Paperback Warrior has admired Jimmy Sangster's literary work for some time now. Both of his John Smith spy-thrillers, The Spy Killer (1967) and Foreign Exchange (1968), received positive praise as well as 1967's Touchfeather. Most of the British author's work has been resurrected and reprinted by Lee Goldberg and Joel Goldman’s Brash Books imprint. We were delighted when another of Sangster's reprinted novels hit our mailbox - 1971's Your Friendly Neighborhood Death Peddler.
The novel introduces a young guy named Anthony Bridges. He's a 29-year old, unmotivated, unemployed deadbeat. What the British would call a layabout. Anthony served a short-service commission in the British Army after graduating college. He spent a few years in the documentary business, flunked as a sales rep and is now enjoying unemployment while living with his girlfriend Lillian. Originally, the plan was just to bang Lillian and crash on her sofa a few days. But the days turned into weeks that turned into months. Now Anthony is tired of Lillian, who's a nympho, but he has no job, no home and no money. But, Lillian has fallen in love with him and Anthony doesn't have a Plan B. So she decides to take Anthony back to her childhood home to meet the parents.
Anthony discovers that Lillian's parents are uber rich. We're talking million dollar paintings in the study and a full staff tending to every need. Realizing Anthony's misplacement in the family's traditions and planning, Lillian's Dad has a private conversation with Anthony and makes a proposal - stop screwing Lillian and leave her apartment in exchange for a job. A good job with the opportunity to make thousands. Anthony then receives a card with a number on it and reluctantly calls it a few days later. The brisk, mysterious response is simply “Lunch. 12:30”.
In a hysterical sequence of events that's like something from Alice in Wonderland, Anthony travels down the rabbit hole and accepts an undisclosed job in the small African country of Lamboola. The deal is he will make 1% on commissions and $6,000 a year tax free. He also has a lavish expense account and the opportunity to travel internationally. Anthony accepts the deal and has no Earthly idea what the job actually entails.
In reality, Anthony has accepted the job as newest sales rep of illegal weapons to third world countries. The problem is that Anthony is a bumbling idiot with weaponry or sales experience or political connections. Not exactly the attributes needed to sell weapons to revolutionaries. When Anthony is asked to sell thousands of weapons - rifles, anti-aircraft weapons, explosives, tanks, basically anything useful to overthrow government - to a valuable client in Lamboola, Africa, he accidentally mistakes the names and sells the weapons to the valuable client's enemy. By doing so, he systematically creates a third-world revolution that topples the local government.
First and foremost, this book is hilarious. It's an absolute must read. Just following Anthony's disastrous showing as a weapons sales rep is worth the sticker price. For action, there's plenty. Sangster mixes peril on the high seas with numerous gunbattles and torture. Sangster does a fantastic job just poking fun at countries and their endless quests for violence and superiority. Sangster doesn't hold back, he throws China, Russia, the US and England under the bus in a lighthearted and entertaining manner.
Your Friendly Neighborhood Death Peddler uses the author's unique sense of witty, off the cuff writing to mock Earth's morbid fascination with weapons, power and greed. It's a humorous, albeit violent, deep-dive into third world politics and the zillionaires that finance it. In other words: an absolute must read.
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