Follett, Ken: Eye of the Needle
(researched by Geoffrey Maurer)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
Ken Follett. Eye of the Needle. New York: Arbor House, 1978. Copyright held by Ken Follett. Parallel First Edition: In Canada by Clarke, Irwin, & Company, Inc.
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
The first American version of this novel was published in trade cloth binding.
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
162 leaves, pp. [i-vi] vii-x [1-2] 3-51 [52-54] 55-107 [108-110] 111-166 [167-168] 169-218 [219-220] 221-260 [261-262] 263-313 [314]
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
The author wrote a preface (pp.vii), describing the historical background pertinent to its content. The short introduction differentiates between known historical fact and the fictional tale proposed by the book. The novel also has a quotation from A.J.P. Taylor, English History, 1914-1945 (pp. ix). The quotation pertains to the historical material discussed in the Preface and foreshadows the novel's action. In addition, the novel has an acknowledgement: "My thanks to Malcolm Hulke for invaluable help, generously given" (pp. v).
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
There are no illustrations in the novel's first edition.
7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available
8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)
The book presents a readable and professional general physical appearance. Wide margins and large print allow for smooth reading. Individual chapters are numbered, but have no titles. The typography is in seriff style. All the letters in the first two words of each chapter are capitalized. The book is divided into 5 parts. These parts discontinue the usual pagination by being preceeded by a blank page and then labeled Part One (accordingly) in capital letters on a page by itself that also has no page number. 95R. Page Size: 23.5cm by 15.2cm Margins: Centered, 1.9cm left, right, and top; 3.8cm bottom. Text: 17.8cm by 11.4cm.
9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available
10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)
The book is on opac, wove paper, all of one stock. It is a dull white in color, with little yellowing. The texture is even and has held up well.
11 Description of binding(s)
The Binding is a dotted line grain cloth and a medium hue red. An additional black material covers the red cloth 3.3 cm to either side of and on the book's spine. There is no stamping or illustration on the binding. The spine reads (from top to bottom): Eye of the Needle, Ken Follett, Arbor House. This lettering is red and printed vertically so that one must turn their head to read the letters if the book were on a shelf.. There is no information on the front or back covers.
12 Transcription of title page
Recto: KEN FOLLETT|A NOVEL|EYE OF|THE|NEEDLE|ARBOR HOUSE|New York Verso: THIRD PRINTING|COPYRIGHT 1978 BY KEN FOLLETT| ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, INCLUDING THE RIGHT OF REPRODUCTION IN WHOLE OR IN PART| IN ANY FORM. PUBLISHED IN THE UNITED STATES BY ARBOR HOUSE PUBLISHING COM-|PANY AND IN CANADA BY CLARKE, IRWIN & COMPANY, INC. | LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGUE CARD NUMBER:77-90670 | ISBN: 0-87795-186-1 | MANUFACTURED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
I could not locate the Manuscript holdings
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
The front and back of the Dustjacket features the same information as the recto title page, along with a picture of a bloody dagger with a Nazi symbol. The ductjacket's spine information is the same as the binding's spine information. I also found out that the novel was published in England under the name, Storm Island.
Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History
1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A
-Eye of the Needle. Published by Arbor Books, New York: 1978, Book Club Ed. -Eye of the Needle. Published by Arbor Books, Buffalo, New York: 1978, Braille Edition. Translated: Braille Group Sisterhood of Temple Beth Am.
2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available
3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available
4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?
As of December 1978, there had been 8 printings of the first edition by Arbor House.
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
-Eye of the Needle. Published by Clarke, Irwin, and Company, Inc.: Canada, 1978. -Eye of the Needle. First Puffin Unicorn Ed. Published by Puffin Unicorn, New York: 1993 -Eye of the Needle. Penguin Publishers, New York: 1979. A Signet Book. -Eye of the Needle. Published by Penguin Group, New York: 1989. -Eye of the Needle. Published by Raven, London: 1978. Alt. title - Storm Island. -Eye of the Needle. Published by Futura, London: 1978 -Eye of the Needle. Published by Futura, London: 1981 -Eye of the Needle. Published by Futura, London: 1982 -Eye of the Needle. Published by Prior, London: 1978. Large Print Ed. -Eye of the Needle. Published by Prior, London: 1979. Large Print Ed. -Best sellers from Reader's digest condensed books. Published by Reader's Digest Association, Pleasantville, NY: 1978 -. Published by Edito-Service, Geneva: 1982. -Eye of the Needle. Published by New American Library, New York: 1981. A Signet Book. -Eye of the Needle. Published by G.K Hall, Boston: 1978. Large Print Edition.
