFTS and BETWEEN THE WOODS AND THE WATER (although the third part is finished, apparently, and will be published in due course), Fermor’s MANI and ROUMELI - both accounts of remote parts of Greece - were the books that first seduced me, and introduced me to the travel writing of his friend and foil Lawrence Durrell, and that of Norman Lewis.
Had he left behind only his writing, Fermor’s legacy would be assured. But Fermor wasn’t only a writer, and his exploits for the SOE during WWII, and particularly the part he played in the outrageously daring smash-and-grab that abducted General Kreipe from German-occupied Crete in 1944, is the stuff of Boy’s Own adventure stories. Indeed, Dirk Bogarde played the part of Fermor in the film subsequently made of the epic tale, which was adapted from Billy Moss’s ILL MET BY MOONLIGHT.
Writer, soldier, hero, and a man amongst men, Patrick Leigh Fermor’s like will never be seen again.
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“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “A sheer pleasure.” – Tana French. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville. “The effortless cool of Elmore Leonard at his peak.” – Ray Banks. “A fine writer at the top of his game.” – Lee Child.