A. S. FLEISCHMAN – Counterspy Express. Ace Double D-57. paperback original, 1954. Bound back-to-back with Treachery in Trieste. by Charles L. Leonard.

   A matter of a defecting Russian scientist, temporarily missing somewhere in Italy, Austria or France, with CIA agent Victor Welles (aka Jim Cabot) on his trail. There is a girl involved, or more precisely, two, as well as a slew of various Communist agents.

   A minor affair, easily read, easily forgotten, I amused myself by wondering if I could make a movie out of it, and I can. My version would star none other than Alan Ladd, Sophia Loren, Brigitte Bardot, Sydney Greenstreet and Orson Welles. How’s that?

PostScript:   I’d have to do some rewriting though, if I’d like to avoid some of the more obvious cliches of the trade. Such as, why on earth does every hard-nosed agent you come across (or every cheap imitation hard-boiled PI, which is very nearly the same thing) in every book that every instinct should warn him against, but whom he falls in love with anyway?

   “Cabot” is even warned by the advance agent on the scene. The man is dying or severely wounded by shots fired from the taxi that sped around the fountain in the center of the piazza, but he manages to get these words out: “Don’t get mixed up with a woman. My mistake.” Does Cabot pay any attention? Are you kidding? Is the Pope Polish?

— Reprinted (and somewhat revised) from Mystery*File #21, April 1990.