6 Last date in print?
-Eye of the Needle was still in print as of February 2000.
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
-Eye of the Needle had sold 135,000 copies by the week of October 16th, 1978. It was released on July 31st, 1978. The last time the novel was on the Publisher's Weekly Bestseller list was December 25, 1978. Quote from Ken-Follett.com: "It would take an accountant a week to work out the exact numbers, but it has sold about ten million copies," as of February 2000.
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
This information could not be located.
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
This information could not be located. A Comprehensive search of the Publisher's Weekly only revealed listings by Arbor House of their upcoming books (which included Eye of the Needle in 1978).
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
11 Other promotion
This information could not be located.
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
Audio-Recording -Eye of the Needle. Published by Books on Tape, Newport Beach, CA: 1983; 7 soundcassettes: analog. -Eye of the Needle. Published by Durkin Hayes, Downsview, Ont.: 1981. 2 sound cassettes (150 min.) : analog, Dolby processed. Abridged. Read by Edward Woodward -Eye of the Needle. Published by Brilliance Corp, Grand Haven, MI: 1986. 3 sound cassettes: analog. -Eye of the Needle. Published by Brilliance Corp, Grand Haven, MI: 1985. 6 sound cassettes (9 hrs.) : analog. Narrated by Eric Lincoln. -Eye of the Needle. Published by Recorded Books, Inc, Prince Frederick, MD: 1990. 8 sound cassettes (11.25 hrs.) : analog. Unabridged. Narrated by Graeme Malcolm. -Eye of the Needle. Published by Brilliance Corporation, Grand Haven, MI: 1985. 3 sound cassettes (9 hrs.) : analog. Unabridged. Multi-voice narration. -Eye of the Needle. Published by Books on Tape, Newport Beach, CA: 1980. 7 sound cassettes (630 min.): analog. Narrated by Richard Green. Special Library Edition. -Eye of the Needle. Published by Books on Tape, Newport Beach, CA: 1985. 7 sound cassettes (630 min.): analog. Narrated by Richard Green. -Eye of the Needle. Published by Books in Motion, Spokane, WA: 1985. 8 sound cassettes (ca. 13 hrs.): analog. Unabridged. Narrated by Tim Behrens. -Eye of the Needle. Published by Listen for Pleasure, Downsview, Ont: 1981. 2 sound cassettes (150 min.): analog. Unabridged. Narrated by Edward Woodward Visual and Video-Recording -Eye of the Needle. Published by 20th Century Fox Video: 1982; (Beta 2 112min) -Eye of the Needle. Published by 20th Century Fox Video: 1981; (VHS 112min) -Eye of the Needle. Published by 20th Century Fox Video: 1982; (VHS 112min) -Eye of the Needle. Published by Motion Picture by United Artists, 1981. -Eye of the Needle. Published by MGM/UA Home Video: 1981; (VHS 121min). Letter-box Edit. -Eye of the Needle. Published by MGM/UA Home Video: 1997;(VHS 112min). Letter-box Edit. -Eye of the Needle. Published by MGM/UA Home Video: 1988. 1 videocassette (VHS 112 min.). -Eye of the Needle. Published by CBS Fox Video: 1981; (VHS 112 min.). -Eye of the Needle. Published by CBS Fox Video: 1983; (VHS 112 min.).
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
-French: L'arme a l'oeil. Published by Laffont, Paris: 1980. -Polish: Igla. Published by PRIMA, Warszawa: 1993. -Greek: To mati les velonas. Published by A Terzopoulos, Athena: 1983. -Russian: Igol?noe ushko. Published by Novosti , Moskva: 1982. -Amharic: äotalayu salaye. Published by Commercial Publishing Agency, Addis Abeba, 1991. -Korean: Che sam ui namja. Published by Segwang Kongsa, Seoul: 1981. -Serbo-Croation: Uöica igle. Publsihed by Otokar Keröovani, Rijeka: 1984. -Spanish: La isla de las tormentas. Published by EmecÈ, Buenos Aires: 1979. -Spanish: La isla de las tormentas. Published by Bruguera, Barcelona: 1979. -Spanish: La isla de las tormentas. Published by Bruguera, Barcelona: 1981.
