August 2015


THE HOUSE OF FEAR. Universal, 1945. Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Aubrey Mather, Dennis Hoey, Paul Cavanagh, Holmes Herbert, Harry Cording, Sally Shepherd. Screenplay: Roy Chanslor, based on the characters created by Arthur Conan Doyle. Director: Roy William Neill.

   Yet another in the superior “B” series produced and directed by Roy William Neill, starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. This one — very loosely based on “The Adventure of the Five Orange Pips” — offers a disparate group of bachelors sharing their fortunes at a remote Old Dark House somewhere on the Gothic Coast of England until they start getting murdered one by one, their gruesome demises presaged by anonymous missives filled with orange seeds.

   Purists at the time complained loudly about this — Watson actually solves the case before Holmes does — but I found it charming, with the skillful interplay of the leads set neatly off once again by Neill’s off-noir lighting and intelligent pace.


GEORGE C. CHESBRO – Dark Chant in a Crimson Key. Mongo the Dwarf #11. Mysterious Press, hardcover, April 1992; paperback, May 1993.

   Och, Mongo, ah harrdly knew ye. This is the eleventh book about Dr. Bob Frederickson, aka Mongo the Dwarf, his brother Garth, and other assorted characters who pop up now and again. I’m not going to keep you in suspense: it’s not much. Chesbro’s tales of the dwarf detective just keep getting sillier and sillier.

   Mongo is hired by a philanthropic foundation to go to Switzerland and report on a recent swindle that’s cost them 10 mil. The criminal is reported to be John Sinclair, aka “Chant,” (a character in three books written by Chesbro as [a villain] who is supposedly hemmed up in Switzerland by a police net).

   Chant is (oh, yes) the ultimate ninja. Mongo is warned by various agencies and individuals (including his own version of Robert E. Parker’s Hawk, Veil Kendry) to stay out of it all, but doesn’t, natch. There are secret Oriental societies, deadly drugs, mystic rites, torture, and more, more, more! It’s a bummer, folks. Really. Bad stuff.

   The sad thing is that Chesbro can be and has been a very capable writer. There was room in the field for a different sort of PI, one who handled cases that slanted a tad toward the unbelievable, and in the first few books Mongo and brother Garth were both enjoyable and not too far removed from reality for some of us to relate to.

   No longer the case, I’m afraid. I don’t know how you’d classify the series now; I guess, he said reluctantly, as unreadable. ’bye, Mongo. ’bye, George.

— Reprinted from Fireman, Fireman, Save My Books #2, July 1992.

GEMINI MAN. Made-for-TV movie. NBC, 2 hours, 10 May 1976. Pilot for the series which began the following fall. Ben Murphy, Katherine Crawford, Richard Dysart, Dana Elcar, Paul Shenar. Based on the novel The Invisible Man, by H. G. Wells. Director: Alan J. Levi.

   I must not have been paying attention to the opening credits, otherwise I would have known a lot more about what to expect of this pilot film when I started watching — or perhaps H. G. Wells wasn’t mentioned. I haven’t gone back to look, but I will. (Later: The reason I didn’t remember the credits is that they are at the end of the film, and even more, no, H. G. Wells is not mentioned.)

   The phenomenon of invisibility has been around in fiction for a log time, including both TV and the movies, whether it’s physically possible or not, and Gemini Man is yet another attempt.

   Ben Murphy plays Sam Casey in both the pilot and the series that came afterward. Casey is an easy-going secret agent who’s caught in an underwater explosion while he’s examining a secret Russian satellite that has come down from orbit and landed in the Pacific. It is in the aftermath of the explosion that he discovers he has new powers.

   The only drawback? He can stay invisible only 15 minutes a day, added up cumulatively over the 24-hour period. This is a necessary plot device, since otherwise, of course, he’s Superman without the Kryponite.

   It was difficult to watch this and see Dana Elcar as the villain, working secretly for the Russian government, but so he is. Nor am I revealing anything to you you won’t know with he first 10 or 15 minutes of the movie. Unfortunately this is about all there is to know about the plot. The rest consists of jokey references to Sam’s new ability, cars driving here and there, and a serious attempt at misadventure aboard an airplane in the sky.

