Saturday, June 7, 2014

Topless Dancer Hangup - Patrick Morgan

He got a street window seat in the café so he could watch all the yummy secretaries jiggle by. Nothing was quite so sexy as a woman dressed up and in a hurry. Click, click, click went the heels, jiggle, jiggle, jiggle, went the push-up bras, chomp, chomp, chomp, went the Cartwright jaws. Floor show during lunch.  

Macfadden Books, 1971
Topless Dancer Hangup by Patrick Morgan is the 6th novel in the Operation Hang Ten series that eventually numbered 10 books. They’re a cross between surf and spy and detective novels. Bill Cartwright is an agent for Operation Hang Ten, an agency run by a cat named Jim Dana. Dana’s idea of running a spy agency is to recruit his agents from the “teeny-bopper” set. This way he can have his agents blend in on their undercover assignments much better than some Yale graduate in his white socks and black shoes, apparently. Bill Cartwright is just such an agent. He’s a surf bum, with a couple of paternity suits in his portfolio. Cartwright drives a Woody, lives in a trailer, and has a private investigator’s license. The P.I. license is Cartwright’s cover in working cases for Operation Hang Ten.

In this assignment, Cartwright is called to find another Operation Hang Ten agent who has gone missing on her assignment. Cartwright is a little irritated in getting pulled in for a job, after spending the past few weeks surfing the lower Baja coast. Cartwright’s trailer is equipped with all kind of nifty spy gadgets like a radio phone and closed circuit TV. It’s also got a bed just big enough for him and any beach bunny that catches his fancy. He bitches a little bit about having to go and rescue some other agent who’s gotten in over their head, until learning that the missing agent is Sandra Denny, whose cover job is topless dancing.

Denny’s assignment was to purchase a reel of top secret film for $10,000 from a Cuban refugee in Honolulu and deliver it to Hang Ten’s headquarters, but instead the Cuban ends up murdered and Agent Denny is missing. Cartwright ships his Woody and trailer to Honolulu and takes up the search for the missing Sandra Denny. He doesn't have a lot to go on, just the name of the private club where she stripped at.

Cartwright’s first stop in Honolulu is for lunch, where he watches the downtown secretaries hurrying to and fro in their mini-skirts and high heels. Cartwright really gets off in their company, referring to them as “little dollies” and “noisy birds as they quick-stepped with their mini-skirts twitching along every busy street.” You get the idea. It’s almost like listening to Travis McGee.

So, after oogling the girls during lunch, Cartwright decides to pay a visit to the Where It’s At club, where agent Denny did her thing. It’s there he runs into a couple of heavy’s named Tiny and Augie who are on the payroll of the club’s owner, Big Carl. It takes some smart-assed patter and a couple knuckle sandwiches, but Cartwright finally makes it into Big Carl’s office where he announces that he’s looking for his missing dancer. Big Carl really doesn't give a flip, but gives Cartwright Sandy’s home address and the name and address of another dancer, Marie, who was Sandy’s friend.

Cartwright plays private eye and learns that Sandy had a boyfriend named Don Arlen who liked to race cars. Then it’s off to Waikiki for Cartwright, where he can bitch about how all the tourists and posers have ruined all the surf for guys like him. He then takes in a couple waves, flirts with a couple bunnies, plays some volleyball with a girl named Sue, checks out her ass in her tight bikini, buys her a burger and milk shake and has his offer of sex with her shot down. Oh well, all in a day’s work.

The surfing scenes are actually well done and you get the feeling that’s where the author’s real passion is in this novel. And there is a cynical overtone that is also reminiscent of Travis McGee. The novel’s mystery is just an excuse to surf and chase the girls. A good example of that is when Cartwright manages to get grazed by a bullet and blown off his feet by an exploding car, only to have mind blowing sex with Denny’s pal Marie later that same night. I don’t know, but after I get shot and nearly blown up, it takes me at least a day or so before I’m ready to give a chick multiple orgasms…but that probably explains why I sit at a computer instead of surfing and screwing chicks.

Topless Dancer Hangup is kind of a fun novel, if you forgive the heaping doses of chauvinistic piggery that Cartwright (via Patrick Morgan) dishes out. I know I’m a product of a different age, but this stuff is right out of the Rush Limbaugh handbook. I mean, dig this neat little observation, late in the novel:

“Well,” sweet Marie said, “there’s a group of women around who call themselves feminists. They shout and make a lot of noise about equal rights with men and equal pay and equal jobs and—just everything. Most of them are fat and have skin problems and, I don’t know, maybe they think they’ll never get a man to love them, so they want to be equal with men…Well we Pussycats don’t think that way. We have our own magazine, you know, called Adam’s Rib. It says what we’re about. You see, what we think is, girls just have to realize that they are living in a man’s world and that man is, by nature, the boss. But also by nature, we girls are different. Goodness, anyone can tell we’re different from men just by looking at us. I mean, we've got all these soft curves and stuff, and the way we’re put together just makes us built to care for men and—bring them pleasure. After all, wasn't woman created for the pleasure of man?”

Oh baby, hear me roar!


  1. A great review, and I really enjoyed reading it. And that's a great observation you quoted at the end -- for me, part of the enjoyment of these old men's adventure novels is how they are so wholly from a different age. I have an overlong review of Richard Blade #3 coming up this Thursday where I go into the same thing.

    These Operation Hang Ten novels are very overpriced on the used books market, mostly because there was only the McFadden editions. McFadden also published the Aquanauts series and the Richard Blade series (which like Operation Hang Ten were copyright Lyle Kenyon Engel), but for whatever reason when McFadden went out of business no one reprinted the Operation Hang Ten books -- Aquanauts went to Manor and Blade went to Pinnacle, so those two are easier to find.

    But anyway, back before Xmas I was in an antique store with my wife and there was a bookseller set up in there, who had a lot of '60s spy pulp at cheap prices...and he had three volumes of Operation Hang Ten, which really shocked me. At only three bucks each! Of course, they were all beaten-to-hell copies, but I couldn't complain. One of them happened to be this sixth volume. (The other two being #3 and #8.)

    Marty McKee reviewed a few volumes of the series over on the Craneshot blog, and said pretty much the same thing about Cartwright's piggery. Patrick Morgan was in reality a writer named George Snyder, who claims ownership of the series on his blog:

    1. Hi Joe, Thanks checking out the review and for the info on these Operation Hang Ten novels. I lucked out finding this copy for two dollars at a used bookstore. That's after several years of keeping my out for one. I see they're kind of expensive normally, and have always wondered why and what the story was behind them. I have two of the Richard Blade McFadden editions and am looking forward to reading them. Hopefully I'll find a couple more of these Operation Hang Ten novels (for cheap!) to see if our hero Bill Cartwright changes his evil attitude toward women...but I'm not betting on it!

  2. One slight correction, folks. I never claimed ownership of Operation Hang Ten. I wrote ten of them, helped with the original concept (based on my first novel The Surfer Killers, published as Surfside Sex). Other writers came later after I walked away from the series. The series used to be owned by Lyle Kenyon Engel. He has gone, (in the 80s) so I don't know what happened after that.