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
None
15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A
None
Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author
1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)
Taking British author Ken Follett only 3 months to write, The Eye of the Needle, was not only the author's first best-seller, but also an advertising success that allowed Ken to quit his day job with Everest Books Publishing Company and focus solely on writing (Current Biography, 1990). The early 525,000 dollars Follett earned caused some to call him a literary "rags to riches" story (Current Biography, 1990) and the title, "world's youngest millionaire author" (Dictionary of Literary Biography, 1981). 1978 was a landmark year for Ken Follett: critics raved, money flowed, and a career blossomed. As a child, the public library became more than a place stocked with free books for young Ken, it was a haven for imagination and creative dreaming. Born to conservative Christian parents Martin and Lavina Follett on June 5, 1949 in Cardiff, Wales, Ken was not allowed to watch T.V or listen to the radio. Therefore, according to www.Ken-Follett.com, the inquisitive child developed a love affair with reading that has lasted his entire life. Martin and Lavina raised Ken in a fairly normal middle-class neighborhood in Cardiff, a traditionally coal-mining town in Wales. His father worked for the internal revenue service as a tax inspector. His mother loved to tell him stories, and according to the Current Biography, combined with his voracious reading habits, this practice may have begun to make Follett an extraordinarily imaginative child (1990). The imagination did not immediately correlate into success at school, but by his own confession, school became much more intriguing when he turned 13 and girls suddenly became interesting (www.Ken-Follett.com). His hard study habits during grade school paved the way, allowing Ken to attend the University College of London, in the same city where his family had moved when he was 10 years old. Before he could finish his degree in Philosophy at the University, his long-time girlfriend Mary Elson, became pregnant. The couple was married on January 5, 1968 and their first child, Emanuele, was born later that same year. Mary worked as a bookkeeper to raise money so that Ken could complete his undergraduate studies. Upon his graduation, Ken took a position as a reporter, covering mostly rock music for the South Wales Echo in his hometown, Cardiff. Three years later, Ken returned to London to try his hand at crime reporting for the London Evening News, a tabloid newspaper. "I wanted to be a hot shot investigative reporter," Ken told his official web-site, "but I never made the grade." After only a short time as a crime reporter, a broken car and another baby on the way forced Ken to write novels to help solve his financial difficulties (Current Biography, 1990). Ken wrote his first ever novel, The Big Needle, at the age of 25 under the pseudonym Simon Miles. The book was not an instant success, but did earn Ken enough money to feel secure again financially and give him the freedom to quit his job at the London Evening News and start a job with his first book's publisher, Everest Books. His agent Al Zuckerman aided him tremendously through this transitory stage, offering advice, especially about the American market (www.Ken-Follett.com). While working for Everest, Ken to write, "sort of as a paying hobby," 9 more novels, 6 for which he used pseudonyms (www.Ken-Follett.com). He wrote The Big Black (1974) and The Big Hit (1975) as Simon Miles, used his own name for Shakeout (1975) and The Bear Raid (1976), wrote The Power of Twins and the Worm Puzzle (1976) as Martin Martinsen, Amok: King of Legend (1976) and Capricorn One (1978) as Bernard L. Ross, and The Madigliani Scandal (1976) and Paper Money (1977) as Zachary Stone. Ken felt his early novels, "constituted a literary apprenticeship, providing a foundation for his later successful books" (Current Biography, 1990). 1978 was a big year. The sudden success with Eye of the Needle allowed Follett to quit his job with Everest Books and concentrate exclusively on writing. The ability to repeat his success worried Ken, and so he became a writing perfectionist, doing detailed research and creating an outline for each of his books, allowing 2 years to write each one (www.Ken-Follett.com). He schedules his writing also. Ken works on his writing five days a week from 9:00am to 4:00pm, trying to produce around 3000 publishable words a day (Current Biography, 1990). Perhaps his strict schedule is why Follett has said, "I think of myself as a craftsman more than an artist" (Dictionary of Literary Biography, 1981). Follett's subsequent novels include: Triple, The Key to Rebecca, The Man from St. Petersburg, Lie Down with Lions, On the Wings of Eagles, Pillars of the Earth, Night over Water, A Dangerous Fortune, A Place Called Freedom, The Third Twin, and his most recent as of March 2000, The Hammer of Eden. Hammer of Eden was published by Pan Macmillan. Ken Follett's numerous bestsellers and renowned critical success at both spy and historical action novels as earned him much fame and fortune. Living in his luxurious mansion that overlooks the Thames River in London, the lavish dresser has fulfilled a dream: "I always wanted to be rich and famous" (Current Biography, 1990).
