Friday, December 11, 2009

FORGOTTEN BOOKS ~ KIDS EDITION: X MARKS THE SPY BY JACK LANCER!

FORGOTTEN BOOKS ~ KIDS EDITION: X MARKS THE SPY BY JACK LANCER!

X Marks The Spy is the first book in the Christopher Cool/TEEN Agent series produced by the Stratemeyer Syndicate between 1967-1969. In a 1989 interview published in Comics Interview #69, Jim Lawrence disclosed he was the ghostwriter behind the Jack Lancer pseudonym used on the books. Lawrence then went on to write the long running newspaper strip adventures of James Bond.

The series, of course, was created to capitalize on the marketing potential of the spy genre of the era. It wasn’t overly successful with only six series entries.

Chris Cool is an agent of TEEN, Top-secret Educational Espionage Network, an undercover arm of the American CIA whose members are students.

The Top-secret Educational Espionage Network, or TEEN, is a hush-hush corps of bright young students specially developed by Intelligence on the theory that its members would be less open to suspicion than older agents (much the same premis as Robert Muchamore’scurrent ad way more successful CHERUB series).

As an undercover arm of the American CIA, TEEN has access to the same networks and also often cooperates with other intelligence services of the free world. The headquarters is located in New York City on Broadway near 56th Street, using the import sports car showroom of Luxury Motors as a front. A secret training center is operated out of the Howell mansion nestled on a vast walled estate on Long Island Sound.

TOAD is the most feared and fiendish secret organization in the world (except for perhaps SPECTRE or THRUSH). As a criminal setup aimed at eventual world domination it outmuscles all known gangs. Its intelligence network rivals the Russian KGB or American CIA. A live toad is often sent to TOAD's intended victims, and the outline of a toad is stamped into their foreheads once the death sentence is fulfilled.

Other members of TEEN include Geronimo Johnson, an Apache Indian and Christopher's partner; Spice Carter, a student at Vassar University; Yummi Toyama, a Japanese-American student at Berkley College, and Beauregard Tatum, an African-American student at Harvard.

The novels have the TEEN agents go to various foreign countries, and typical of the spy genre of the time, outfitted with many spy gadgets.

X MARKS THE SPY

In the thrilling city of Paris, TEEN's crack espionage agent Chris Cool undertakes a baffling and dangerous mission: to ferret out a revolutionary new secret weapon which could change the balance of power in the cold war. His contact is an unknown spy identified only by a cunningly concealed X mark. When three men turn up with X marks, Chris is faced with the grim challenge of correctly identifying the right contact. Chris and his Apache fellow agent, Geronimo Johnson, follow a clue that leads to the Riviera resort town of St. Tropez and discover that they themselves have become the quarry in a blood-chilling game of hide-and-seek with the deadly agents of TOAD. For all mystery-spy fans, here is a suspense thriller packed with pulse-pounding excitement that never lets up till the final paragraph.

While the writing doesn’t lift these novels to anywhere near that of current teen agents such as Young Bond, Alex Rider, of the aforementioned CHERUB agents, I have a special affection for the books from when I read them as a young teen.

THE CHRISTOPHER COOL TEEN AGENT SERIES:

X Marks the Spy (1967)
Mission: Moonfire (1967)
Department of Danger (1967)
Ace of Shadows (1967)
Heads You Lose (1968)
Trial By Fury (1969)

3 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

That was some fancy footwork. Thanks, Bish.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

This sounds like a wonderful series.

Evan Lewis said...

TEEN and TOAD. Cool!