Grouchy CIA assassin Joe Gall is our narrator, and the novel opens with his arrival on the Caribbean island nation of Antigua, which Gall hilariously describes as a “sunbaked poorhouse.” He’s a politically-incorrect curmudgeon and no fan of the Caribbean islands or their native people. He’s also rather hilarious in his narration leaving me surprised at the quality of Philips' prose. He really was a delightful writer.
The mission involves a group of black rebels planning to seize all transportation and communication facilities throughout the Caribbean islands. This includes cruise ships, freighters and private yachts as well as radar and weather stations. The only nations exempt from this plan are, of course, Haiti and Cuba. The Black Militant mastermind behind this planned regional disruption of the public order is employed as the purser on a cruise ship, and Gall needs to be on-board to stop the scheme.
The plot is interesting and easy to follow as the story bounces from the Caribbean island of Antigua to Dominica to St. Lucia. However, halfway through the paperwork, a nemesis from the previous installment, The Trembling Earth Contract (1969) — in which Gall famously goes undercover as a black man by dying his skin — returns to continue the fight. The author does a nice job of getting the reader up-to-speed, but in a perfect world, one would read them in order (I didn’t).
The Joe Gall series has a reputation among Men’s Adventure Paperback connoisseurs as having plotting problems. The stories either make no sense or go off the rails midway through the novel. This one was pretty straightforward. The action scenes were solid. The social commentary involving the black power movement of the era wouldn’t fly in today’s world, but that’s part of the fun of reading paperbacks from 53 years ago. Overall, The Fer-De-Lance Contract was fun adventure novel and an easy recommendation.