Saturday, April 3, 2010

Vintage Espionage III

Chaber, M. E. The Splintered Man. Pseud. Kendell Foster Crossen. N. Y. : Perma M-3080. Cover art : Roger Schultz. First printing, April 1957. [First issued in hardbound, N.Y. Rinehart, 1955]. Undercover agent Milo March tracks down a defecting West German. The Perma reissue benefits from one of vintage paperbackdom’s most unforgettable covers : a prisoner (agent March?) is being held by two KGB thugs, while in the foreground there are two sinister-looking red hands, one of which holds a red hypo. Splintered Man is of principal interest today for two reasons : 1) it's one of the earliest fictional treatments of LSD; 2) its cover, which is a colorful representative of one of the most beloved of all vintage paperback cover art themes, that of the giant hypodermic.

Mason, F. Van Wyck. Two Tickets for Tangier. N. Y. : Pocket Books 1115. First printing, April 1956. The mysterious, exotically beautiful city of Tangier has always been a natural as a backdrop for international intrigue, ranking with the likes of Vienna, Istanbul, Havana, et al. In this somewhat far-fetched Cold War yarn, the city is a principal character as globetrotting intelligence officer Col. Hugh North matches wits with a mad scientist, a Soviet master spy, and an assortment of exotic beauties in the race to find the formula for the mysterious chemical ‘Thulium-X.’ Cover art by Lou Marchetti depicts mysterious goings on in a Tangier nightclub : a scantily clad exotic dancer surreptitiously passes a note to a very suspicious-looking Col. North, with African musician in left foreground. “Colonel Hugh North tracks an alluring spy in the world's most sinful city.” – front cover.

Reed, Eliot. The Maras Affair. [Pseud. Eric Ambler]. N. Y. : Perma Books #M3025. First printing, October 1955. An American journalist in unnamed Iron Curtain Balkan country is caught up in helping refugees and also finds romance along the way. James Meese’s cover art adds emotional texture to yet another Cold War interrogation scene, this one depicting the title character in a tight spot indeed and looking very nervous as she is questioned by a menacing Red agent while a guard hovers nearby.

Sereny, Gitta. The Medallion. London : Pan Books Ltd., 1960. The story of a boy, hunted and alone behind the Iron Curtain, culminating in a hunt in occupied Vienna. An early Cold War fiction entry by an author known mainly for her nonfiction works, most notably Albert Speer : His Batle with the Truth. Nice, murky, paranoid-style front cover art, alas, unattributed. "The tension becomes almost unbearable." -- Manchester Evening News [from back cover].

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