   I haven’t checked to see what shows that Gemini Man, the series, was up against in the fall, but of the eleven episodes filmed, only five of them were ever aired. Neither Ben Murphy nor Katherine Crawford (as scientist Dr. Abby Lawrence, also Sam’s mentor) have enough charisma to overcome what I imagine were some rather ordinary stories.

   All of the shows filmed do exist, and are available on collector-to-collector DVDs, but all in all, I don’t think I’ll pony up the $25 asking price for a set I discovered online in pristine picture quality.

Reviewed by DAVID VINEYARD:          

DANIEL SILVA – The Rembrandt Affair. Putnam, hardcover, July 2010. Signet, paperback, July 2011.

   There is no question Daniel Silva’s spy novels featuring ex-Mossad agent and art restorer Gabriel Allon are among the best written and most literate thrillers written today. The world Silva creates is both deeply realized and vividly portrayed and he orchestrates suspense and action as well as any major spy writer in a generation.

   Which is a really strange way to begin a bad review.

   This novel begins with Allon, recently retired from his employers the mysterious Office, in Cornwall with his Venetian born wife, Chiara, and visited by art dealer and friend Julian Isherwood, who is concerned with a missing Rembrandt and a murdered art restorer in Glastonbury whose latest project, a long lost Rembrandt portrait, has been stolen.

   The trail of the missing masterpiece leads Allon from haunted holy Glastonbury to Amsterdam, the center of the illegal art trade and forgery capital of Europe as well as home of Rembrandt himself, to Buenos Aires, and finally the lovely but duplicitous shores of Lake Geneva, where he finds the painting once again draws him into the world of international espionage and terrorism.

   Involved in the affair are a mysterious Swiss billionaire altruist who may also be behind the threat of modern terrorism, a guilt ridden art thief, and a beautiful London journalist, with a mistake of her own to redeem, who is key to Allon’s plan.

   And thereby hangs a tale, specifically my tale, or at least my review of this tale, because in Moscow Rules he recruits a beautiful woman to help him bring down a wealthy Russian secretly financing terrorism, and in Portrait of a Spy he recruits a beautiful woman to help him bring down an American born cleric in Yemen, and in The English Assassin

   In each Allon has tried to quit the business, in each he stumbles onto a terrorist plot, in each some piece of art work is involved, in some the woman from the previous book helps him recruit the woman in the next. The women are all sophisticated, beautiful, and willing to use their minds and bodies to aid in the dangerous game afoot.

   In short, of the six books I’ve read by Daniel Silva they all have the exact same plot. Virtually no variation worth mentioning.

   It’s more than that though. Of the six books I have read he mentions a Mercedes Maybark on virtually the same page with virtually the same description.

   I have no problem with formula. Most great genre fiction is by nature formulaic. The gimmick on the old Man from U.N.C.L.E. series was that each week an innocent person would be drawn into the mission and be key to its success; but it wasn’t the virtually same person every week and no one was charging me close to $30 to read the damn things.

   Silva writes undeniably well, and his research and atmosphere are first rate, but he repeats the same book over and over and over, and it doesn’t matter if the characters have new names and some of the details and locations vary, each and every book is about a powerful untouchable shadow figure in the world of terrorism brought down by the reluctant spy Allon by pimping out a beautiful successful worldly woman.

   You would think someone would catch on eventually when he does damn near the same thing on the same page every book. This is as bad as S. S. Van Dine introducing the murderer in every Philo Vance mystery on the same page and line in every book.

   I can’t help but think that Silva is a better writer than this and his readers deserve more. I may be wrong. Perhaps they want to read the exact same book at $30 a pop over and over and over. Maybe they have short term memory problems. Maybe they don’t care and it is the world Silva portrays they love and plot and story and character don’t matter to them.

   Over time all writers repeat themselves, fall back on familiar phrases (James Bond’s ‘authentic comma of black hair’), revisit certain places, but even prolific John Creasey at the least managed to move the milieu from the Toff, to the Baron, to Patrick Dawlish, to Gideon, and so on and not do the exact same plot in the same series every time.

