Thursday, March 25, 2010

Seduce and Destroy by James Eastwood

Continuing with the spy craze of the swinging sixties we have James Eastwood's Seduce and Destroy, first published in 1967. I can't find out too much information on the author, other than he was British and a professional writer. This is also part of a series of books about Anna Zordan, beautiful secret agent for an even more secret service.
Seduce opens with a letter delivered to Sarratt, the head of a "top-secret British intelligence unit". The letter is from a renowned journalist and details how he married into a family of powerful Neo-Nazis bent on world domination. What makes this family a little different from the usual Neo-Nazi family is that it is run by women. Soon after his marriage, the journalist was introduced to Grossmutti, the bedridden matriarch of the family. She and her daughters had managed to escape to South America with a submarine full of gold bars. The letter ends with the journalists describing the execution of a college who'd ventured to close to The Family.
The action moves to secret agent Anna Zordan (she's part Hungarian), who is tailing a minor film actor named Tony. Tony, it turns out, is part of The Family and has been in Britain stirring up all kinds of trouble. Their affair comes to a head one night when Tony takes Anna for a drive in his spiffy MG. He pulls over to one side of the road, makes some excuse, and is promptly killed by Anna (one precise throat punch) before he can take her out. Anna sends the MG over a cliff before checking back in with Sarratt.
Anna soon finds herself being debriefed by Sarratt. She discovers Tony was the son of a Mrs. Wilberforce, who runs the operations for the The Family. The Family has been scheming with the Red Chinese and supporting a radical right politician in Germany named Bauer. There's all kinds of social turmoil which can be traced to The Family. But the worst of it all is a missing Chinese nuclear weapon. Since the cover for Sarratt's operation is a film studio, Sarratt has decided to send Anna to The Family's compound on the island of Crete as an actress. She's young, pretty, and Mrs. Wilberforce likes girls.
The book shifts into high gear at this point. Anna finds herself bouncing around the Mideast and ends up in a private plane carrying a nuclear bomb. There's a Chinese spy named Mr. Chu. Anna plays into her enemies' exceptions of a weak finishing school bimbo more than once, with deadly results. Sarratt finds himself imprisoned in an East German psychiatric ward. Everything comes to a bizarre conclusion.
Eastwood's style is very drool, in a very witty British sort of way.He saves his best writing for the fortysomething head of the spy agency, Sarratt. For instance, Sarratt only reports to a woman who is always known as "The Minister". One of their strategy sessions takes place in The Minister's kitchen while she is baking an apple pie. Sarratt has deep affections for both The Minister and his special agent Anna. But he can't act on either one for reasons of security. He also has a subordinate who's just waiting for the opportunity to get Sarratt's job. There is a hilariously sublime passage where Sarratt's subordinate suggests his boss is maybe, just maybe, losing the old touch.
I found this book to be pleasantly amusing and a good adventure novel at the same time. Now I'll be looking for others in the series.

2 comments:

  1. With a cover like this one, Tim, a book doesn't have to be good, but it sounds as though this one is. It was published in the US by Dell, but if I have a copy, I don't have any idea what the cover looks like.

    Al Hubin's CRIME FICTION IV says that there are two other books in the Anna Zordan series. Like you, I'll have to see about tracking them down.

    As for Eastwood, Hubin also says he was a "Foreign correspondent and author of numerous TV and feature films." I found a James Eastwood on IMDB who I suspect the right guy, and if so, numerous is the right word.

    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0247757/

    Many many movies, probably of the B variety, and since they were made in the UK, I've never heard of almost any of them.

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