Suspense, Spouses & Ghosts

darkmanA while back in this blog I wrote that there aren’t any new stories just new ways of telling old stories. A new TV series and a new crime thriller are the latest examples proving that I was right.

The FX series, The Americans and Roger Haber’s debut novel, The Ghostman are new versions of old stories but, boy, are they ever terrific takes.

Here’s a barely edited description of The Americans from FX’s website for the show:

“The Americans is a period drama about the complex marriage of two KGB spies posing as Americans in suburban Washington D.C. shortly after Ronald Reagan is elected President. The arranged marriage of Phillip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell), who have two children who know nothing about their parents’ true identity grows more passionate and genuine by the day, but is constantly tested by the escalation of the Cold War and the intimate, dangerous and darkly funny relationships they must maintain with a network of spies and informants under their control. Complicating their relationship further is Phillip’s growing sense of affinity for America’s values and way of life. Tensions also heighten up the arrival of a new neighbor, an FBI agent…tasked with fighting against foreign agents on US soil including…Russian spies posing as Americans.”

My first reaction when I heard about the show was “you’re kidding me, right?” My first reaction when I watched the show was “Wow! The writers really nailed it!” This show offers the freshest and most compelling take on love, loyalty and lying that I’ve seen in a long time. Adultery, betrayal and brutality are part of the Jennings’ job description, making it achingly difficult for them to build a genuine relationship as husband and wife while providing a stable home life for their kids. But we watch, transfixed, as they struggle to do just that. And the writers and actors totally sell it. Don’t miss The Americans!

The Ghostman is the latest incarnation of the lone, loner hero. We can trace the Ghostman’s roots from the iconic gunslinger that rides into town, to Sam Spade, Dirty Harry and Jack Reacher.

The Ghostman refines this prototypical hero, depriving him of a real name, making him a chameleon that can assume a new identity in minutes. Like Reacher, the Ghostman overcomes one impossible hurdle after another, outsmarting and out slugging the bad guys. Friendships are few and fleeting. As for romance – forget about it. Unlike Reacher, he’s a bad guy, a thief who kills without compunction and the wrongs he rights are incidental to getting what he wants. Yet we root for him, not because he’s the least bad guy but because he’s cool. And the bad guys deserve what they get. Nothing new here, folks. Just damn good writing.

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