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Ken Follett's novel, Eye of the Needle, was met with enthusiasm and excitement by both readers and critics upon its release in July, 1978. Many reviewers praised its high-paced action, and lauded Follett's ability to keep a reader on the edge of his or her seat. Regardless of whether or not one enjoys spy novels, the reviewers still believe that the writing style of Eye of the Needle captivates an audience. The New Yorker gave Follett's first bestseller only a lukewarm review, but having less than positive remarks about the plot: "This is a melodrama - Grade A, prime, 100-proof melodrama: the highest of high foolishness." The article went on to compliment the novel's pace, however. "Mr. Follett is," the article said, "a very tricky fellow, and he keeps us running, stumbling and falling but scrambling up again on and on to the very last lurid page." P.S Prescott, for Newsweek, agreed with the New Yorker's analysis of the novel's pace, giving high marks for, "its remarkable pace, its astute use of violence, sense of particular environments - and its occasionally felicitous prose." Prescott was not the only reviewer to notice Eye of the Needle's sexual honesty. Michael Wood, from Time called Follett's description of sexual activity, "careful," and noticed that, "the beautiful girl is a frisky and courageous piece of wish fulfillment." Aside from their positive critical reviews, some did not find Follett's novel quite as enjoyable as their high marks made it sound. In Prescott's piece he described the book as merely, "more than tolerable." Wood's reading was similar: "This book was so well done?I was surprised to find myself not liking it more than I did." Perhaps the most soaring contemporary review came from Roderick MacLeish from the Washington Post. He said that Eye of the Needle, "was quite simply the best spy novel to come out of England in years." He also said, unabashedly: "If Frederick Forsyth could write as well as he can plot and if John Le Carre could plot as well as he can write, one of them might have produced Eye of the Needle. A reviewr for Harpers also saw the association between Le Carre and Follett. The November 1978 issue included a review that calls , "unencumbered with the psychological and moral probings that complicate the spy thrillers of the John Le Carre school." The same reviewer continues to say that, "Follett plays his stock figures across his chessboard with consumate skill." He also agrees that Follett's novel, "moves fast and doesn't let up." A quotation from Ken Follett's official website records the criticism from Publisher's Weekly: "a terrific thriller, so pulse-pounding, so ingenious in its plotting, and so frighteningly realistic that you simply cannot stop reading."
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Ken Follett's novel, Eye of the Needle, was met with enthusiasm and excitement by both readers and critics upon its release in July, 1978. Many reviewers praised its high-paced action, and lauded Follett's ability to keep a reader on the edge of his or her seat. Regardless of whether or not one enjoys spy novels, the reviewers still believe that the writing style of Eye of the Needle captivates an audience. The New Yorker gave Follett's first bestseller only a lukewarm review, but having less than positive remarks about the plot: "This is a melodrama - Grade A, prime, 100-proof melodrama: the highest of high foolishness." The article went on to compliment the novel's pace, however. "Mr. Follett is," the article said, "a very tricky fellow, and he keeps us running, stumbling and falling but scrambling up again on and on to the very last lurid page." P.S Prescott, for Newsweek, agreed with the New Yorker's analysis of the novel's pace, giving high marks for, "its remarkable pace, its astute use of violence, sense of particular environments - and its occasionally felicitous prose." Prescott was not the only reviewer to notice Eye of the Needle's sexual honesty. Michael Wood, from Time called Follett's description of sexual activity, "careful," and noticed that, "the beautiful girl is a frisky and courageous piece of wish fulfillment." Aside from their positive critical reviews, some did not find Follett's novel quite as enjoyable as their high marks made it sound. In Prescott's piece he described the book as merely, "more than tolerable." Wood's reading was similar: "This book was so well done?I was surprised to find myself not liking it more than I did." Perhaps the most soaring contemporary review came from Roderick MacLeish from the Washington Post. He said that Eye of the Needle, "was quite simply the best spy novel to come out of England in years." He also said, unabashedly: "If Frederick Forsyth could write as well as he can plot and if John Le Carre could plot as well as he can write, one of them might have produced Eye of the Needle. A reviewr for Harpers also saw the association between Le Carre and Follett. The November 1978 issue included a review that calls , "unencumbered with the psychological and moral probings that complicate the spy thrillers of the John Le Carre school." The same reviewer continues to say that, "Follett plays his stock figures across his chessboard with consumate skill." He also agrees that Follett's novel, "moves fast and doesn't let up." A quotation from Ken Follett's official website records the criticism from Publisher's Weekly: "a terrific thriller, so pulse-pounding, so ingenious in its plotting, and so frighteningly realistic that you simply cannot stop reading."
