Monday, November 10, 2008

The Kremlin Plot by Don Smith

The Kremlin Plot by Don Smith
Award AQ1402, Copyright 1971

He pressed the sharpened end of the wood under the fingernail and the excruciating pain made me jerk and the rope cut into my throat. He sat back and watched the drop of blood ooze out and run down the strip of wood and fall to the stone floor.
"The offer is still open," he said calmly.

One of the better written adventure series that came out in the 60s/70s heyday era were the "Secret Mission" espionage novels by Don Smith. The stories are actually mysteries and American Phil Sherman is our agent in the field. Sherman's cover is selling business equipment and this allows him to enter any country where the Agency feels the need to deploy his "special" talent. Don't be fooled into thinking he's one of those super vigilante CIA operatives, Sherman is a shrewd detective and the world stage is his turf.

In "The Kremlin Plot," the mission literally falls in Sherman's lap. On a business trip to Moscow, an attempted hijacking occurs on his plane. The hijacker is shot by the co-pilot, but before he dies he drops design plans for a new Russian missile defense system on Sherman. He enters Moscow knowing this is too hot to have on him and quickly heads over to the American Embassy to pass them off. A snag prevents an easy hand off, and before you know it people are coming out of the woodwork to find out what Sherman knows and what he has. Beautiful young female engineers, the KGB, British Intelligence, and nasty Chinese agents that are lurking in the shadows,-all play a deadly game to get the plans from Sherman.

Photographs of the plans are stolen from his hotel and Sherman sets out find who took them and get them back. Sherman has a backbone, but he has his limits. Through torture, bedroom bribes, and KGB interrogation, -he almost breaks, but stays on the trail and carries this mission to the end.

Lately, I've found myself reading more and more of these fine Don Smith novels. I missed them when they first came out, and I'm sort of glad because they are not dated at all. They are written so well that they come off fresh and new. I actually find the stories more believable than the bulk of the stuff that was coming off the printing machines during this era. The plots are well developed, with devious international characters as adversaries. (watch out for a duo of Slavic black marketeers) Phil Sherman comes off as the real deal. He doesn't carry a weapon or have any high tech gadgets. He's just a "dick" on a cloak and dagger case, that plays like a well crafted mystery crime novel. There are around twenty paperbacks in the series and I've enjoyed every one so far.

As for Don Smith, he is becoming one of my favorite authors.


Anonymous said...

I think this is the same Don Smith who wrote this non-series stand alone called China Coaster(Popular 522 1953)."When rough, tough Mike O'Connor smashes his way into Red China's sinister underworld in search of a brutal killer, the twisted trail leads him through opium dens, 'flower houses', and slave markets - to a lushly beautiful white adventuress and a blood-chilling climax".

I enjoyed this book and hope now to read some of the Secret Mission books.


Robert said...

I love the SECRET MISSION series of books. Can't say for sure but I think there are 21 or 22 titles in the series. After finding one of the paperbacks at a library sale and thoroughly enjoying it I sought out whichever other series additions I could find, and have most of them now. They are definitely more private eye than James Bond, but there's still a healthy dose of sex & sadism and Phil Sherman's globe-trotting adventures are written with an eye to uncanny detail by Don Smith. In terms of pulp adventure yarns these are heads above most of their competition, and are just damned good fun.