   It’s not that Silva repeats himself, it’s that he makes no effort to disguise it. He simply writes the same damn book over and over and expects his readers either to not notice or accept it, and no matter how talented he is, that is the work of a hack and not a writer. I have no problem with a writer selling out to success, but I do have a problem when he sells out his audience as well.

   Yes, it does matter for those of you who say so what. It matters because success like his breeds more bad books that do the same thing, and more lazy writers who think they can get away with it, and in the long run readers across the board are cheated, the genre is hurt, and good writers who try harder find it more difficult to break into a field where all the audience honors are reruns.

   Silva is worse to me than any hack because he is talented and writes well and has had success thanks to his fans, the ones he is shortchanging them even if they are too blinded to know it.

   In any case, now you at least know the plot to his next book — and the one after that, and the one after that, and the one …

   Ad infinitum, ad nauseum — literally.

by Francis M. Nevins

   A library of mysteries is something like Forrest Gump’s chocolate box: you never know what you’ll find. What I happened to pull off a shelf the other day was one by Peter Cheyney entitled The Killing Game (Belmont Tower #50767, paperback, 1975) and looks like one of the author’s old spy novels in its first U.S. edition.

   The front cover blurb reads: “When the British Secret Service decides to recruit a guy there is no safe way he can say no.” The back cover blurb gives us more of the same: “A guy doesn’t say no when the British Secret Service decides he‘s the right man for some job. First, they ask him nice, then if he still resists they put on the pressure. If he still refuses to play cricket, the sinister sophisticates in the Saville (sic) Row suits may even frame him into jail in order to make him bite the bullet. After that he’s in over his head, and it’s just like the Mafia or the I.R.A. — once in, never out. They teach you all the dirty tricks and give you a license to kill. It’s a rotten, vicious business — The Killing Game.”

   Once you start skimming a few of the pages between these blurby covers, you’re likely to start giggling. Why? First off, the book isn’t a novel, it’s a collection of eight short stories. Second, no one gets forced into working for the Brits as the blurb describes. Third, and most likely to set the coffee pouring out the nose, the protagonists of the eight stories are women, and six of them even have a female first-person narrator! I think it’s safe to assume that Belmont Tower’s blurb writer was a man. And that he didn’t keep his job long.


   The original British title of The Killing Game is a bit hard to figure out. The copy I own, a Four Square paperback dating from 1968, is called The Adventures of Julia. The title page indicates that it was first issued in hardcover by the short-lived Todd Publishing Group back in 1954, a few years after Cheyney’s early death, as You’d Be Surprised, which is indeed the title of one of voluptuous spy Julia Heron’s short adventures (I use the word loosely).

   The invaluable Hubin bibliography doesn’t agree, listing The Adventures of Julia as the original title and giving You’d Be Surprised as the title of a Cheyney novel, published by Collins in 1940 and set in Paris. After a session of Web research I’ve concluded that Hubin is right about the novel, although he neglects to tell us that its protagonist is that rootin’ tootin’ two-gun-shootin’ G-Man (and mangler of Yank slang) Lemmy Caution.

   It would seem then that You’d Be Surprised was used as a Cheyney title no less than three times: on the 1940 novel, on the Julia Heron short story and, after Cheyney’s death, on the hardcover edition of Julia’s collected exploits. What a mess!

   I gather from Hubin that all eight tales in the Julia book originally appeared in pamphlet form during the years of the Blitz. They must have been intended to keep the minds of English readers occupied as they huddled in their air-raid shelters and the bombs came down on London. Mystery historian Howard Haycraft once mentioned that special “raid libraries” had been set up in Underground stations during the war for Londoners taking shelter from Hitler’s bombs but they aren’t mentioned in any accounts of the blitz that I’ve read, for example the vivid description in Volume 2 of Norman Sherry’s The Life of Graham Greene (1994). If anyone can direct me to fuller information about these libraries I’d be much obliged.


   Let’s cross the Channel, shall we? People who have read more of Georges Simenon’s hundreds of novels than I have tend to divide the Maigret cycle into at least three periods. The first runs from Pietr-le-Letton (written 1929, first published in France 1931) to Maigret (written 1933, first published in France 1934; first published in the UK as Maigret Returns, 1941), while the second opens with the short stories that began to appear in French magazines in 1936 and continues through a series of novels published in France during World War II. (Simenon made a great deal of money during the Nazi occupation of France but apparently was not a “collabo”.)

