COME SPY WITH ME
By Max Allan Collins with Matthew V. Clemens
Max Collins is one of those writers who is constantly
surprising us. After decades of offering up great mystery and crime tales, he then
had us cheering wildly for his western actioners courtesy of the late Mickey
Spillane’s cowboy hero, Caleb York. Now comes super-spy James Bond’s clone,
The setting is the early 60s and a British novelist has
become famous by fictionalizing the exploits of M1-6’s operative, John Sand.
Obviously with such notoriety, Sand’s effectiveness as an agent is compromised
and as the story opens, he has retired and married the beautiful Stacey Boldt,
the beautiful heiress to a Texas
oil tycoon. If that sounds familiar, think George Lazenby and Diana Riggs, we
certainly did. It is wish fulfillment ala what might have happened had she
survived. This book takes us there and it’s a wonderful ride.
Sand is sincere in his desire to leave his dangerous career
behind and pursue his new role as an executive in his wife’s business empire.
This all goes awry when, while on a trip to Carribean, he becomes entangled in
a political assassination. Within days he’s summoned by President John F.
Kennedy to a clandestine meeting in the desert of Utah
where a Frank Sinatra western is being filmed. Kennedy suspects rogue agents of
the C.I.A. are planning on assassinating Fidel Castro. After the disastrous
failure of the Bay of Pigs, the last thing he wants is another embarrassing incident
pointing back to the U.S. Reluctantly Sand agrees to go to Cuba and see if
there is any validity to the President’s claims.
As always, Collins’ use of the time and culture are spot on
and add so much to the rich texture of his narrative. Ultimately Sand uncovers
an even greater threat and upon reporting to Kennedy, is once again manipulated
into being the President’s personal secret agent. If that wasn’t enough of a
headache, Stacey demands to tag along. If her husband is going to continue
leading a double-life, then he is going to do it with her or else he can pack
his bags and kiss their marriage sayonara.
If like us, you grew up reading Ian Fleming’s James Bond adventures, “Come Spy With Me” will feel like old home week. Not a bad way to kick off a new series, Mr. Collins & Clemens. Not bad at all.