Sunday, June 23, 2013

Dig that Rockabye Bear - The Rockabye Contract

Last year in my used bookstore travels I found a whole slew of "Contract" novels by Philip Atlee featuring Joe Gall aka The Nullifier. Joe Gall is a freelancer, who takes assignments on contract. He works alone, reports to no one, and plays by his own rules.

Fawcett Gold Medal, 1968
Gall is one of those guys who is a walking expert on everything from atomic science to yoga. He's also a hell of a tiger in the sack. He would need to be, based on the picture of Joe seen in the top left corner above. The back cover also shows a series of photos of Joe puffing on a cigarette (probably a Lucky Strike) and blowing the smoke laconically over his shoulder. In case you missed it, he's cool. And deadly.

Actually, he is pretty cool. The novels, including this one, are all told in first person. Based on the couple I've read you can pick them up in any order and not worry about a continuity to the series. The Rockabye Contract begins with Joe Gall arriving in Greenwich Village to meet with a young hot folksinger named Hester Prim, who performs topless.

A Miss Hester Prim, who had just come on stage, was wearing a short black vinyl skirt and black boots. Strands of her flaming hair had been taped over the nipples of her breasts, and she handled the twelve-string Gibson like a ukulele. Hester was a big girl, several inches over six feet.

In addition to describing Hester, we also get Joe Gall's opinion of hipsters and hippies and folkies, seen through the eyes of a cynical assassin who's a bit self conscious of having aged in places they "couldn't find on a map." And it's just the kind of asides that keep the novel moving. Joe is a sociologist of sorts, much like another contemporary, more famous Gold Medal hero, Travis McGee.

Joe's assignment, as far as Hester Prim is concerned, is to act as her manager as they tour Europe. Beyond that, he's not exactly sure what the contract entails. But things happen quickly. To sum up: he flies with Hester to London, then on to Germany where he must learn why two agents have disappeared investigating a seemingly innocent toy factory with ties to a certain Caribbean dictator who has a taste for young virgins. In the process Joe gets to lay a spanking on Hester (nice!), is chased by German police through an apartment building, is captured and kidnapped on to a plane full of mannequins and flown to an unknown location in the Caribbean. He's then held neck deep in a pit full of mud. After executing an escape, Joe Gall tangles with the dictator's thugs, foils an assassination plot and is followed explosive toy koala bear. And yes, he get to bed the hot Hester Prim. Who said spying ain't fun?

Well, maybe real spying isn't so fun, but this book sure was, if you don't try to think about it too hard.

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