David (as he's currently known) was one of an elite corps of spies trained during the chilliest days of the Cold War. But those days are long gone and for nine years he has been an ordinary, upstanding citizen....Until, that is, a phone call in the middle of the night awakens him. The only other known survivor of that elite corps has gone rogue. They need David to stop him.
What ensues is an existential cat-and-mouse game played out across the board that is the American landscape. Haunting, visceral, and utterly magnificent, Death Will Have Your Eyes is a novel about spying in the way that All the King's Men is a novel about politics - ultimately, its agents spy into that oddity known as the human condition.
James Sallis is a superb writer
- The Times
Sublime, soulful, and essential
- Mike Stafford, Bookgeeks
If Camus wrote pulp, he'd read like Sallis
- Andrew Donaldson, Times South Africa
Sallis is a fastidious man, intelligent and widely read. There's nothing slapdash or merely strategic about his work ... peculiar and visionary.
- Iain Sinclair, London Review of Books
An immensely rewarding read
- Paul Kane, @JildySauce
Sallis is a superb writer and this is his best novel yet!
- Michael Moorcock [read the full review]
Sallis investigates the cynical, violent, sophisticated world of modern espionage with authority and originality. His adult view of spies and their world has all the delicious ambiguous atmosphere, the complexity of plot and character we expect from Graham Greene or John le Carré - and it goes like a bullet train. Sallis is a superb writer and this is his best novel yet!
The espionage novel as existential road movie. Outstanding.
- Gerald Houghton, The Edge Magazine [read the full review]
As his recent crime fiction is to Agatha Christie, so James Sallis’ self-styled ‘novel about spies’ stands in chilly contrast to the preposterous Tom Clancy. This is a novel about spies, in much the way his marvellous Lew Griffin novels are about their detective, not his detection.
The Cold War is over. ‘David’ and his ilk were trained as assassins for an elite spy corps. Now he and his girlfriend live quietly outside; ordinary, happy. Until nine years of peace are shattered by the call telling him two of his kind survived and now the best of the best, Luc Planchat, has gone rogue. It’s down to David to ‘document’ him.
Death Will Have Your Eyes tracks this game down the lost highways of North America from Washington to New Orleans. David cruises long straight roads to rolling jazz, stopping off at half-empty towns and truck-stops, watching the America he moves through – ‘poster shops, massage parlors, fast-food bistros done up in Art Deco or lavender and chrome’ – and reassuming his mantle in a succession of rented rooms.
But don’t assume you know this book. From page 64: ‘The obligatory car chase was taking place rather early on in the movie.’ This is about aftermaths, about returning, revisiting; the journey is as much interior as exterior. These spies are performers, actors who assume the cars, the costumes of character. We think of Alain Delon in Melville’s astounding Le Samourai, wrapped in his armour-like raincoat, the surrounding film defiantly deconstructing itself in his wake.
There’s no urgency, whether David is hanging out in lazy bars or watching TV in a motel room or being shot at in his car. He carries a book bag with him everywhere. Instead, this is a melancholy book about haunted people and the consequences of the past. We are reminded of directors Monte Hellman and Terence Davies, especially the latter’s plan for a car chase: one car, going very slowly. This book is more content to discuss Chomsky than cross-border intrigue: ‘All the things we cared for so passionately, all the things we believed in so strongly, have come to be of no more consequence than an old sweater, a stamp collection.’ Its violence is brutal but detached. This a book in which the word should is more dangerous than a handgun with the safety off. The espionage novel as existential road movie. Outstanding. •
Gerald Houghton, The Edge Magazine
Vivid and strange, with prose like blown glass, Death Will Have Your Eyes is somehow equal parts Borges and Trevanian's Shibumi. I was enthralled.
- Jonathan Lethem