Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Troy Conway's Coxeman: The Best Laid Plans

The Coxeman series of sexy spy thrillers is credited to Troy Conway which was a house name. Several authors wrote books in this series, notably Michael Avallone. The tenth book in the series, The Best Laid Plans, was written by Gardner F. Fox in 1969. Given that he was the author of the wonderful Lady From L.U.S.T. and Cherry Delight sexy spy/crime thrillers he was clearly an ideal choice to contribute to this series.

The Coxeman is Professor Rod Damon. He’s a sociologist and a sexologist but he’s also a part-time secret agent, working for the Thaddeus X. Coxe Foundation (whose agents are therefore called Coxemen).

The Best Laid Plans begins with Rod Damon saving a woman who is about to commit suicide. The curious thing is that she has no idea why she tried to throw herself in front of a car.

It turns out that she’s a high-powered diplomat who seems like she might be the Oman to bring peace to the Middle East. Which is why the Thaddeus X. Coxe Foundation becomes interested. They suspect a plot to derail her peace plans. They further suspect that a shadowy organisation known as HECATE is behind the plot. HECATE is a bit like SPECTRE or THRUSH - they aim at global power but their main objective is to enrich themselves. They’re not ideological.

HECATE have perfected a form of mind control. Rod Damon’s job is to get himself recruited by HECATE. He’ll be safe because he’s been implanted with a device which will nullify HECATE’s mind control techniques. At least in theory he’ll be safe. In practice things don’t go so smoothly. He has no problem getting recruited by HECATE but he discovers that he may not be able to prevent himself from being turned into a robotic assassin.

Like any good fictional spy Rod Damon is highly trained in unarmed combat and firearms skills. He’s also a highly trained sex machine. The Thaddeus X. Coxe Foundation has found that it’s very useful for their agents to possess advanced bedroom skills. Damon is a natural stud whose background in sexology has developed his sexual prowess to an extraordinary degree. On this mission he will make full use of all his special talents.

The trick to writing a successful sexy spy thriller is to put as much emphasis on the spy plot as on the sex. Fox managed this trick extremely well in the first of the Lady From L.U.S.T. and Cherry Delight books, mixing non-stop secret agent action with lots of sex. And with genuinely exciting action scenes. He doesn’t pull this off quite so successfully in this book. The plot is just a bit too thin and there’s not quite enough action.

On the other hand Fox does manage to make all the sex integral with the plot, given that HECATE’s plans for world domination involve using sex as a tool of espionage. And he does manage to have his hero engage in an action scene whilst having sex at the same time.

The sex is relatively explicit without being overly crude.

The sexy spy thriller genre which blossomed in the mid to late 60s was very much a part of the zeitgeist of the 60s. The release of the first Bond movie, Dr No, in 1962 had established the idea of the sexy spy. In that very year Honor Blackman as Cathy Gale became the first sexy kickass lady spy in The Avengers. Modesty Blaise made her first comic strip appearance in 1963 with the Modesty Blaise movie and the first Modesty Blaise novel following in 1965. Ramping up the sexual content to create the spy sleaze sub-genre was an obvious move that was going to occur to canny publishers and pulp writers.

And some of these spy sleaze novels really were fun.

The Best Laid Plans is very much of its time in another way, dealing as it does with scientific mind control. This was a huge pop culture obsession at that time.

Rod Damon is a hero you’ll either love or hate. He not only thinks he’s God’s gift to women he really is the ultimate sexual athlete and he’s pretty arrogant about it. He expects women to swoon over him. Given that he’s a super-spy as well you might think that the characters take wish-fulfilment fantasies to an absurd extreme. On the other hand we’re clearly not intended to take this book at all seriously and you can derive some amusement from the hero’s ludicrously inflated ego and impossibly awesome sexual prowess.

Personally I think this is a genre that works better with a sexy lady super-spy rather than a male super-stud super-spy. Fox’s sexy lady spies, Eve Drum (the Lady from L.U.S.T.) and Cherry Delight, are just as sex-obsessed as Rod Damon (their sexual appetites are awe-inspiring) but they’re amusing and charming and likeable as well.

The Best Laid Plans is however reasonably enjoyable if you’re in the mood for a very sleazy spy thriller. It knows it's trash and it doesn't care. It’s recommended if your tastes run that way.

I’ve reviewed a couple of Gardner F. Fox’s other books in this genre, The Italian Connection (Cherry Delight #1) and Lust, Be a Lady Tonight (The Lady from L.U.S.T. #1) both of which are great fun.

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