   The earliest of these novels was Les Caves du Majestic, which Simenon wrote in December 1939 but wasn’t published in the U.S. until 1978 as Maigret and the Hotel Majestic. The title seems to be a tip of the beret to Simenon’s friend and admirer André Gide (1869-1951) and his 1914 novel (which he refused to call a novel) Les Caves du Vatican.

   One of the most famous scenes in that book takes place on an express train between Rome and Naples: a character named Lafcadio, who’s sharing a compartment with a stranger named Amedée, throws the poor guy out of the speeding train to his death. Lit crit types call this un acte gratuit, an act without motivation, although Gide later questioned whether there could be any such animal.

   There are no actes gratuits in Simenon’s novel. The basement of the Hotel Majestic in Paris (which, according to, a gem of a website if ever there was one, was modeled on Claridge’s Hotel in the same city) has more to do with Simenon’s plot than the caverns underneath the Vatican with Gide’s, but in neither work are the caves central as those beneath the Paris Opera House are in The Phantom of the Opera.

   The Maigret novel opens early one morning as a breakfast chef at the Majestic discovers the strangled body of a wealthy American woman in a basement locker and soon finds himself the prime suspect. Maigret discovers — Simenon doesn’t bother to tell us how — that the woman was French by birth and had been a semi-pro hooker in Cannes before she met an American millionaire and tricked him into marriage. In time the plot morphs from sexual to financial intrigue, and at the climax Maigret uncharacteristically punches the murderer in the nose.

   Here and elsewhere in middle-period Maigret, Simenon seems to stress plot more than earlier or later, although Ellery Queen-style fair play is still not his cup of café au lait. Writing at white heat as he did, Simenon slips here and there; for example, a police report in Chapter One gives the age of the dead woman’s maid as 42, but when Maigret gets to meet her much later in the book she’s described as an old lady.

   What makes Les Caves rough going in spots for American readers is that either the translator or the publisher was very careless with punctuation, sometimes forgetting to insert a new set of quote marks to indicate a new speaker, at other times inserting new marks although the speaker hasn’t changed.

   And one tends to get heartily sick of hearing Maigret ask “What’s he (or she) saying?” whenever a character speaks English and of hearing American characters ask the same question whenever Maigret or someone else speaks French.

   Still and all, I liked this book. After reading tons of Simenon’s in which Maigret simply absorbs people and atmospheres and at the appropriate moment tells us who did what, it’s a pleasure to find one in which he acts a bit more like a detective.

Reviewed by JONATHAN LEWIS:         

THE KARATE KILLERS. MGM, 1967. Robert Vaughn, David McCallum, Joan Crawford, Curt Jurgens, Herbert Lom, Telly Savalas, Terry-Thomas, Leo G. Carroll, Kim Darby, Diane McBain, Jill Ireland, Philip Ahn. Previously seen on TV as the 87th & 88th episodes of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.: “The Five Daughters Affair” (Parts 1 and 2), 31 March and 7 April 1966. Director: Barry Shear.

   Like The Man in the Green Hat, which I reviewed here, The Karate Killers is the feature-length movie version of two The Man from U.N.C.L.E. episodes. Directed by Barry Shear, who had a fairly prodigious output in television, this light, but nevertheless mildly entertaining movie features guest appearances by stars such as Joan Crawford, Telly Savalas, and Jill Ireland.

   While the plot isn’t particularly interesting, it moves forward with enough vigor to keep the audience engaged with the nearly non-stop action. U.N.C.L.E. agents, Napoleon Solo (Vaughn) and Ilya Kuryakin (McCallum), trot the globe in search of five women, all daughters of a murdered scientist who found the means of extracting gold from seawater. Shades of Goldfinger, anyone?

   It’s an altogether amusing, if light on substance, late 1960s spy film. Look for Czechoslovakian-born actor Herbert Lom as Randolph, as the villain from THRUSH and for an amusing sequence in which Solo and Kuryakin sip tea in a Japanese geisha house. No one would likely categorize The Karate Killers as a bold work of art, but as pure entertainment, it’s not all that bad.

