I have been very interested in the new-to-me discovery of many long-running schlock adventure / spy paperback series from the 1960s onwards. I’m talking about Mack Bolan The Executioner, Remo Willians The Destroyer, Matt Helm The Remover  So far I’ve been choosing them almost entirely based on the lurid covers. I mean, it’s an established fact that books are best judged by their covers.
Paul Kenyon’s Baroness stories didn’t run very long but they’ve chalked up a fair following to judge by the paperback prices on Amazon  and they are at least as preposterous as the Remo stories. The set-up is that the Baroness Penelope St. John-Orsini is the boss and top model of an international supermodel agency, and it’s the cover for her real job as a ultra-highly trained killing machine working for the NSA. James Bond with tits. To give you an idea of just how silly it is, consider the back cover blurb:
“Penelope St John-Orsini, NSA’s crack double agent, is sent on a secret mission across the Russian steppes into the desolate wastes of Easter Siberia. Her objective: to track and destroy a Red Chinese scientist who has invented a formidable laser death ray.
Masquerading as Mongolians, Penelope and her team of professionals have to face hostile Tartar warriors, and the savagery of the Kinghan mountains before they reach the shores of the mighty River of the Black Dragon – the threshold to Red China, and the second round in the game of death.”
So, we’re talking about Fox Force Five. Charlies Angels ramped up to level 20.
The book was written in 1974, so you have to expect this kind of thing. This was the era of disco, Bruce Lee, and muscle cars. As a work of genre fiction it fits the bill. The story makes sense, it’s clearly written, and the colourful cast of characters keep it lively. I enjoyed it. One thing really stood out though: the mismatch between the child-like imagination and accessibility of the writing (suggesting a teen or young adult audience of marginal IQ) and the lurid, brutal and highly sexualised violence. Let me give examples.
Penelope’s team link up with a Russian GRU team to do a joint infiltration of the Chinese base in snowy mountains. Their guides, Mongols, turn on them and Penelope is cold-cocked with a rifle butt. She wakes up in their yurt:
“She hurt. Her whole body felt sore. She had a crashing headache. The air was smoky, with an overpowering smell of grease and sweat. She opened her eyes.
Her arms were tied behind her. She was naked, lying on a pile of greasy furs. She was inside the yurt. It was hot, stifling. She was dizzy for a moment, and the felt dome reeled. She was surrounded by leering Mongol faces that bobbed like tennis balls until she shook her head to clear it.
There were finger marks on her breasts and thighs. There was a burning sensation in her vagina. She’d been raped. She wondered how many times.”
That strikes me as a bit salacious. Fear not, she escapes her bonds and violently murders almost every Mongol. Her Russian-US team come to her aid just as she runs from the yurt, which is now burning down after she kicked over a brazier to blind an attacking Mongol.
“There were two sprawled bodies at his feet, rifles lying beside them in the snow. Those were her two pursuers. Their bodies were stitched with slugs from the AR-10. A third body lay closer to the smoking ruins of the yurt.
The Russians stood around in a little knot, silent. Penelope took a step forward. A blackened body lay within the charred framework: the man she’d knifed in the belly.
Something was writhing weakly at the Russians’ feet. The man she’d treated to a faceful of hot coals. He must have managed to crawl, blinded, outside. She started toward him. If he could talk, perhaps she could get a clue to the plot to take over the expedition.
Before she could get there, she saw Alexey turn to speak to Tania. The blond girl nodded eagerly, and with unholy anticipation on her face knelt beside the blinded Yakut and sliced his throat with a knife.”
That’s what really jumps out in this book. It is chock full of sex, violence, and sadism in addition to the high adventure and tally-ho courage. The Baroness herself bangs two different Soviet spies, one in the beginning in her swimming pool and then that Alexey character in the mountains. Both scenes take about ten pages each and my fingers refuse to type sample paragraphs. It’s like reading a soccer mom’s kindle porn. I literally skipped those pages . The violence is described as if those creepy pervs who directed the Hostel and Saw movies were writing it.
Dunno, man. I didn’t like that aspect. Revelling in sexual sadism just doesn’t sit right with me. I get that it’s written for the titillation of young lads, but I’d rather it played the action straight like in the Bolan and Helm books. I’d like something more like Fox Force Five.
Or if the Spice Girls were actually hot.
Anyhow, salaciousness aside this was a fun read of the kind of hi-jinks that never get made into TV shows or books. About the closet thing to it is the beginning of that crappy Zak Snyder movie about the tarts. What was it called? Ah yes, this one….
If you’d like to read an equally silly adventure in Russia with lots of salacious sex scenes, consider buying my memoir Adventure Sex. Or any of my many fantastic products here.
 and also The Silencer, The Ambusher, The Shadower, The Ravager, The Devastator and pretty much every other bad-ass sounding verb one could use as a code-name.
 Sadly, no Kindle unlike the £0.99 Destroyer volumes.
 And I never skip or skim-read pages. I consider it an unholy sacrilege against books.