Vintage Reads #42: Espionage and Action Paperbacks (Part 3)

I've done several posts on the espionage/action paperback genre (here, for example); and yet the well is nowhere near dry.  The volume of kickass covers is seemingly endless.

Espionage/Action paperbacks are perhaps my favorite variety when it comes to being terrifically tacky.  Often, an ill conceived photograph is used in lieu of illustration. And you can always count on this genre of book to deliver in terms of beautiful babes and studly tough-guys.  Throw in an explosion and/or a variety of weaponry, and you've got yourself a cover.

Weaponry, babe, boat chase, stud.... yep, it's all there.  As a bonus, we have the word "crack" used twice.  I'm in heaven.

Okay, I'm digging the babe - but they could have probably left out the dude.  Far from being a tough-guy or "dark man".... he looks like a high school principal.  

A criminal genius with occult powers, you say? Hellls yes.  If I'm ever appointed the Education Czar, I'll have this as required reading in every high school in the land.

This one has the obligatory babe... then takes it up a notch with ninjas.  My personal theory on literature is that it can always be improved by adding ninjas.  Think how much more interesting The House of Seven Gables and Silas Marner would have been if Hawthorne and Elliot had thought to include ninjas.

In addition to starring Michael Moriarity, Yaphet Kotto and Vic Tayback, this 1975 film was Richard Gere's first big screen appearance.

The text from the back cover deserves a read:

The Honolulu mob was planning the biggest heist in Art history -- The Blacker Virgins, a priceless, erotic masterpiece with a history steeped in Satanism. For Arrow, bringing back the goods meant a whopping bundle of insurance money. But when the mobsters got plugged and the painting got scooped, the game got blacker than magic. Suddenly Arrow found himself on a blood-drenched trail that led to heroin, witchcraft and a living masterpiece of sexual delight named Angel Blacker. She was a dead ringer for the girl in the picture... and Arrow was in a hotbed of trouble.

An excerpt from the novel:

Stud Pressed the gun to her forehead.

"Spread your legs, sweetmeat."

That was when I moved. He saw me coming and reached for a bronze statuette on the bookcase. He raised it over his head and came down with it. I side-stepped, caught the descending arm with both hands and flipped him. It sent Stud sailing, crashing through a coffee table. I went after him.

"Watch out, Frank!" I heard Angel shout, as he made a grab for the gun. I kicked it away and sent my heel crashing down on his hand. I felt the bones crunch as he screamed in agony.



  1. Hate to break it to the League of Dark Men, but it's been done before; the Korean War, anyone?
    And anyone else notice the woman to Mike Shayne's left is a midget with a dodgy arm (unless he's falling from his stool)?

  2. These are fantastic! I would love them all to be sitting in my bookshelf, just looking cool (to read as well, of course!)

  3. The guy in the first cover you show looks a lot like Aaron Eckhart.

  4. Soldier of Fortune Magazine used to have a line of "men's paperbacks" with all sorts of manly deeds, such as the two yahoos who escaped from an island of cannibals...only to be recaptured, have their legs broken and fattened up for later eating. The End. Sheesh. LOL.

    Hey, whatever happened to that "The Executioner" line of books? I thought those were going to be made into a movie. Those were always good for some mental action bubblegum.

  5. "Spread your legs, sweetmeat"... That's chivalry to you.

  6. Looks like Steve Holland (aka Flash Gordon) was the model for the cover of Spider #1

    1. Okay, how come when the gal is the sidekick she is "well equipped" for the mission, but when she has the lead role she is "underfunded" ???
      You loose your kick a$$ abilities when you gain a cup size?
      You can only respect an agent when she is less of a target?

  7. The gun the woman is holding in League of Dark Men looks just like the Man From U.N.C.L.E. gun that I had in the '60's.

  8. Malko is the "International Secret Agent Extraordinary". Something doesn't seem right with that wording....And is the "Double Image" guy Roy Scheider?

  9. I too am a big fan of these covers. And I would absolutely finish The House of Seven Gables if ninjas were added.

  10. As Anonymous posted on Nov. 4 of 2012, that is indeed the famous U.N.C.L.E. Special carbine, developed for the show and based first on a Mauser automatic and then on the Walther P-38. Several companies in the '70s and '80s made metal-and-plastic full-size replicas of it; I have one. So this doesn't need to be one of the actual props from the show -- though it could be, I guess.

    Yes, how about a cover for Somerset Maugham's "Ashenden: The British Agent," with a tuxedo-clad Robert Vaughn and U.N.C.L.E. Special carbine, and a couple of exotic-looking babes?