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
Eye of the Needle, published by Arbor House in 1978, vaulted Ken Follett to nearly immediate success and literary renown. The novel, his first bestseller, received international acclaim from general readers and critics alike. Coming from a tradition of spy thrillers including Ian Fleming and John le Carre, Follett leaves his mark on the genre, partly through Eye of the Needle, by successfully integrating detailed characterization and a racing plot that mimics history. Eye of the Needle shows the literary community that a spy thriller can be documentary rather than just formulaic in its plot, as well as succeed with a strong female protagonist. This essay seeks to highlight what Ken Follett's story teaches readers about best-selling fiction writing through the way Follett reinvents the stereotypical spy novel. The category of bestsellers dealing with espionage and suspense was growing dramatically at the time of Eye of the Needle's publication. The simple spy or secret agent story was nothing new to the literary world. In fact, Publisher's Weekly reported that, "the suspense drama was clearly the favorite category for reading entertainment" in the 1970s (Freeman 22). Bruce Merry in the Anatomy of the Spy Thriller noted that "one in four of all new books [in 1977 was] a thriller of some sort," (1). Best-selling authors, such as Ian Fleming and John le Carre, already had captured the attention of millions with characters like James Bond and George Smiley. They typified the spy story until this point; their characters played roles as counter-spies and unassuming moles. Fleming was "largely unconcerned with the real world" in his novels, they were more concentrated upon "simply the good versus the bad" (Atkins 74). His novels were also very formulaic: a bad force, usually Russian, threatened the good force, either Britain or the Americas, and Britain's never-say-die secret agent, Bond, was called to save the world from certain catastrophe. Le Carre "popularized the mole who burrowed from within" to destroy confidence and security (Atkins 186). He also brought a "literary fastidiousness to the spy thriller" as a reaction to the methodic Fleming novels (McCormick 108). In the late 1970s, Follett emerged with the documentary thriller, meant to capture readers' attentions with increasingly fast-paced plots and realistic settings. It proved that the genre was still in flux, with the ability to change. Follett's Eye of the Needle, like Forsyth's The Day of the Jackal, demonstrated this new thriller technique. Their documentary form comprised of a historical premise on which to base the story and a main character who exuded professionalism. Follett's story is set in Britain during World War II. His writing style forms a fiction that weaves into the grid of Britain's actual history. In the preface to Eye of the Needle, Follett gives an account of the historical events surrounding his novel's plot, and then says: "That much is history. What follows is fiction. Still and all, one suspects something like this must have happened" (Follett vii). Follett's novel tells an alternate view of history, fulfilling the "ineradicable popular belief that the real facts of history are never given" (Denning 147). In this manner, he not only arouses the interest and suspicion of his readers leading to an increase in sales figures, but also helps to evolve the documentary thriller niche. As for the professionalism of his characters, Follett's Henry Faber is spy extraordinaire. He melds into the British culture well enough to cause women to lust after him (Follett 7), but still can kill without remorse (Follett 9), and detect elaborate plots meant to catch and destroy him (Follett 138). Faber - as a novel's main character - fits into a group of protagonists who are "mercenaries who mobilize the reader's sympathies by their position in the foreground, even though they are working for the 'wrong' side" (Denning 146). He is simultaneously loved and despised. By including this sort of character and exemplifying the documentary thriller with fictional possibilities painted onto a grid of historical accuracy, Follett's Eye of the Needle makes new headway in this sub-genre of the spy novel. The professional duality of Henry Faber does more than just classify Eye of the Needle as a documentary thriller, though, it also lends merit to the in-depth characterization that a reader will find in Follett's first bestseller. By developing multi-sided and unpredictable characters, Follett departs from the typical thriller or espionage novel. In earlier forms, the spy would often adhere to a character model that regarded the spy as a "man of integrity, yet prepared to be a criminal" (Atkins 