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WILLIAM JOHNSTON
Get Smart


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Tempo, New York, 1965
(price: 60c; 160 pages)


The blurb on the back:

When Max Smart, that intrepid secret agent for Control, gets assigned to the Computer Caper, it's the start of a laugh-out-loud adventure through a confusing labyrinth of international spies, UN delegates, Greenwich Village coffee house denizens, and a couple of beautiful girls who don't do much to help him but do liven up the nutty goings-on.
How Max foils the diabolical plot against the Free World makes a zany tale that no self-respecting spy lover can afford to miss.


opening lines:
It was a typical spring morning in New York City. The air was scented with carbon monoxide. A relative quiet hung over the metropolis, due to the fact tht traffic was snarled in all directions.


You'll probably remember the TV sitcom Get Smart which was intended as a parody of the likes of The Man From UNCLE and ran for 138 episodes in the second half of the 1960s. If not, it doesn't take much explanation: Don Adams played Maxwell Smart, an incompetent and bungling secret agent working for CONTROL in the perpetual struggle against KAOS, a mission in which he was assisted by Barbara Feldon as Agent 99 and hindered by Edward Platt as the Chief.

Occasionally it was quite funny, but mostly it was just likeable, a comfortable and unexceptional half-hour (including adverts) that satirized something hardly worth bothering with.

There was a whole string of novels that bounced off from the show, of which this was the first. It's not big, it's not clever, and it's not funny. It's clodhopping and it's ham-fisted. And, unlike the TV show, you have to make the effort to read it. Why would you do such a thing? Well, maybe to find the odd decent joke, like this verse from a beat poet:

Stale bread, unbuttered - Life!
Tapioca without the lumps,
A pad all full of bumps!
Air pollution, the cell door locked.
No escape; O, how life is mocked.

Tenement, slum, no heat in the winter - Life!
Hunger, war, fighting in the streets,
The victims: The innocent and the beats!
Slaughter the birds for table.
I'd go somewhere's else if I was able. (pp.85-86)

You see, I like that, but the rest of it really isn't very good. Sorry, Chief.


ARTISTIC MERIT: 1/5
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE:
1/5
HIPNESS QUOTIENT:
4/5


visit a fine Get Smart site
bonus cover:
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