Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Trembling Earth Contract (1969)

I bought this copy of The Trembling Earth Contract by Philip Atlee (1969) mainly for the cover, but also because I was curious to see just how far the author would go while putting his (white) secret agent character, Joe Gall, undercover as a member of a black militia group. Well, folks, he goes pretty far.

Our rich, tough, smart, heroic, and ultra-manly hero is a secret agent under contract to "The Agency." After a really weird and long interlude where Gall goes hunting with a friend who makes a fake lake to attract geese, Gall is attacked on his way back to his hidden palatial home. He naturally outsmarts the attackers, who turn out to be two black guys, one the son of a sheriff and the other recently discharged from active duty in Vietnam. When he finally makes it to his door he is surprised by a shadowy figure which he attacks first and realizes is a sexy lady later. Sexy lady is a lawyer that is trying to sign him to a contract working for her corporation. Gall invites her in, shows her around the ritzy pad (including the sauna hidden behind the waterfall), cooks her a giant dinner, and then shows off the pair of white tigers he has roaming the property (?). After all of that he says yes she says no, then later she says yes. The sex scene is very oddly written, and Atlee has a tendency to throw in technical terms for body parts at very awkward moments (gonads? pudendum? Not sexy words.).

After all of that, we finally get to the story: the two guys who tried to kill Gall were after him because he was the agent most likely to be sent to overthrow their group: a highly organized militia of black veterans (The Republic of New Africa) who are planning to take over the South by force and eject all the whites. Naturally Gall must infiltrate them from the inside so he takes pills to make his skin dark and glues an Afro wig to his head. Then he gets himself thrown in jail, where he is recruited into the organization.

Gall is a pretty right-wing dude and really shows very little interest, sympathy, or understanding for the black group and there is a lot of casual racism in the book that should make any modern and/or normal reader a little uncomfortable. Of course, there isn't always that much time for careful consideration of political positions and racial attitudes between the explosions, assassinations, secret meetings, more weird sex scenes, and half-developed characters and plot-lines.

This is actually the tenth book in the Joe Gall series of spy novels, written by former CIA agent David Atlee Phillips under the pseudonym of Philip Atlee. It was a fast read, and occasionally entertaining, but mostly inconsistent and not a great representative of the genre.

[Back cover is right here, dear.]

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