Monday, September 9, 2019

The Big Bite

In his day, Louis Trimble (1917-1988) was a highly-regarded Seattle author of mystery, western, and science fiction novels. Like many writers of the era, he increased his output and avoided over-saturating the paperback market by using multiple pen names. He published three crime-adventure novels using his ‘Gerry Travis’ pseudonym, the last of which was titled “The Big Bite,” initially released in hardcover in 1957 and then as half of an Ace Double paperback in 1958 (paired with “The Deadly Boodle” by J.M. Flynn). “The Big Bite” remains available today as an eBook - for some reason still under the Gerry Travis name.

The short novel opens with a small boat in Mexican waters beginning a nighttime voyage with an unconscious man aboard named Orvil Curtis. The crew’s mission is to abandon Orvil on a thorny little island in the midst of brackish, fetid waters. It’s not entirely clear what’s going on at first, but it’s apparent that this Orvil fellow is in a rough spot and will probably not survive the island. The crew leaves Orvil to die and reports back to their boss, the sexy female captain of the ship using the name Natalie.

We are then introduced to our hero, Paul Knox, an independently-wealthy spy with a private corporation called World Circle that serves as an adjunct intelligence service to many righteous nations. It turns out that unconscious Orvil from the opening scene was a World Circle operative. Knox learns that Natalie, the female boat captain in Mexico, is a Soviet agent working to destabilize Cuba while setting up the island nation for a commie takeover (farfetched, I know.).

Using the cover of an insurance investigator on a missing person case, Knox travels to the Mexican coastal village to investigate his missing colleague and the enigmatic female boat captain. There’s not a ton of action, and things get rather convoluted with the jockeying for position among the cast of spies, opportunists, and liars in the Mexican town. The sizable cast of characters and amount of subterfuge at work made for a muddled plot, but Knox’s search for the truth about Orvil’s disappearance was a satisfying thread that I enjoyed immensely.

“The Big Bite” felt more like a mystery than an espionage adventure - minimal gunplay but plenty of cocktail parties filled with lies and half-truths among the attendees. Trimble’s prose is pretty excellent, and debonair spy Paul Knox is a cool hero who never appeared in any other books, to my knowledge. That’s a shame because he deserves a way better plot than this one delivered.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

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