The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Magazine only lasted twenty-four issues and this was the twenty-third. The cover says December, 1967, but if I remember correctly, it came out a couple of months earlier. Not sure why, but comics and magazines seemed to run a couple of months ahead of the cover date back then.
Each issue featured an U.N.C.L.E. novella and short stories in a hundred-forty-four pages of a digest sized magazine, with an occasional article on some aspect of the show. Robert Hart Davis was the house name assigned to each tale. But even the unsophisticated mid-teenager that I was recognized different styles and story frameworks that told Davis was not a real writer. Some of the writers that furnished these Napoleon and Illya stories were John Jakes, Dennis Lynds, Harry Whittington, and the author of THE PILLARS OF SALT AFFAIR, Bill Pronzini, the only one he did. It was a favorite of mine, and others, because for one thing, it was the longest of the twenty-four, really earning the designation of short novel given to them. It was also just damned good.
Our two favorite agents are in the American northwest to investigate an isolated man-made lake, further isolated by a mud slide that blocked the only road. Crazy reports had come in of water to the area getting brackish all of a sudden before stopping altogether. An investigation found a chunk of solid salt where fresh water had been before. With a guide, the pair hiked up the side of a mountain to find that indeed where there had been a lake was now salt.
Chipping off a sample for later analysis, the three men were attacked as they started down, bullets just missing them as they dived for cover. In the ensuing battle, they kill one man and the other gets away. On the dead man is found a piece of paper with some sort of code. As they are leaving, they find that the lake has suddenly returned to fresh, sweet water!
Back in New York, Alexander Waverly informs them that more of these tests are being performed around the world. They see a shot from a helicopter of another frozen white expanse. By the time a party had reached the lake, in all instances the sole road in to these lonely bodies of water had been mysteriously blocked, the lake was back to normal. Several others with the same clues, brackish water from the taps before stopping, but when checked out, the lakes were back to normal.
It was believed THRUSH was running experiments on some new weapon and U.N.C.L>E. thought they knew who might be the guiding light behind it. A scientist working on a way to convert salt water to fresh had done exactly the opposite. His discovery had been laughed off by the scientific community and he’d disappeared several years before, just the sort of disenfranchised individual THRUSH would cultivate.
Fresh water to salt? One could only imagine the uses a criminal enterprise like THRUSH would put such an invention to, especially since they had an antidote.
The salt chip collected revealed nothing: just plain rock salt. But the coded piece of paper when decrypted gave them the name Teclaxican, Mexico, where a large body of fresh water reside. Possibly the next experiment. Napoleon and Illya head there.
Rereading this one after so many years, over forty at the least, was a lot of fun. As I mentioned earlier, there was only one more issue after that. This was about the series went off the rails with possibly the worst season a series, the third, ever had, with completely stupid story lines. It was possible they were influenced by the Batman series, popular at the time(I loathed it), but the ratings began to tumble and it was eventually canceled midway through the fourth season(the first and that aborted fourth were the best, but the second was far superior to the third). Along about this same time, the paperback series quit publishing new novels, instead publishing books from the separate English series that had never been released here.
An article by gun expert George H. Duckworth on the merits of the U.N.C.L.E. Special hand weapon and it’s attachments used by the agents and five short stories by various writers filled out the issue.
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was my favorite show during those mid-teenage years, but I wasn’t the biggest I guess. I remember another guy complaining when the band director told us he wanted an evening practice for an upcoming band contest in Raleigh complaining that he would miss the show(those long ago days before VHS recorders).