Editorial Comment:   For those of you who live in Los Angeles area and would like to see this on the big screen, it’s scheduled to be shown at the New Beverly Cinema next Saturday, August 15.

CHARLIE PARADISE. “The Tragic Flute.” An episode of Brenner, CBS, 19 July 1964 (Season 2, Episode 10). Ron Randell (Charlie Paradise). Guest star: Edward Binns as Roy Brenner, with Bob Pastene, Gerald S. O’Loughlin, Severn Darden, Rebecca Sand, Kathy Willard, Fred Gwynne. Story/screenplay: Peter Stone and James Yaffe. Director: Gerald Mayer.

   I’m listing this pilot for a proposed TV series the same way it is in the end credits. The opening title is for a series called Brenner (1959-64), with the name of the episode being “Charlie Paradise.” Edward Binns was the star of the series, playing a police lieutenant for the NYPD named Roy Brenner. Co-starring as Brenner’s son Ernie, a young patrolman for the department, was James Broderick; in the course of the series, they often found themselves working together.

   Son Ernie does not appear in this episode, however, the last of 26. When an old woman whom no one has seen in person for many years is found dead in her dilapidated apartment, Lt. Brenner, having no leads, essentially turns the case over to Charlie Paradise, the owner of a beatnik club in Greenwich Village, and the center of the bohemian art movement for the city, whether jazz, poetry or art.

   It’s an interesting story line, and Ron Randell fits his role well. The solution to the case is provided by an artist with integrity but living in abject poverty. There’s what’s essentially a dead man’s clue to the killer, which cleverly could be any of the suspects. I can’t imagine networks bigwigs relating much to either the setting or the characters living in it, however, and once and done was all they wrote for Charlie Paradise.

Note:   Based on what others have discovered about the series, all of the episodes were filmed in 1959, including this one, then spread out over the years as parts of summer replacement series. The 1964 date is the first and only time this episode was aired. Also, for more on the Brenner series itself, Ted Fitzgerald wrote up a review of it some seven years ago on this blog. Read it here.

JUDY FITZWATER – Dying to Remember. Fawcett, paperback original, August 2000.

   I’ve been winnowing out my collection of paperbacks over the past few weeks. Some are now up for sale, others are going to the local library or in other ways new homes are being found for them. This was going to be one of the latter until I saw that Jennifer Marsh, the detective in this, the fourth of now seven books in the series, the last after a gap of 12 years and available only on Kindle — whew, sorry — is a writer of mystery stories.

   An occupation for a fictional detective that I’ve always found interesting, so I retrieved it from the Pass Along pile, thinking it deserved a trial reading before I did so. Turns out, however, that while Jennifer, a young 30-something, has written nine mysteries, none of them have ever been published. False advertising by the back cover blurb writer right there, wouldn’t you say?

   But while this firmly places this book in the “cozy” category, reinforced by the presence of a wanna-be authors support group she’s a member of, there is an edge to this light-weight murder mystery that managed to keep me reading all the way to the end.

   Most of the opening portion of the book takes place at a high school reunion, with Jennifer reluctantly agrees to attend, and sure enough an old flame is there, bringing back memories of a prom night some 12 years ago. Along with many other members of the same class, most of whom Jennifer would just as soon forget, or she already has.

   But when the old flame is found dead in the parking lot outside the event, the verdict being an unfortunate suicide, Jennifer does not agree and takes it upon herself to do a little amateur sleuthing.

   High school is tough on a lot of people, but for others, it is the highlight of their life. The difference is where the edge comes in. Unfortunately it seems to me that what happens 12 years ago should have been checked into back then, not now, and the ending is one of these in which the heroine decides to tackle the killer head on, with no police in sight.

   So what did I decide? Is this one a keeper after all? No, but Jennifer Marsh is a character that I got to know rather well. She has spunk, and if the other books she’s in come along while I’m winnowing, I may check into her life again.

       The Jennifer Marsh series

1. Dying to Get Published (1995)

2. Dying to Get Even (1999)
3. Dying for a Clue (1999)
4. Dying to Remember (2000)
5. Dying to Be Murdered (2001)

6. Dying to Get Her Man (2002)
7. Dying Before ‘I Do’ (2014)

by Michael Shonk.

