THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.
The blurbs on the backs:
In Utangaville, Africa, it took two days...
In Spayerwood, Scotland, it happened overnight...
In a small German town, it worked immediately...
In each place, people suddenly turned into mindless, babbling creatures who thrashed about wildly, uttering weird, half-human cries - and then died a hideous death. Doctors and scientists were baffled as to the cause. Was it a sudden epidemic, an unknown virus?
But to the members of the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement, there could only be one answer: THRUSH had discovered a deadly new weapon for world conquest.
His name was Tixe Ylno...
The UNCLE files could tell nothing about him except for that code name. He could be anyone - a cab driver, a coporation executive, a scientist, a store-keeper ... ANYONE! And he might be anywhere in the United States.
But whoever or wherever he was, UNCLES had to find him - because he controlled a secret that had the world at his mercy!
Suddenly, all over the world, the precious and dangerous metal, Plutonium, is being tolen. And wheen a famous scientist mysteriously disappears too, it's time for UNCLE to send their tireless crimebusters, Solo and Kuryakin, to find out where - and why. Their search takes them to the Sudan in the company of a beautiful slave girl, where they discover that THRUSH is spearheading a campaign to take over the world - with nuclear weapons!
Napoleon Solo has been kidnapped. Right outside UNCLE's headquarters in New York.
But why? This is the question that baffles an entire organization. For Napoleon had only been on a routine observation job in Geneva and was not the possessor of any world-shaking secrets.
As the clues are fitted painstakingly together yet another fiendish THRUSH plot is revealed. And a race against time begins with Napoleon's life hanging desperately in the balance.
The Man From UNCLE was launched in 1965 with the intention of being a TV rip-off of the James Bond movies - effectively the blueprint for the entire career of producer Glen A Larson in the 1970s and '80s. Unlike the creations of Mr Larson, however, UNCLE was actually an improvement on the template: Bond films had far too much money to spend on special effects, consequently losing sight of their trash roots, and they always outstayed their welcome, while UNCLE was a cheap and cheerful excursion into the kitsch. And it had the brilliance of David McCallum playing Russian agent Ilya Kuryakin - a far more disturbing and exotic creature than any in the Bond canon.
None of which is intended in any way as a recommendation for these books, which aren't really the kind of things you'd want to read: look at, perhaps, and be amused by owning, but not read.
Of the writers featured in this quartet, I know nothing of Harry Whittington, whilst Peter Leslie was the author of The Fakers amongst others. The biggest name, though, is that of Michael Avallone, veteran of such cult classics as The Voodoo Murders and later to give us the novels of The Partridge Family. Pure pulp, in other words, but he did have shortcomings as a writer, particularly a tendency to over-explain. Well, look, this is the kind of thing I'm talking about:
Every German town or village has a Burgomeister, or Mayor. They found Herr Burgomeister's dwelling on the main street of the town, with a hanging, oaken sign suspended from cast-iron moorings which proclaimed the information: BURGOMEISTER. (p.41)
I mean, we've all found ourselves over-using a word new to our vocabulary, but steady on, old chap.
What's also noticeable is that a series that started off celebrating Robert Vaughn soon recognized that its USP was David McCallum: Vaughn may have been in The Protectors but he never made it to Sapphire and Steel, did he?
The logo from
The Man From UNCLE
PS A correspondent, Ian Covell, points me in the direction of IMDb's account of the series in which it's mentioned that, although UNCLE was indeed inspired by Bond, it was approved by Ian Fleming, who gave the series his blessing, and indeed even created the name of Napoleon Solo.
ARTISTIC MERIT: 2/5
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: 2/5
HIPNESS QUOTIENT: 4/5
the soundtrack album