The Man From UNCLE

The Affair Of The Gunrunners’ Gold
Written by Brandon Keith
Illustrated by Larry Pelini
1967 – Whitman Publishing Company

On a few occasions, as an Australian I have asked the question, what does my country have to offer the spy community? Obviously we have given the world George Lazenby, Rugged Rod Taylor, Guy Doleman – and more recently Peta Wilson (in the La Femme Nikita television series), Eric Bana (in Steven Spielberg’s Munich) and Cate Blanchett (in Charlotte Gray and a few other flicks). But finally I think I have stumbled onto our biggest export – well it’s my lopsided theory anyway, until it’s shot down by someone who is well versed in the U.N.C.L.E. universe. Here it is: I am claiming that the evil organisation T.H.R.U.S.H. is an Australian entity.

Why would I make an outrageous claim like this? Lets start with the U.N.C.L.E. movie, The Spy With My Face – it opens with Napoleon Solo storming one of T.H.R.U.S.H.s compounds north of Melbourne. Okay, T.H.R.U.S.H. have headquarters and secret lairs all around the world, so that in itself is not conclusive proof. But the book, The Affair Of The Gunrunners’ Gold is the icing on the cake. All will be revealed, but first let’s have a quick look at the plot.

The book opens in mid July at Kennedy Airport in NYC and Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin are standing outside customs, waiting for a passenger to arrive. This man is Howard Ogden and he has been a very naughty boy. Two years previously, Odgen was arrested for gunrunning, but before he could go to trial, he slipped out of the country and hid out in South America.

The reason the U.N.C.L.E.s finest are waiting for the gunrunner is that Alexander Waverley, head of U.N.C.L.E. has been concerned about the influx of weapons to some of the Latin American Communist countries. As Ogden is a known gunrunner, and has been hiding in South America, it is fair to assume that he knows ‘something’ about where the guns are coming from.

Ogden is traveling under the name of Owens, and is posing as a machinery salesman, and is carrying two large suitcases filled with machinery samples. Solo and Kuryakin recognise him immediately and take him into custody. They march him to their car, and as he is seated in the front, Solo shoots him with a tranquiliser dart which puts him to sleep. Then it’s off to U.N.C.L.E. HQ.

As Ogden sleeps, a team of U.N.C.L.E. experts go through all his belongings. When they get to his two suitcases on first inspection they find nothing too suspicious – no false bottoms or flat throwing knives. But on further examination, they find that Ogden’s machinery samples are made from solid gold with only a thin veneer of iron over them to ward off suspicion. In fact he was carrying one hundred thousand dollars worth of gold.

Armed with this information, Waverley has some leverage. Ogden is awoken and Waverley threatens him with a long stint in jail – that is unless he helps U.N.C.L.E. find out who is behind the illegal gun trade in Latin America. Ogden decides to squeal.

Now dear reader, you’re probably wanting to know why I think T.H.R.U.S.H. is an Australian entity – well Ogden names a reputable Australian weapons manufacturer, called Raymond & Langston as the suppliers of the weapons. Furthermore Raymond & Langston also work for T.H.R.U.S.H. This company also works out of New York. Now why would an Australian weapons manufacturer work out of the U.S.A.? Surely T.H.R.U.S.H. has US agents who can work out of the USA? But that is not all – I’ll get to the next bit in a minute. Raymond & Langston supply their weapons to revolutionaries in various South American ports – shipped in crates that are marked as scrap metal. In return for these shipments, Raymond & Langston are payed in gold. And in case you haven’t worked it out, Ogden was just a courier, making a payment for a shipment of weapons. Over the past two years six million dollars worth of gold has been smuggled into the US, and now T.H.R.U.S.H. plan to transfer the gold to Geneva in one large shipment.

Now moving six million dollars in gold is not an easy task – you need some help, and in this instance it is the world famous Australian circus, the Parnley Circus which is just finishing up it’s run at the Westbury Fairgrounds on Long Island. Of course, the Parnley Circus is run by operatives of T.H.R.U.S.H. Once again, I ask the question, doesn’t T.H.R.U.S.H. have an army of agents in the US who can spirit the gold out of the country? Well I think it is obvious – T.H.R.U.S.H. being an Australian organisation uses it’s men first. It only hires men from the US or Europe (wherever) as minions or lackeys. For cannon fodder.

But back to the story at hand. Ogden is spilling his guts. He says that T.H.R.U.S.H.s contact at the Parnley circus is a world famous lion tamer named Kenneth Craig (yep, he’s Australian). This snippet of information doesn’t please Alexander Waverley. You see Kenneth Craig is supposed to be an U.N.C.L.E. agent. Does this mean he is a double agent? Well it’s up to Napoleon and Illya to find out.

Let’s face it, The Affair Of The Gunrunners’ Gold is aimed at kids and to be honest the story is piffle and has so many plot holes that you could drive a herd of circus elephants through it – even more so than my claims about T.H.R.U.S.H. But in it’s favour, the story is fast paced and has one or two little action scenes – Illya gets trapped in a cage with some lions – Napoleon gets sealed into a vault with his air supply running out. It’s all good harmless fun – but let me just add that there’s a big difference between the childrens spy books by Anthony Horowitz and Charlie Higson than what we have on display here. This is more a curio for U.N.C.L.E. fans than required reading.

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The Man From UNCLE

One thought on “The Man From UNCLE

  1. Thanks for this review, David. I love this sort of stuff! And I had no idea Guy Doleman was Australian. Unless you hold it against her that she was born in England, it looks like you can add Naomi Watts to your list of Australain spy contributors. She’s carving out quite a spot for herself, with The International, the upcoming Fair Game and even (it could be argued) Eastern Promises…

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