Showing posts with label Jimmy Sangster. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jimmy Sangster. Show all posts

Monday, December 16, 2019

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 24

It’s the end of the year and the last episode of the Paperback Warrior Podcast for 2019. In celebration of our inaugural year, we are revisiting the greatest books we read this year along with lots of edgy vintage paperback talk. Stream below or at your favorite podcast provider for our “Best of 2019” extravaganza. Download directly HERE Listen to "Episode 24: Best of 2019" on Spreaker.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 09

This episode features Tom's guide to building a "reader's library" for your home or office. We discuss the new reprint from Brash Books called "Spy Killer" (1967) by Jimmy Sangster and we look at "Bloody Vengeance" (1973) by Jack Ehrlich. We also look back at the month of August and some of our favorite titles. Stream it on any service, listen below or download here: Link Listen to "Episode 09: Building a Reader's Library" on Spreaker.

Foreign Exchange

The 'John Smith' spy novels were created by British author Jimmy Sangster (1927-2011) in the late 1960s. Influenced by Ian Fleming's James Bond, Sangster's espionage flair propelled "Private I" to be published in 1967 and later adapted for film. That novel featured British secret agent John Smith's exploits in a China-Russia crossover that was funny, entertaining and engaging. NY Times bestselling authors Lee Goldberg and Joel Goldman reprinted the novel as "The Spy Killer" this year under their Brash Books imprint.

"The Spy Killer" finale left our spy hero in dire circumstances. Thankfully, Sangster revisited the book just a year later, publishing the sequel, "Foreign Exchange," in 1968. It was also treated to a film adaptation, and Brash Books reprinted the novel for a new generation to experience this excellent duo of espionage thrillers.

Without an immediate answer to the events that occurred in the prior book, “Foreign Exchange” begins in similar fashion as it's predecessor – John Smith working as a destitute private investigator in London. In a hilarious sequence of events, Smith agrees to assist Harvey, his office neighbor and talent agent, in a pregnancy blackmail case. A young singer named Anne has accused Harvey of knocking her up, a problem she can solve if Harvey pays her some cash. Harvey claims he didn't have relations with her, only a business relationship. This leads Smith to the club circuit where he eventually locates Anne (who is smokin' hot/isn't pregnant) and attempts to sleep with her many times. Unfortunately, Anne claims Smith just isn't her type. This sequence only absorbs 30-pages but I would have been delighted if it consumed the whole book. But this is a spy thriller, so on with the show.

Smith's financial distress is explained as a reference back to the closing pages of the prior book. With Smith flat broke (and rejected by a sultry sex-pot), it's just a matter of time before he accepts another assignment from his former boss Max, the head of the Secret Service. The Service has a Russian double-agent that they have been utilizing for years to spill false intelligence back to the Russians. For many reasons, this agent is no longer useful and they want Russia to take him off of their hands (in lieu of a public trial and prison). To do this, they want Smith to be a planted spy to be captured and imprisoned in Russia. Then, Max will wheel and deal and trade the double-agent back to Russia in exchange for Smith. For Smith, it is a month vacation in Russia and the promise of a cool $10K for doing the job. But, can Max be trusted? What if Smith is abandoned and condemned to the salt mines?

We covered David Morrell's short story “The Interrogator” (2011) [LINK] and praised it's effective, fascinating interrogation scenes. “Foreign Exchange” is boiling over with that gripping realism, with a lot of the narrative dedicated to interrogation scenes between Smith and his jailer Borensko. There's so much that Sangster builds into this fast-paced narrative. His conversational tone, dense with witty sarcasm and funny quips from Smith, enhances what is a rather dense plot. Thankfully, the author keeps the story moving well enough to allow brisk page turns - unlike, say, a technical espionage thriller that requires exhaustive notes and a deep knowledge of global alliances.

With sexy foreplay and an intriguing plot, “Foreign Exchange” is one of the best kept secrets of the spy genre. Thankfully, Brash Books has unearthed this treasure and is sharing it with the literary world.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

The Spy Killer

British author Jimmy Sangster (1927-2011) was a successful screenwriter and director, contributing to Hammer Films' classics like “The Curse of Frankenstein” (1957), “Dracula” (1958) and “Lust for a Vampire” (1970). His passion for screenwriting was paralleled by his literary work. Capitalizing on the success of fellow Brit Ian Fleming's 'James Bond' empire, Sangster created the lady spy novel “Touchfeather” and the sequel “Touchfeather Too” in 1968 and 1970. Enjoying the espionage genre, the author wrote two novels featuring former British spy John Smith, “Private I” (1967) and sequel “Foreign Exchange” (1968). New York Times bestselling author Lee Goldberg has resurrected both novels for his Brash Books imprint, renaming “Private I” as “The Spy Killer.” Both are available with new artwork in digital and print versions.

