In February 1967, a one-off television drama in the series Armchair Theatre introduced the surly, complex and ferociously downbeat character of David Callan - a professional hit-man working for a very dirty section of British Intelligence. As portrayed by the actor Edward Woodward, Callan was to become an iconic figure of espionage fiction, appearing in novels, a film and an immensely popular television series. This is the first of five novels written by Callan's creator, James Mitchell, featuring his human, but not necessarily pleasant hero.
How any narrator could have researched his work so sloppily as not to know that Toby Meres' surname rhymes with 'fears' beats me. 'Merres' is wrong on so many levels that it really grated all the way through. The rest of the reading is weakly characterised too: Hunter and Meres not upper class enough, Lonely far too assertive and Callan himself is too bland. Mitchell's story - beautifully written, strongly plotted and economically constructed - survives this weak performance, but I hope subsequent readers will listen to Edward Woodward, Russel Hunter and Anthony Valentine - Callan, Lonely and Meres from the tv series - to get an idea of how it should be done.