Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Fer-De-Lance Contract by Philip Atlee

The Fer-De-Lance Contract by Philip Atlee
Fawcett Gold Medal t2370, Copyright 1970

James Philip Atlee created the counterintelligence agent Joe Gall. Gall is a "nullifier" who is sent to hot spots by a special U.S. Agency to eradicate the situation. There are 22 books in the "Contract" series and they are well written. Atlee was not your typical espionage character-series writer, he was very creative and knew his craft. These were the days when numbered espionage novels were being pumped out by publishers and male readers had their favorites. Atlee's series held up and is above average.

The Fer-De Lance Contract takes place in the islands of the Caribbean. Gall has been sent down to stop a Black Militant group from seizing the communications and transportation facilities on the islands. Once they have these, the militants could easily overthrow all the Caribbean governments. He hops from island to island, meeting allies and foes, and finally taking down the leader. I can't say that all the Joe Gall novels were great, but this one was very good.

Joe Gall is not your ultra-tough spy. But, he is a man to have on your side and will mouth-it-up with his enemies and his ladies. He'll get slapped around some, but will always be ready to spring into action. Atlee throws his personal views about the era in these books, (he sure didn't like hippies) and some comments are borderline PC; but that is part of the appeal of the series. He did pen some interesting and enjoyable dialog.

"I was liking her more and more; her reactions were masculine, and I couldn't help wondering if the failed marriages meant she had a touch of butch. I hoped not, because it would have been a great waste..."

Or when Gall was in an action situation and dysentery hit, "My rectal sphincter throbbed again, all I needed, and I said 'nuts to you' and locked my bowels."

You can't help loving this stuff and this series provided it. Not perfect though. At times, Gall doesn't come off serious about his missions and in some books he just goes step-by-step until the end. Also, not much violent action or suspense, I felt it was more about adventure. But there is enough action, the plots are good, and Gall sure has his way with the ladies. Joe Gall always took you to exotic places and you were able to follow his career from book to book.

Here are the 22 novels:
The Green Wound Contract
The Silken Baroness Contract
The Paper Pistol Contact
The Death Bird Contract
The Irish Beauty Contract
The Star Ruby Contract
The Rockabye Contract
The Skeleton Coast Contract
The Ill Wind Contract
The Trembling Earth Contract
The Fer-De-Lance Contract
The Canadian Bomber Contract
The White Wolverine Contract
The Kiwi Contract
The Judah Lion Contract
The Spice Route Contract
The Shankill Road Contract
The Underground Cities Contract
The Kowloon Contract
The Black Venus Contract
The Makassar Strait Contract
The Last Domino Contract

Pagoda by James Atlee Philips

Joe Gall's first appearance came in Atlee's 1951 book "Pagoda" Before his
counterintelligence days, Gall is a washed-up American Flyer in Burma. This is more hardboiled and I might favor this character over the one in the series.


James Reasoner said...

I agree that PAGODA is a very good book. I've read some of the Contract books and like them, too, but the plots are so confusing that they're almost impossible for me to follow at times. I'm not sure they're even supposed to make sense. Philips was from Fort Worth but I never thought of him as being a Texas writer, other than the fact that THE GREEN WOUND takes places partially in Waco -- perhaps the only novel of international intrigue that can make that claim.

Juri said...

Wasn't Phillips's son a hippie (or at least close) himself? Shawn Phillips? His most famous song "Amerika" was based on his father's poem. I have never heard it, admittedly.

August West said...

Jim: I agree with you that they are "bouncing" and that took away from the series. I get a kick out of the dialog though. I have a bunch of Don Smith's "Secret Mission" series that I have not read-going to check those out soon.

I believe that Juri is right about the son of Atlee being Shawn Philips. In fact I have 2 albums of his from the old days, and he still tours and has a good following. Also, believe Atlee had a brother in the CIA.

Anonymous said...

I've read one of the Contract books and felt like it was a travel log with a confusing spy plot.

The Secret Mission books are great by the way. Well at least the ones I've read so far.

James Reasoner said...

A friend of mine is a fan of those Secret Mission books, too. I really need to read some of them.