BOOKS TO MOVIES
Somewhere between the slow, boring Lecarre spy stories and the non-stop, shoot ‘em up Pendleton’s Executioner series, you’ll find floating around the rather unsung…The November Man books and single movie.
In the book series Peter Devereaux was deemed the deadliest assassin in the CIA. The spy world dubbed him “The November Man,” because after he blew through town like a hard Fall wind, nothing was left alive. Critic William Brown wrote that “the November Man is an agent of a small US agency (Section R) whose job it is to keep an eye on the CIA. He is a plodding, professional killer, and the stories are a bit noir.”
Author Bill Granger (1941-2012) was an novelist from Chicago that specialized in political thrillers. He also wrote under the pseudonyms Joe Gash and Bill Griffith. He worked at the Chicago Tribune and other Illinois newspapers. Some of his thrillers are Public Murders, The November Man, Schism and The Shattered Eye. In 1970 the first one was published under that title, but the movie was actually from a later book (7th) in the series, There Are No Spies. Readers tabulate Granger wrote 25 novels covering other colorful characters. In the Granger’s New York Times obituary, they reported “Mr. Granger’s favorite, and perhaps best-known, book was “Public Murders” (1980), in which the city is in an uproar as a rapist-murderer strikes again and again. Public and political pressure exacts an emotional toll on the tough, foulmouthed detectives investigating the crimes. Public Murders won an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America in 1981.
All looks at Granger and Devereaux would be incomplete without covering the hub-bub surrounding the first November book! Mystery Tribune wrote, “Granger’s novel, The November Man caused some controversy at the time as the plot of the book was about assassination of a relative of Queen Elizabeth by blowing up a boat. Several months after publication of the book, Lord Louis Mountbatten, the queen’s cousin, was killed on his boat when a bomb set by the Irish Republican Army exploded. Media were all over the story at the time speculating whether Mr. Granger knew about the plans in advance. He dismissed such ideas.” Did the book even suggest the plot?
As stated The November Man movie was not this first book plot. The screenplay was from the plot of the 7th book, There Are No Spies. In the movie plot, five years into his retirement, CIA veteran Peter Devereaux (Pierce Brosnan) is pulled back into service to help retrieve a Russian agent, also his former lover, who has incriminating evidence on Federov, a corrupt Russian leader. When a different CIA team, led by Devereaux’s former protégé (Luke Bracey), shows up, the mission goes south and Devereaux’s ex-lover is killed. Now a rogue agent, Devereaux drags a relief worker (Olga Kurylenko) along on his mission to settle the score.
Brosnan had the project in the works with ups and downs for a few years. Then in 2012, it was reported that he had the production was resurrected and back on the track. In April 2013 Brosnan told the media: “I am about to go off to Serbia and do my own spy movie. Finally I have the director I want in Roger Donaldson and we’re gonna’ do a piece called November Man so I shall jump back into that James Bond spy arena.” The November Man’ was filmed in and around locations in Serbia and Montenegro. Filming began on May 20, 2013, and wrapped up by late July of the same year. The story is set in Berlin, but the producers could not film in the German capital city.
The movie reviews were not good. The overall consensus was “mediocre.” The Hollywood Reporter said, “Though the film’s cat-and-mouse scenes hardly compare to those in a Bourne movie, they’re enjoyable and only occasionally ridiculous. Michael Finch and Karl Gajusek’s script does little to disguise the fact that we’ve seen and heard all of this many, many times since.”
Brent McKnight wrote, “Though it starts off as a decently fun throwback to a kind of movie that doesn’t get made much anymore, nostalgia only carries the film so far.”
Due to hohum reviews and non-sterling box office, that was the one and only November Man. I remember enjoying some of the November books I read years ago and the film on face value. But the books and movie have become forgettable for most and lost in time for many.
For more on the books and the film…
The movie trailer, click here
The November Man book series in order, click here
The Granger New York Times obituary, click here
A Brosnan interview about the movie, click here