Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. paperback novels

# 1: The Thousand Coffins Affair. Michael Avallone. Napoleon Solo is sent to recover the body of a chemist and UNCLE agent and uncovers a dastardly Thrush plot that could wipe out millions. Very well-written by Avallone, this is suspenseful and exciting in equal measure, with an interesting supporting cast and situations and a strong plot. A+

#2: The Doomsday Affair. Harry Whittington. UNCLE learns that a THRUSH operative known as "Exit Only" is planning an exit for tens of thousands of people in a diabolical plot centered on a nursing home and a megaton bomb. Su Yan is a memorably sinister associate of the mysterious main villain. Builds to a very suspenseful climax. A+

#3: The Copenhagen Affair. John Oram. The UNCLE boys travel to Denmark to investigate a THRUSH plot to use flying saucers in their world takeover attempts. The climax is in a fake maternity home where a female agent named Karen is tortured by the sadistic Sister Ingrid, who once did her "work" in concentration camps. This isn't bad, but a relatively minor entry in the series. B -

#4: The Dagger Affair. David McDaniel. This is the book in which McDaniel reveals that THRUSH stands for the Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity, which was never carried over to the series itself. THRUSH and UNCLE join forces against another organization, DAGGER, which has a weapon that can steal away all energy. Introduces Ward Baldwin, head of THRUSH San Francisco, and his wife, Irene. B+

#5: The Mad Scientist Affair. John T. Phillifent. The boys deal with an Irish biochemist, famous for his beer, who has discovered a formula that can make everyone even more reckless than when they're drunk. Worse, if this special "hops" is unleashed into the seas, it could soak up all the oceans and turn them into soggy goo. The scientist has two beautiful twin nieces, one good, one bad. Not a bad UNCLE book with good interplay between the characters, but gets a little "bogged" down. Some good scenes. C+/B-

#6: The Vampire Affair. David McDaniel. The boys investigate when an agent is found dead in Transylvania with his body drained of blood. They meet a descendant of the real Dracula, who is not a vampire, and look into possible THRUSH activities inside his abandoned Gothic castle. Meanwhile, is there a real vampire on the loose? Some atmospheric and interesting scenes, but perhaps a bit too much humor. B-. 

#8: The Monster Wheel Affair. David McDaniel. On an isolated island, THRUSH seems to have launched a space satellite from which they can fire missiles anywhere on earth that they want to. But is the satellite for real? While dodging attacks from enemy agents, Illya and Napoleon try to find out the truth. Absorbing opening chapters, but the second half is a little disappointing. Still, it's entertaining. B-. 

#11: The Invisibility Affair. Thomas Stratton. Illya and Solo investigate when Thrush kidnaps a scientist who is working on an invisibility machine, at one point making a whole house and part of a highway disappear. Thrush agents attach the device to a dirigible and plan to aid a revolution with it. The premise is fine, but the developments are fairly uninteresting. A little too much unfunny humor, and not one of the better books in the series. C-

#12: The Mind Twisters Affair. Thomas Stratton. A scientist who had worked with UNCLE in the past suddenly refuses to aid them and claims they are an evil outfit, as do others in the small college town in which he resides. Illya and Napoleon investigate, discover a THRUSH plot that involves mind control, and meet a man named Whateley, who goes on about the "old ones" like something out of H.P. Lovecraft. The book begins well and gets even better, even if it's a touch predictable. Good read. B+

#13: The Rainbow Affair. David McDaniel. The boys go to London to stop a famous criminal, Johnny Rainbow, from joining forces with THRUSH, even though New Scotland Yard insists that Rainbow is just a legend. Although they are not named, there are guest appearances by Fu Manchu, Steed and Emma Peel of The Avengers, Agatha Christie's Miss Marple, and even Sherlock Holmes, among others! Entertaining read. B+

# 15: The Utopia Affair. David McDaniel. In one of the best books in the series, Waverly is sent off to an exclusive resort called Utopia to get a good rest, and Napoleon Solo takes over command of UNCLE in his place. While Solo struggles to deal with a variety of agents and situations around the globe, including increased activities from THRUSH, who hope to drive him bananas, a disguised Illya steals around Utopia trying to protect Waverly from two very deadly master assassins. Excellent. A. 
# 16: The Splintered Sunglasses Affair. Peter Leslie. Napoleon is kidnapped practically under the noses of UNCLE and held captive in an estate, but isn't certain why he was snatched, and if his captors are THRUSH or not. The book's first half is suspenseful and features an exciting escape sequence, but the rest is only so-so. B-.

# 17: The Hollow Crown Affair. David McDaniel. Ward Baldwin (from The Dagger Affair), head of THRUSH's San Francisco office, is on the run with his wife Irene from rival THRUSH assassins. He wants UNCLE's help, if for no other reason than that the person who wants to replace him -- formerly a presumed dead UNCLE scientist who invented a deadly gun and faked his own demise -- will be an even more formidable adversary. With the characters and premise this should have been terrific, but it's kind of blah, with too much humor, and fails to engage. C

# 20. The Corfu Affair. John T. Phillifent. The UNCLE boys are up against one of their most formidable adversaries, the Countess Anne-Marie Louise de St.-Denis, who runs her own beauty empire, has a palatial HQ on the isle of Corfu, grows her own clones [referred to as "androids" in the book] which are her servants and which she offers to the highest bidder, and uses special army communication modules to turn Solo and others into her personal slaves. The countess has allied herself with THRUSH, or so they think, as she's just as much a threat to them as she is to UNCLE. Fascinating, crazy, and suspenseful. Great fun! A+

# 21 The Finger in the Sky Affair. Peter Leslie. THRUSH engages in one of its most horrendous, murderous, and twisted plots when it causes airliner disasters as part of a sick power play. Solo and Kuryakin wind up on a doomed plane trying to find the answers to what is happening. The book is a darker UNCLE adventure than usual, and while it is by no means perfect, it makes for an absorbing read. B+

A new series of paperbacks under "The Man from U.N.C.L.E. continued" label are available on ebay. I have read only one of them: 

The Deadly Deception Affair. A Morrisett and L. Lazarus. Napoleon can't ignore evidence that seems to indicate that Illya is cooperating with Thrush, and may have turned. But perhaps Illya is merely playing a dangerous game. This book is professionally written and packaged, it's just kind of bleh, with a colorless villain and somewhat un-intriguing situations. The fact that almost the entire novel takes place in one uninteresting setting doesn't help either. Deadly Deception isn't bad, but it doesn't make me want to read the other "continued" books, either, especially when they cost $26 including shipping. C-

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