“The Spy Killer” introduces readers to ex-British spy John Smith, now a lowly private-eye struggling to fulfill financial obligations to his creditors. To his surprise he obtains a paying client in the opening chapter – his ex-wife. She hires Smith to track down her new husband, Dunning, whom she fears may be having an affair with a man named Alworthy. Smith, giddy to receive money while relishing in his ex's misfortune,  agrees to tail her husband in hopes of photographing him and a lover.

Smith learns that Dunning is Principal Under-Secretary for Britain's Foreign Office and during a rather clever exercise, stumbles on the whereabouts of a meeting between both Dunning and his suspected lover, Alworthy. Arrriving at the residence with a camera, Smith is greeted by Alworthy as he bursts out of the couple's front door. Thanking Smith for arriving so quickly, the two hastily rush inside where Alworthy shows Smith the bloody dead corpse of Dunning! Alworthy, thinking Smith is a police officer, excuses himself to the kitchen while Smith awaits the police's arrival. Once there, all fingers point to Smith as they surprisingly confirm that there is no Alworthy in the house.

In jail, Smith fears that someone has blackmailed him. Through some backstory segments, we experience Smith's violent past, including the grim slaughter of a household of youths. It's a valued effort on the author's part to transcend the novel from sleuth private-eye into the international spy novel it aspires to be. As the novel moves into espionage, we learn that Smith has stumbled onto a plot by the Chinese to uncover American spies in their red state. Facing criminal charges for murdering Dunning, Smith is forced out of retirement by his notorious boss, Max. Temporarily freeing him, Max instructs Smith to find Alworthy, locate a stolen notebook and return it to Max. If the mission is a failure, Smith will either be killed or face a one-sided murder trial.

Sangster successfully runs the gambit of private-eye, murder mystery and international spy-thriller, creating enough depth and dynamics to propel “The Spy Thriller” into a suspenseful and engaging high-wire act. While utilizing a lot of moving parts, Sangster's spy hero fights and manipulates his enemies into a complex game of cat-and-mouse from London to Paris. Surprisingly, the book's strength lies in the fact that Smith is a very human, very flawed champion. His skill-set, while durable, is offset by his rather humorous clumsiness. Thankfully, this isn't the lovemaking, tuxedo-wearing international hero that saturated the market.

While not as  dominant as his contemporaries, Sangster proved he was a master craftsman. “The Spy Thriller” is exceptional. Critics agreed as both "Private I" and "Foreign Exchange" were adapted for film starring Robert Horton (Wagon Train).

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Monday, July 9, 2018

Touchfeather #01 - Touchfeather

Following the success of Ian Fleming’s James Bond paperbacks, espionage novels with sophisticated and debonair heroes became all the rage. Over time, this morphed into a glut of spy novels starring sexy, female protagonists. Most of these were tongue-in-cheek affairs that parodied the espionage genre as much as they honored it. 'The Baroness', 'The Lady from L.U.S.T.', and 'Modesty Blaise' were some of the more popular titles of this literary fad.

British Author and screenwriter Jimmy Sangster threw his hat into the lady spy arms race with his 'Touchfeather' books, a series that lasted a mere two novels in 1968 and 1970. Thankfully, Lee Goldberg’s Brash Books imprint has brought these books back to life in paperback, ebook, and audio formats.

Katy Touchfeather is a sexy, undercover British operative for an unnamed government agency run by the mysterious Mr. Blaser. The gimmick is that Katy was recruited from her job as a stewardess (or air hostess, if you prefer), and she maintains this cover as it gives her access to foreign nations and horny male targets who fancy chatting up a comely member of the flight crew.

When we meet Katy - she’s our narrator - we learn she’s a seasoned operative who has been doing this awhile with great success. A fascinating flashback gives us her origin story and explains how a foxy, young stewardess with a robust sex drive becomes an international woman of mystery.

The current assignment has Katy traveling to Bombay as a flight attendant for Air India with the goal of attracting the attention of a technology professor who may or may not be stealing trade secrets and providing them to couriers working for foreign adversaries. Following a well-described lovemaking session, Katy catches feelings for the guy and becomes conflicted about her covert assignment. How can a man who rogers her so adeptly be an intellectual property thief? From there, the action bounces between several exotic and domestic locales.

Sangster was a notch above his cohorts in this sub-genre, and "Touchfeather" is surprisingly well-written. Thankfully, it never descended into silliness or parody. It wasn’t perfect - there were padded sections and the plot meandered a bit - even over the course of the lean 200 pages. However, all the novel’s shortcomings are redeemed by Katy Touchfeather herself. Sangster created a heroine so fun, charming and beguiling that it’s hard not to enjoy the imperfect story he gave her.

This was a good novel but not a masterpiece. I enjoyed it well enough that I’m promising myself to one day check out the sequel, “Touchfeather, Too.” I’ll keep you posted.