THE AVENGERS, Seasons 2-3. ABC, (Associated British Corporation) Production for ITV, 1962-63. Cast: Patrick Macnee as John Steed and Honor Blackman as Mrs. Catherine Gale. Produced by Leonard White (Season 2), John Bryce (Seasons 2 and 3). Theme composed and performed by Johnny Dankworth.

      PART ONE (THE BEGINNINGS) can be read here.

   When we last left The Avengers we had looked at the first two seasons (or as the British say “series”) and all of John Steed’s closest partners except one, Mrs. Catherine Gale played by Honor Blackman.

   Originally Steed’s next main partner after Ian Hendry (Dr. David Keel) left the series at the end of Season One was to be a man named Charlie Gale. Then ABC Production executive Sydney Newman decided to make him a woman: Mrs. Catherine Gale.

   According to producer Leonard White, in his book Armchair Theatre – The Lost Years (Kelly Publications, 2003), writer Doreen Montgomery was brought in to help with developing White’s idea of a woman playing a male role. She did not last long writing for the series but helped establish the character Cathy Gale. Her only The Avengers script credit is for the episode “Warlock.” The episode was originally planned to introduce Cathy Gale to the audience but some scenes needed to be reshot and that pushed its air-date back.

   Despite Season Two starting to air episodes in May 1962, Honor Blackman was not cast as Cathy Gale until June 1962. Sydney Newman did not believe Blackman could handle the role. After shooting with Blackman began, Newman called her into his office and ordered her to play the part with less smiling and more seriousness or she would be fired. Blackman usually followed that bad advice, but one wonders how more popular Gale and Blackman would have become if they had let the character lighten up a little.

   Mrs. Catherine Gale was an intelligent widow, a scholar, and someone who had survived living in adventurous Africa. She would prove to be a type of female hero TV audiences had rarely seen before. Played by the sexy Honor Blackman, Gale feared no man including Steed, as we can see in the Season Two’s episode below:

   First a note about the YouTube videos used here. Each is the best available at the moment, but the videos are marred by the presence of a iris-shaped light in the center of the picture that was added by whoever downloaded these episodes.

   â€œPropellant 23.” Teleplay by Jon Manchip White. Directed by Jonathan Alwyn. Produced by Leonard White. Guest Cast: Justine Lord, Catherine Woodville, Geoffrey Palmer and Ralph Nossek. *** A courier is set to hand over a top-secret package to Steed but is killed before Steed gets the item. The problem is Steed does not know what the package is or what it looks like.

   Baddies are everywhere in this above average Cold war thriller. Blackman and Macnee are fun to watch and while this was an episode before Blackman donned the black leather outfit it offers a nice scene where she uses the gun in her thigh holster. The episode’s greatest flaw was the low production values that was common for 1962.

   By Season Three, The Avengers was a major hit in United Kingdom and getting attention beyond the British TV viewer but still had yet to reach America. The series was still limited by its low production values and being videotaped live in black and white. The tone of the series was still dark and hardboiled, but the characters started to get more offbeat and the series focused on the engaging chemistry between Macnee and Blackman.

   It was the 60s London and the city was the center of a fashion revolution. The time was right for Cathy Gale and for her “Kinky Boots” …

… and fondness for black leather. Audiences loved Gale and Steed and especially what they were wearing as they beat up the bad guys.

   But this attention to a TV series because of its fashion was not by design, just a lucky by-product from the decision to feature more hand-to-hand combat such as Judo. It was impractical for Gale to perform the martial arts while wearing a dress, and normal slacks could not withstand the stress (as learned during shooting), so much to the audience’s delight black leather outfits were adopted.

   The third season continued to push the naughty boundaries of British TV in 1963. With original bosses network executive Sydney Newman and producer Leonard White gone, John Bryce would produce the third season.

   John Bryce was one of the series’ original story editors and had been involved in the group that created the series. In the middle of the second season he became the series producer and stayed until the end of Season Three. He returned to the series when Clemens and Albert Fennell left at the end of season six. Unable to reproduce the magic Clemens had with The Avengers, Bryce was fired after three episodes and a reluctant Clemens and Fennell were begged back.

