DUNCAN TYLER – Red Curtain. Beacon 205, paperback original; 1st printing, 1959. Award A202F, paperback reprint, 1966.

   Obscure books, especially those that are either detective or mystery fiction, have always been favorites of mine, and here is one so obscure that [as of the time this review was first written], Al Hubin had not yet heard of it. What’s even more interesting is that the copyright is in the name of Don Smith, who was soon to become the author of a long series of “Secret Mission” espionage thrillers. While I own about half of them, I’ve never read any, but I’ve always assumed that the Phil Sherman starring in them was some kind of super-agent in the James Bond mode.

   Why I am bringing this all out is that there is a Philip Sherman in this book as well, but he’s not a super-agent of any kind, at least not yet. He is an American business man working in Europe who naively gets suckered into some shady business transactions with the Russians, and when things go badly, he naively (again) attempts to break his partner out of a Russian labor prison. This in a country where he doesn’t even speak the language.

   If you were to see the front cover [of the Award edition], you would also know there is a woman involved, but not nearly as much as the back cover would have you believe. The last few chapters make the rest of the book worth reading, but if a lot of action is what you might be looking for, the early going is awfully sluggish and slow. It seems to be an accurate peek at life behind the Iron Curtain for its time, however, and maybe that’s the greatest value it ever had.

— Reprinted from Mystery*File #23, July 1990 (slightly revised).