Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Tong in Cheek (Cherry Delight #2)

Tong in Cheek, published in 1973, is the second of Gardner Francis Fox’s Cherry Delight sexy spy thrillers which he wrote under the name Glen Chase. This series is sometimes known as the Sexecutioner series. Fox had plenty of experience in this genre having written the very entertaining The Lady From L.U.S.T. spy thrillers in the late 60s.

Whether the Cherry Delight books qualify as spy thrillers can be debated. Cherry isn’t quite a spy. She is however a secret agent working for N.Y.M.P.H.O., a shadowy top-secret US government agency. N.Y.M.P.H.O. is mostly engaged in the fight against organised crime but some of their cases (including this one) do involve international intrigue. N.Y.M.P.H.O.’s methods are so unconventional that even the F.B.I. would consider them to be unethical.

Cherry is actually a gorgeous redhead by the name of Cherise Dellissio but inevitably everybody calls her Cherry Delight. She’s not just a secret agent, she’s also a high-class call girl. That’s actually part of her job. She belongs to an elite squad known as the Femmes Fatales. They work as prostitutes because it’s a useful cover and one that offers plenty of opportunities for them to get close to organised crime figures. Cherry doesn’t mind. If there’s one thing Cherry enjoys more than being a secret agent it’s having sex. Her job allows her to combine business with pleasure.

Cherry’s latest case has very definite international ramifications. The Mafia is forging links with tongs operating in Red China. It’s a disturbing development which has to be nipped in the bud.

A N.Y.M.P.H.O. agent has been killed by three Mafia hitmen. The three Mafiosi are now believed to be in Hong Kong en route to Red China. Cherry’s assignment is to prevent them from making contact with the Chinese tongs but mostly her assignment is to kill those three men. Cherry’s duties with N.Y.M.P.H.O. include assassinations. She’s quite relaxed about that.

Once she gets to Hong Kong Cherry will be working with an Englishman named Derek Guyfford. He knows the territory and he happens to be a part-time N.Y.M.P.H.O. agent. Cherry is pleased that he seems to know his job. She’s even more pleased when he turns out to be very good in bed. Derek is keen to help Cherry make the hit on the three Mafia goons but he has another agenda as well. He has a more personal more selfish reason for wanting to go to China. A reason that could make him a vast amount of money. Money that he might be prepared to share with Cherry.

It has to be admitted that the Cherry Delight books are very very trashy. Fox’s prose is more than a little rough around the edges. There is however one thing that Fox understood. If you’re going to combine the thriller and erotica genres you have to make sure that your books deliver on both counts. There has to be plenty of sex and the sex has to be pretty explicit but there has to be lots of action and mayhem as well. And if possible you have to integrate the sex stuff with the thriller stuff. Fox made sure to do this.

You have to consider the historical context. In the late 60s and the 70s there was a widespread feeling that the idea that there was a dividing line between erotica and other genres was rather artificial and outdated. In both the literary and film worlds there was increasing interest in breaking down the barriers between softcore porn and other genres. The 70s was the golden age of cinematic art porn and film-makers with respectable arty credentials were enthusiastically embracing the concept of art porn. The idea of combining erotica with other pure entertainment genres was also becoming quite popular.

The spy sleaze novels which blossomed in the 60s and 70s were very much a part of the zeitgeist. Sexiness was cool. Sexiness was fun. And in the 60s and 70s (unlike today) fun was more or less legal.

Personally I think that the first of the Cherry Delight novels, The Italian Connection, is much superior to Tong in Cheek. It’s faster-paced and it puts more emphasis on action and excitement and non-top mayhem. The Italian Connection is enormous fun.

Tong in Cheek is still reasonably good fun and if spy sleaze is your thing you’ll enjoy it.

You might want to check out my reviews of the first of Fox’s The Lady from L.U.S.T. novels, Lust, Be a Lady Tonight and the first Cherry Delight novel, The Italian Connection.

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