Monday, August 29, 2022

The Chic Chick Spy

The Chic Chick Spy dates from 1966. It’s the second of the three spy thrillers featuring the Miss From S.I.S. which were written by Robert Tralins. It’s a mixture of spy action and sleaze, which is a mixture I’m starting to find rather seductive.

Lee Crosley is a beautiful young woman who appears on the surface to be a successful travel writer. In reality she’s a counter-espionage field agent for S.I.S., a top-secret intelligence and counter-intelligence agency. All of S.I.S.’s agents are beautiful young women.

This time Lee is investigating a beauty salon. Beauty salons don’t sound very sinister but the Queen of Sheba beauty salon in downtown Washington is rather unusual. It’s run by a woman who claims to be the Queen of Sheba reincarnated. The staff consists almost entirely of lesbians. And if a woman goes to this salon to get her hair done she will be ordered to strip naked. There are Queen of Sheba salons all over the world and now they’re intending to open branches throughout the United States. The salons seem to be a cover for some sort of scheme for world domination.

Lee decides to make an appointment to get a dry and set. She soon finds herself totally nude and surrounded by lesbians in strange turbans. There is an attempt to hypnotise her and an attempt to drug her. The few men working for this beauty salon organisation seem a bit odd as well.

Lee gets into the usual scrapes you expect in a pulp spy caper. She gets captured and of course she escapes. Her sidekick David Dudley gets captured. Both Lee and David end up in various foreign cities chasing up leads, which involves attending conferences. What makes it a bit different from a standard spy thriller is that just about all of the scrapes Lee gets into involve her having to take all her clothes off.

Lee finally starts to suspect what is behind all this beauty salon stuff, and she’s horrified. This is much more diabolically twisted than your standard evil genius aiming for world domination stuff.

Lee Crosley is an engaging enough heroine. She’s basically your standard sexy lady spy. She isn’t defenceless when she enters the beauty salon. She has all kinds of gadgets concealed on and about her person. There are gadgets in her lipstick, her mascara pencil, her ballpoint pen and of course in her bra. The latter came as no surprise to me. Having read the first of Gardner Francis Fox’s delightful The Lady from L.U.S.T. spy thriller series I knew that lady spies always have secret devices hidden in their bras (and usually in their panties). Of course to use the gadget Lee has to take her bra off but that doesn’t seem to be a problem for her since she spends a lot of her time nude or semi-nude. In fact pretty much all of Lee’s underwear is deadly.

David Dudley is very much a sidekick. He’s quite resourceful and useful but he’s strictly a subordinate. In S.I.S. only women can become fully-fledged field agents. Men are purely employed in subordinate capacities. I suppose you could try to interpret this as an indication of some kind of feminist message but I think it might be a mistake to push this too far. This was 1966 and the book reflects the world of 1966. S.I.S. employs women because women make very useful agents. And the book is about lady spies because, let’s face it, lady spies are sexy and glamorous. That’s not to say it’s anti-feminist. If you’re the sort of person who sees political incorrectness everywhere I imagine you’ll find lots of it here.

There’s a reasonable amount of action. The violence is very low-key but people do get killed. The sleaze is also very low-key. There’s no sex. The sleaze mostly amounts to Lee getting naked a lot. A real lot. The book is sexy but in a lighthearted almost innocent way.

The front cover assures us that this is the most absurd book you will read this year. They’re not kidding. The plot is definitely crazy and goofy. It all kind of makes sense, if you accept some really outlandish assumptions.

If, like me, you enjoy books that mix espionage and sleaze then you really need to check out Gardner Francis Fox’s The Lady from L.U.S.T. and Cherry Delight thrillers. I’ve reviewed the first Lady from L.U.S.T. novel, Lust, Be a Lady Tonight, and the first Cherry Delight book, The Italian Connection (which is a total blast). They’re more frenetic and more overtly sleazy than The Chic Chick Spy but they belong broadly to the same sub-genre.

The Chic Chick Spy is silly fun. I liked it. Highly recommended.

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