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The Fictional Librarian Part 2:

Spies and Libraries

by Daniel Gwyn


        As promised in my last article, this instalment of the Fictional Librarian will involve spies, or at least agents of a shadowy government agency.  Espionage is a popular subject in fiction and movies, rather unlike librarians.  Therefore, I thought I would examine a case where the two meet. 


        I could discuss the late Desmond Llewellyn’s “Q” as a librarian, in the sense that he stores things for 007.  Hmm, how does one classify an Aston Martin?  Furthermore, he displays a librarian-like impatience with James Bond’s antics.  The movies even show at least one instance of a reference interview conducted by Q on 007:  in For Your Eyes Only when Q uses a computer system to identify a suspect.


        Alternatively, I could discuss a Cold War librarians’ romance between an ex-secret agent (played by Richard Burton) and a young communist in the movie version of The Spy who came in from the cold.  This includes a discussion of cataloguing revolving which heading lycanthropes fall.


        However, I prefer to keep this column off beat.  Therefore, this article is devoted to Nathan Muckle (played by James Allodi), the librarian in John Woo’s Once a Thief. For those of you unfamiliar with this show, it was remake for Global TV of a Hong Kong action film by Woo.  The TV movie was filmed and set in Vancouver, and starred Sandrine Holt, Ivan Sergei, and Nicholas Lea.  CTV took the TV movie and transformed it into a series filmed (and implicitly set) in Toronto.



        The show only lasted one season, but in that time found the opportunity, not only to warp the original premise but also to parody its genre, as well as other cultural icons such as The X-Files, Cops, A Clockwork Orange, and Waiting for Godot.  Where the series did demonstrate some originality was in the one secondary character, namely Nathan the librarian.  Initially something of a one episode gag, where he replaced a fairly sultry female librarian, (much to the disappointment of Nicholas Lea’s character) he remained a fixture of the series.


James Allodi as Nathan Muckle


        He is fairly distinct as fictional librarians go, as he is young and male.  However, it is his attitude toward reality that truly makes him memorable.  For him, the world consists of an incredible network of conspiracies involving shadowy organisations operating behind the scenes.  This is rather ironic as he works for a trans-national crime-fighting organisation, which is described, rather than named as a “shadowy government agency.”


        The conspiracies he describes make Watergate look like open democracy.  If the Director of his branch of the “Agency” is not an insect queen controlling her underlings by phonemes, then the Knights of Malta attempted to assassinate four Kennedy brothers, falling only with Edward.  (Actually, that last one might have some validity as I have it on good authority, that when Robert Kennedy was shot, the new Grand Chancellor of the Knights of Malta (the second highest position in the organisation) was in the presence of Papal officials in the Vatican.  This becomes all the more serious, when it is known, that the Grand Chancellor previously was one of the vice-presidents at Seagram’s, working directly under Samuel Bronfman.  This brings in the possibility, it might have been a joint conspiracy, between the Vatican, the Knights of Malta, and Zionists…  Uh, sorry folks I got carried away.) 


        Nathan’s paranoia is probably attributable to his mother and his history of employment at such questionable places.  He interned at a nuclear power plant, and temped for the CIA.  The origin of his paranoia may also lie in his excessive credulity.  Nicholas Lea’s character once offered him membership in the “Inner Circle” in return for information.  In order to be “initiated” into the spurious organisation, Nathan was told to go a certain address wearing a bright yellow rain jacket, and carrying a watermelon.  This becomes all the more assuming and ironic when it is remembered that Nicholas Lea also plays the treacherous Alex Krychek on The X-Files.


        His librarian skills are best described as chaotic as he seems to too paranoid to systematically organize data.  Furthermore, he is apt to go off on tangents that result in him constantly changing his classification schemes.  His reference interview skills are shaky at best as he too often gets side tracked from the information by his imagination.  Furthermore, he lives in a certain amount of fear of his co-workers, especially of The Director (played by Jennifer Dale) who runs the Agency.  Another of his fears is that he is afraid of giving away too much information, lest it be considered by the powers that be that he knows too much…   However, he often surprises his co-workers by deducing critical information by making the necessary connections between disparate data.  In essence, his mind is twisted, but in such a way that it is useful if one is dealing with twisted data. 


This is obvious necessary in an organisation run by The Director.  Consider the following exchange between Mac Ramsey (Ivan Sergei) and The Director:


Mac:                 -So my life is going to be run by a twisted leather freak?

The Director:      -Twisted?  Yes, but freak…that’s probably going too far.


        As a librarian, he is perhaps not a great role model.  However, he makes a wonderful change from the “shhh!” stereotype of librarians in fiction.


        I would like to say which librarian the next Fictional Librarian will look at, but unfortunately, I am leaving.  However, if anyone else should choose to pick up my torch, I shall not object.


P.S.  Incidentally, my aside about the Grand Chancellor of the Knights of Malta meeting with Papal officials at the time of Robert Kennedy’s death is true.  The individual in question was my Quintin Gwyn, my Grandfather and the first (and probably the only) Canadian ever to hold that honour.  It is also true that he previously worked for Seagram’s under Samuel Bronfman (or Mr. Sam as he was referred to in the family).  However, nothing indicates that there was anything more sinister than coincidence involved. 


        Regarding the Kennedy brothers, of Joseph Jr., John F., Edward, and Robert, all were involved in violent incidents that resulted in death in three cases.  The assassinations of John and Robert are well known, as is the incident on Martha’s Vineyard in which Edward was involved.  What isn’t well known, is that, their older brother, Joseph was groomed by his father to be president.  However, he was killed in WWII when the flying bomb he was piloting exploded prematurely.


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