Friday, April 24, 2020

Super Secret Agent Philis #01 - The Fall Guy

Between 1972 and 1985, Ritchie Perry (born 1942) wrote a 13-book series starring a British Intelligence agent named Philis (a dude) battling international criminals who pose a national security threat to Great Britain. In the U.S., the paperbacks were published by Ballantine, but many of them have been released as ebooks which should save you some time hunting them down. Start with the 1972 opening installment, The Fall Guy.

The British Intelligence arm in the series is SR(2) with the initials standing for “Special Responsibilities.” The group is designed to do things the police are not able to - namely assassinate threats without the blessing of a judge or jury. In this series debut, Scotland Yard wants SR(2)’s help in neutralizing the South American end of a cocaine trafficking operation, while the cops handle the domestic arm in the U.K. After an SR(2) sleeper agent in Brazil goes missing during the investigation of a drug exporter, a new operative is needed in the region. Enter Philis.

The Fall Guy serves as an origin story for Agent Philis - the hero of the 13 book series. When we meet him, he is a small-time British smuggler of booze and cigarettes working a beach town in Brazil. After a lengthy prologue giving the readers a third-person view of the intel agency’s mission and its challenges, the narrative abruptly switches to first person with charming and humorous Philis telling the story.

Philis is a wisecracking playboy who is kidnapped by SR(2) operatives who convince him to search for the missing SR(2) agent in a Brazilian beach town. Nearly the entire paperback takes place on the Brazilian coastline, and the author, who has also written a non-fiction book about Brazil, makes the culture and topography come alive. It’s a great setting for a thrilling adventure. As Philis gets closer to the truth about the missing spy, the author ratchets up the intensity and extreme violence. Consider yourself warned.

Where does the Super Secret Agent Philis series fall among its spy-fiction cohorts? It’s not as dense as a Robert Ludlum novel, but it’s way smarter and better-written than a Nick Carter: Killmaster volume. The cheeky first-person narration reminds me of Donald Hamilton’s Matt Helm series, and the well-written Britishness of the whole affair recalls Adam Hall’s Quiller books. In any case, it’s a way smarter book than the illustration on the paperback cover would have you believe.

In short, I haven’t been this excited to start a new espionage series in a long time. Hopefully, the later installments keep up the same level of high quality on display in The Fall Guy.

Series Order:

As is often the case, the American publisher renumbered the series differently for the domestic reprints. However, with the exception of the first installment, I’m told that adhering to strict series order is not required. The series order below is the best that the Spy Guys and Gals website could discern given the available data:

1. The Fall Guy (1972)
2. A Hard Man to Kill / Nowhere Man (1973)
3. Ticket to Ride (1973)
4. Holiday with a Vengeance (1974)
5. Your Money and Your Wife (1975)
6. One Good Death Deserves Another (1976)
7. Dead End (1977)
8. Dutch Courage (1978)
9. Bishop’s Pawn (1979)
10. Grand Slam (1980)
11. Fool’s Mate (1981)
12. Foul Up (1982)
13. Kolwezi (1985)

The author also published a 1991 novel called Comeback that many sources list as the 14th book in the Super Secret Agent Philis series. My research shows that the book stars an entirely different lead character who may or may not exist in the same universe. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE

1 comment:

  1. Never heard of this series, thanks for the tip. A cross between Matt Helm and Quiller sounds very promising.

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