143). As mentioned before, Fleming's characters were mainly divided by whether or not they were good or evil. Bond was flamboyant, rugged, and sexual, and so one sided that it led some critics to call Fleming "careless" about the "psychological credibility" of his characters (Atkins 74). The reader always knew how Bond would act: drinking the same drink, seducing women, and defeating evil. Le Carre, in literary response, made his title protagonist, George Smiley, one who was "faceless" - a man who "reads German poetry" (Atkins 186). Smiley was an unassuming agent, one who drew little attention to himself, unlike the Bond of a decade before. In their book, The Spy Story, Cawelti and Rosenberg commented that the representative spy derived his heroism from, "his physical and psychic self-reliance, his self-possession and containment, [and] his moral and psychological strength" (213). Follett reinvents this spy genre trait by giving his characters the gift of variation. In Lucy Freeman's compilation of essays about spy and murder mystery novels, she includes a chapter by Follett about a necessary trait to successful novels: characterization. In his essay, The Spy as Hero and Villain, Follett answers the question: is it possible for a character to be both hero and villain? Through the building of characters, Follett says, one can create a more successful suspense story than one otherwise would be able to using poor characters and a good plot (Freeman 74). "A cliffhanger," he says, "is not suspenseful unless you care about the man who is hanging there" (74). In creating his novels' characters, readers of this essay learn that Follett prefers to create not just a contemporary history for them, but a detailed background. Follett has realized that, "plot develops out of character and not the other way around" (Ramet 46). By giving histories, he educates the reader with a description of the character's parents, and thus allows the development of the character's traits from childhood rather than the mere assumption of the typical stereotypes without an explanation about how or why the person became the way they are. He suggests, "doing the unexpected," (Freeman 76) with characters to make them more realistic, and relies on introspection as "a primary literary technique," (Ramet 44) Henry Faber, from Eye of the Needle, is a prime example of both. Thus, to compose the critically successful spy novel, Follett sought to create characters with history and more than one personality layer. Faber, for instance, had to be "a convincing villain" with "some likeable traits" (Freeman 76). Examining Faber, the reader will see Follett's innovative characterization. A German spy who infiltrates the British defenses and almost costs and allied defeat in World War II, Faber is less devilish than one may assume. He becomes physically sick, for instance, after every kill. "He had killed before, so he expected the reaction - it always came? he threw up," writes Follett (9). Faber still sees the British as the enemy, and he justifies his actions with the war, but he is human also, not a bloodthirsty animal. The reader learns intricacies of Faber's personality throughout the novel. He, "was proud of his ability to crosswords in English" (114), feared failure (56), and could be sensitive with a woman (195). At the same time, he could murder, lie, and commit adultery. Faber is a complex character; one made vulnerable by Follett's insistence on characterization. For this reason, the reader does not know how he will react - they are taught by his previous actions to expect the unexpected. As the novel concludes, then, Faber's characterization adds to the excitement by leaving readers guessing as to his next move. Faber's complexity is not the only character that separates Eye of the Needle from other best-selling spy thrillers, however. Throughout the novel, readers come across others who also do not behave as one would expect them to in this type of genre. It is this novelty that makes Follett distinct. In the first chapter, for instance, Follett reveals the inward thoughts of a relatively small character, Mrs. Garden. She was a lonely woman, in need of a man's company. Follett gives her a past - a deceased husband - a problem with alcohol, and a guilty conscience about her sexual desires. Her inner conflict contributes to the book, rather than her physical actions alone. The reader feels for her and associates with her. As she contemplates seducing Faber, Follett poses the question: "What did she have to lose" (7). Shockingly, the answer was - everything. Later, Follett introduces David and Lucy, a love-stricken pair who dabble in pre-marital sex, get married, and then must deal with the consequences of a car crash that leaves David