‘Both birds in net.Proceeding upriver immediately.Return expected seven weeks time.’
Fascinating to find that 65 years after the 1953 publication of Desmond Cory's novels based on his character Johnny Fedora have survived to the point of becoming Kindle books. Probably Cory with his futuristic imagination knew his books would survive the myriad permutations of the publishing world. For those who may not remember, Desmond Cory is a pseudonym used by British mystery/thriller writer Shaun Lloyd McCarthy (Lancing, Sussex, February 16, 1928 - January 2001) - a writer whose novels were overshadowed by Ian Fleming's mega-success with the 007 series, but whose main character Johnny Fedora predated James Bond and to many the public came to expect even more from Cory's colorful action, copious carnage, elaborate intrigue, frequent surprises: for many the Fedora plots were more complex and intellectual. As one critic stated, `I must say that I find Cory's Johnny Fedora a much more persuasive violent, sexy and lucky agent than James Bond.'
HEIGHT OF DAY is the fifth of Cory's Johnny Fedora capers. Fedora is a hired assassin ("hired to kill"), and carries a sense of joie de vivre and sensual worldliness that serve as fine counterbalances to his brainy gifts as an action hero. The son of a Spanish father and Irish mother, Fedora is driven as much by a need to avenge the death of his parents as by patriotism or loyalty to British Intelligence. The debonair Fedora was always a tough and competent agent, and his first adventures were written in a more light-hearted manner than the latter ones.
In this book (HEIGHT OF DAY) the plot proceeds as ‘1954. Central Africa. In an intriguing tale of mystery and suspense, Johnny Fedora follows the trail of an archaeological expedition that is not quite what it appears to be. Fedora's mission: to recover a hidden object sought after by both the Nazis and British Intelligence – whatever the costs. As members of the expedition are murdered one by one, Fedora must unravel the true purpose of the expedition before he is its next victim. In a race for time, Fedora discovers other unknown secrets lying in the deepest corners of the jungle – both ancient and deadly. Provocative, and utterly unpredictable, Height of Day takes the reader back in time to the post-war era when espionage was a pure game of wits with no computers or gizmos in sight.’
Nothing is ever straightforward: strange characters abound and every turn takes a twist and keeps the reader captured completely in this compelling (and at times humorous) book. Further proof of Cory’s permanence among the cognoscenti.
Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.