   In the third season Gale became Steed’s only partner as she had earned the respect of Steed and his superiors (and approval of the viewers). Steed was becoming more appealing and stylish. Gone was the callous Steed who thought nothing about tossing an inexperienced Venus into situations she might not survive. Steed may have kept secrets from Cathy but he cared about her, and Cathy cared and trusted him.

   â€œThe Outside-In Man.” Written by Philip Chambers. Directed by Jonathan Alwyn. Produced by John Bryce. Guest Cast: Ronald Rudd, James Maxwell, and Beryl Baxter. *** A leader of a developing country is visiting England to sign an arms deal. Five years earlier the British government had tried to kill him and thought both of its agents had been killed in the attempt. Now one of the agents turns up alive and wants to finish his assignment.

   A good hardboiled spy thriller with a dark and true view of politics in the Cold War that takes for granted that the British government assassinated political opponents in foreign countries.

   The series popularity was growing and was attracting attention worldwide including America. Then Honor Blackman quit the series, getting the role of Pussy Galore for the James Bond film Goldfinger. Without a female star ABC shut down production while considering what to do next.

   Six months later ABC turned over The Avengers to Telemen Limited, headed by Julian Wintle. Wintle would hire Albert Fennell and Brian Clemens to produce Season Four. This would not be Brian Clemens first involvement with the series. Not only did he write five episodes in the third season, he wrote two episodes for Season One. He was among the group lead by network executive Sydney Newman and producer Leonard White who were involved in the creation of the series. Clemens made not have created The Avengers, but he made so many important changes in Season Four that perhaps we should give him a “developed by” credit.

   Beyond a new partner for Steed, other changes were made that would improve the series in Season Four such as replacing live on videotape with film and eventually black and white with color. The creative staff lead by Clemens would replace the serious hardboiled tone for a wacky playfulness. The character Steed would turn into a delightful wink at the American’s British male stereotype. Steed’s new partner was Mrs. Emma Peel played by Elizabeth Shepherd. But before Season Four would air, one more change would be made, a casting change that took a hit British TV series and made it a television icon that is still remembered today.



The Avengers Forever:

Avengers Declassified:


The Strange Case of the Missing Episodes – The Lost Stories of THE AVENGERS Series 1 by Richard McGinlay, Alan Hayes and Alys Hayes (Hidden Tiger, 2013).

With Umbrella, Scotch and Cigarettes – An Unauthorized Guide to The Avengers Series 1 by Richard McGinlay and Alan Hayes (Hidden Tiger, 2014).


SALLY WRIGHT – Publish and Perish. Multnomah, softcover, 1997. Ballantine, mass market paperback, February 1999.

   If you like mysteries taking place in the world of academia, this is one of the better ones. This first in a series of six Ben Reese novels takes place in a small college town somewhere in Ohio, where the first death is that of his best friend, Professor Richard West, chair of the English Department.

   At first West is assumed to have died of a heart attack, but since he had just finished a mysterious trans-Atlantic phone call with Reese soon before he died, the latter returns home immediately, looking for answers to questions the police have not thought of asking yet.

   By trade, Ben Reese is an archivist for the school, making him a natural for adding detective to his résumé, but his background in commando-style pre-invasion work for the Army in World War II holds him in good stead as well. The story takes place in 1960, by the way, just as things were about to change drastically in the world of higher education. There are no panty raids in this book, but they were still around at the time, with in loco parentis still the philosophy of the day.

   Speaking for myself, I’d like to have known the dead man quite a bit more before he disappears from the book. He was a dedicated scholar, tough on his students, dogged in academic arguments, which were many, and a staunch believer in honesty, a fact which is what gets him killed. It is only as Reese works through West’s life that we get to know him better.

   As the author of this tale, Sally Wright also knows the ins and out of college-based squabbles, jealousies and other political maneuverings, so as I say, I enjoyed this one. Future books in the series move away from the academic scene, however. Reese’s occupation as an archivist will lead him all over the world, and I am curious to learn if the change is for the better.

       The Ben Reese series

1. Publish and Perish (1997)
2. Pride and Predator (1997)

3. Pursuit and Persuasion (2000)
4. Out of the Ruins (2003)

5. Watches of the Night (2008)
6. Code of Silence (2008)

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