The Flying Saucer Gambit
The Golden Goddess Gambit
The Emerald Elephant Gambit
The Time Trap Gambit
My selection this week is a book series that I read in my youth(yes, I can remember that far back). The books were an attempt to meld spy fiction and science fiction. Published under the name Larry Maddock, that was a pseudonym of Jack Owen Jardine, who I’m not familiar with other than these four books. The story, as I’ve read it over the years, is that the outline submitted for the first book was originally for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. paperback series. The editor of Ace Books at the time decided he wanted an SF series in the same vein. The U.N.C.L.E. series was selling well and Ace was a well established SF publisher; he thought it would work.
So the two main characters morphed into Hannibal Fortune and his partner, Webley, A fifteen pound protoplasmic alien that could shape-change. They were agents of T.E.R.R.A., Temporal Entropy Restructure and Repair Agency, a time-traveling organization that were constantly at war with Gregor Malik and his team, E.M.P.I.R.E., out to change the past in order to rule future Earth.
Fortune and Webley go back from 2572 to 1966 to investigate the death of their resident agent in Kansas City, supposedly dying in an automobile accident. They soon learn that his death was a murder because he had discovered Malik’s new weapon and was on the verge of reporting it. It drove people mad, making them easier to manipulate and control.
It’s easy to see where this would have made a decent U.N.C.L.E/Thrush plot.
The four books involved various plots throughout time and the pair were always there to save Earth. A lot of fun, it has been forty years since I read them and I will allow that, as a middling teenager, I probably had a less discerning eye than I do these days. They were by no means great literature and I have seen a critical savaging of the first book on the web before.
If one wants to try them, they are reasonably priced on the used book sites and available as ebooks as well.