Category Archives: Spies

50th anniversary of The Ipcress File


If the on-line excitement in response to teaser images from Spectre, the 24th James Bond film, is anything to go by, we’ve lost none of our fascination with the Bond franchise. Spectre promises to have a stripped back, almost retro feel, as evidenced by images of ditching his tailor made suit in favour of a black turtleneck and leather shoulder holster, harking back to previous Bond incarnations in From Russia With Love (1963) and You Only Love Twice (1967).

If you don’t want to wait until Spectre’s scheduled release at the end of this year for a dose of retro spy thrills, look no further than The Ipcress File, which celebrated its fiftieth anniversary this week.

Based on the 1962 debut novel of the same name by Len Deighton, The Ipcress File hit UK cinemas on March 18, 1965. It was nominated for a Palme d’Or at the 1965 Cannes Film Festival and won the BAFTA for best British film the same year. The British Film Institute lists it number 59 on the hundred best British film of the 20th Century.

The Ipcress File was a major success for Canadian born director, Sidney J Furie (another being Lady Sings the Blues starring Diana Ross in 1972).… Read more

Pulp Friday: Avakoum Zahov Vs 07 and Soviet spy fiction

Avakoum Zahov versus 07 cover

“A battle to the death between two crack Secret Agents of East and West!”

This week’s Pulp Friday is one of the strangest cultural artefacts to come out of Australian pulp publishing in the sixties, the spy thriller Avakoum Zahov vs 07 by Bulgarian author, Andrei Gulyashki.

While spies first came to prominence as popular culture figures during World War One, it was the first Bond novel, Casino Royale, published in 1953, that really kick-started the modern fascination with spies. A host of well known authors as well as a legion of lesser know writers and pulp imitators, all followed in Bond’s wake.

These days it’s easy to view Bond as little more than a clotheshorse with a few snappy lines of dialogue and a lot of high-tech gadgets, facing off against the latest embodiment of the West’s global fears.

But in the fifties and sixties, Bond was a blunt weapon in dinner suit whose sole purpose was to smash the West’s enemies. He was also the epitome of sexual and social permissiveness, licensed to kill and swing. The casual sex, alcohol consumption, fine living and travel to exotic destinations were all potent symbols of the West’s economic and cultural affluence in the sixties.

Not only were the Soviet authorities aware of the global popularity of James Bond, they saw him as a major propaganda coup for the West.… Read more

Pulp Friday: The Last Refuge

The Last RefugeToday’s Pulp Friday is a little known but interesting book, The Last Refuge by Edward Lindall, published in 1972.

It’s interesting for two reasons.

First, it was an attempt to set a spy thriller amid the radical student politics taking place in Australia in the early seventies.

The second reason is the publisher, a little known Melbourne-based pulp publishing outfit called Gold Star Publications.

The main character of The Last Refuge is Jay Landon, an Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation agent, assigned the mission of infiltrating and destabalising a group of Maoists, led by Peking agent, Clyde Mansell. The Maoists have left their inner city terraces for the wide expanse of the Australia’s north to wage guerrilla war against US multinationals stripping the country of its mineral wealth.

Lindall’s real name was Ernest Edward Smith, an Adelaide based journalist and writer who penned 13 books, mainly crime and thrillers, but also some science fiction. He died in 1979. The Last Refuge, the only of his books released by Gold Star Publications, taps into the very real politics of what was the most physically and politically aggressive of the radical student groups operating on Australian campuses in the early seventies.

Here’s the back cover blurb:

“There’s always two sides to any story.Read more

Pulp Friday: spy pulp part 2, Assignment Asia

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of James Bond, last week’s Pulp Friday was a selection of spy themed pulp covers.

This week’s post takes us to one of the main battlegrounds for pulp spies in the sixties and seventies – Asia.

The Cold War was in full swing and those Reds were getting up to all kinds of nefarious activity behind the bamboo curtain, everything from kidnapping, sabotaging America’s space program, developing bubonic plague, drug running, to assassination.

And secret agents like Mark Hood (The Bamboo Bomb) Butler (Chinese Roulette) Death Merchant (Chinese Conspiracy), Joe Gall (The Star Ruby Contract) and Drake (“The man with nobody’s face” in Operation Checkmate), Nick Carter (The Defector) and Sam Durell (the Assignment series, over 48 of which were written), were in the thick of it.

They usually committed a lot of violence, had a lot of sex, and travelled to exotic locations. The books below are set in China, Singapore, Hawaii, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Japan and Sri Lanka.

And, of course, there were some great covers. My favourite is the Robert Mcginnis illustration for Scott S Stone’s The Dragon’s Eye. But I’m also rather taken with the sleazy eighties feel of the photograph on the cover of Assignment Bangkok.… Read more

Pulp Friday: spy pulp part 1, death traps and dark duets

Over the next two weeks I’ll be commemorating the 50th anniversary of James Bond by posting some of the excellent spy themed pulp paperback covers I’ve collected over the years.

Intrigue and danger in exotic locations, sinister enemies, tough secret agents, beautiful women, the spy fiction of the fifties, sixties and early seventies had it all, as the following the collection of pulp paperback covers show.

You’ll find more spy fiction pulp covers over on my Pinterest site.

In the next week or so I’ll post part 2 of my spy pulp series, a selection of covers depicting spy fiction set in Asia.