paralyzed from the waist down. The reader not only observes their transition into marriage and life on Storm Island, but also sees the communication breakdown and lack of sexual intimacy between the two. Their characters do not merely play a role for Follett's overall plot, they add to the depth of his spy thriller by giving life and history to two supposedly minor characters. By forming their personalities early, Follett creates an emotional tie to the characters and can later use that emotion to promote suspense. He adds the thrill to the thriller through characterization. Thus far, this essay has shown how Follett's Eye of the Needle demonstrates how a bestseller can create a new genre, the documentary thriller, and showing that the use of characterization adds suspense to this new classification. Now, it will explore how the combination of these two elements produces the freedom of sexual expression and the existence of a female heroine. Other best-selling spy novels do not transcend this unwritten gender boundary. "Sex nearly always strikes a false note in the spy novel," Atkins writes, "the men may be men, but most of the women are much closer to automatic girls" (272). Atkins also says that for most spy novels, "the important thing is to keep sex easy, and to get on with the major lines of the story" (272). Follett's novel does not follow this trend. Lucy is far from an automated girl, who plays her role as sexual pawn and unthinking minor character. She has strength, compassion, vulnerability, lust, and heroism. These characteristics allow for Lucy to emerge as the novel's heroine by the end, thus continuing to reform the typical spy bestseller. Follett combines his tale of suspense with a love story and sees it "as a turning point in the thriller form since for the first time it could include a strong female character" (Ramet 43). Unlike other weak and stereotypical female characters, in the Bond novels for instance, Lucy's character grows in its depth and strength with the progression of the novel. After Faber crashes onto Storm Island, it only takes a matter of days to transforms her from sex-starved wife to sex-satisfied lover. Her sexual yielding turns into gender dominance by the end, as she kills Faber and saves the war. She makes him vulnerable in passion, and then exposes him in rage. By creating this female heroine, Follett shows how, in his spy thriller, "love conquers all and societal order will be restored" (Ramet 52). Lucy participates in both the conquering and the restoration. The fact that Follett, "isn't ashamed to use all the traditional thriller devices of entertainment to serious ends?war, love, disappointment, and hope," further differentiates Eye of the Needle from previous spy thrillers (Ramet 52). He crosses gender boundaries and attracts women readers through his realistic and complex female characters. Consequently, Eye of the Needle has garnered literary lauding from those familiar with the traditional spy thriller. Follett's novel reinvented espionage patterns and expectations, widening the realm of successful possibilities for spy novelists. In summation of Follett's contributions to the spy novel, Follett expert Carlos Ramet notes:
"[Follett contributes through] the inclusion of the strong, believably strong female characters?and through the expression of a post-1960s egalitarianism that stands in marked contrast to either the schoolboy's adulation of the damsel in distress or the tough guys disdain for 'dames' and domesticity" (Ramet 3).
He is decidedly different than his predecessors, using history and characterization as the colors at his artistic disposal when painting the perfect suspense novel. Spy novels before Follett's Eye of the Needle had progressed from Fleming's stark yet shallow good versus evil duality, to le Carre's meticulous and lengthy prose. Follett arrives to the literary scene with new convictions about the spy thriller. Looking closely at Eye of the Needle teaches one about the changing spy genre and the category of best-selling literature as a whole. Useful Sources Atkins, John. The British Spy Novel: Styles in Treachery. Riverrun Press: New York, 1984. Denning, Micheal. Cover Stories: a Narrative and Ideology in the British Spy Thriller. Routledge and Kegan Paul: London, 1987. Freeman, Lucy. The Murder Mystique: Crime Writers on Their Art. Frederick Unger Publishing: New York, 1982. Follett, Ken. Eye of the Needle. Arbor House: New York, 1978. Who's Who in Spy Fiction. McCormick, Ed. Merry, Bruce. Anatomy of the Spy Thriller. Gill and Macmillan: Dublin, 1977. Ramet, Carlos. Ken Follett: the Transformation of a Writer. Bowling Green State University Popular Press: Bowling Green, 1999.
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