Thursday, April 16, 2015

Make Love, Not War

As L.A. police detective-turned-crime novelist Paul Bishop recalled several years ago, “During the late sixties and early seventies a genre of soft-core James Bond/Man from U.N.C.L.E. pastiches hit the stands, each series often written by several different authors under a publishing house pseudonym. … Some series were better written than others--and some books within each series were better written than others--but all sold fairly well during their day.”

One of the best-remembered contributors to that salacious subgenre was Theodore Mark Gottfried (1918-2004), who supplemented his income as a magazine editor, writing teacher, and author of “numerous thought-provoking non-fiction books for middle-grade and high-school readers” by penning--under the pseudonym Ted Mark--“sexpionage” adventures featuring “The Man from O.R.G.Y.,” “The Girl from Pussycat,” and “The Man from Charisma.” In his obituary for the New York Sun, Stephen Miller focused particularly on Gottfried/Mark’s Man from O.R.G.Y. works:
The O.R.G.Y. books were so satirical--the immediate reference was to the series The Man from U.N.C.L.E.-- that not even their hero, the gamely named Steve Victor, took his missions seriously. “O.R.G.Y. is the Organization for the Rational Guidance of Youth,” Gottfried wrote by way of introduction to Here’s Your Orgy (1969). “It’s a one-man operation devoted to sex research with ‘guidance’ actually a secondary function--which I admit, hasn’t ever really been exercised. I see myself as carrying on the traditions of Dr. Kinsey. The difference is that I’ve cut out the paperwork and substituted a personalized methodology.”

Always topical, the action in the O.R.G.Y. books traipses lightly across the world stage, with a stop at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago and even touching on the Tet Offensive, which takes on a new shade of meaning for “offensive”: “I was personally attacked by a Cong guerrilla complete with bayonet, black pajamas, and breasts shaped like hand grenades, only bigger and better.” In later years, when his writing had taken up more serious topics, Gottfried would say that he felt an uneasy combination of chagrin and pride in his pulp productions. Having become an ardent supporter of feminist causes, he felt he had portrayed women in too stereotypical a light. Yet, he was gratified that the books remained popular with pulp enthusiasts--they are a staple on eBay. The books were part of a minor brouhaha in 1969, when it was found that the Job Corps had been purchasing them for use in remedial reading classes.
There was even a theatrical film release in 1970 titled The Man from O.R.G.Y., based on Mark’s series, with the role of “spy and scientific investigator” Steve Victor going to Robert Walker Jr. (an actor probably most familiar nowadays for having guest-starred in a 1966 Star Trek episode titled “Charlie X”; more on that episode here).

But while few readers nowadays can be relied upon for the remotest memory of Ted Mark’s stories, I’m betting more will recognize the covers that appeared on those paperbacks, a number of them credited to artist Stanley Borack and featuring actor-model Steve Holland. Consider, for instance, the fronts of This Nude for Hire, The Nude Who Did, The Nude Who Never, My Son, the Double Agent, The Girl from Pussycat, and my personal favorite, The Pussycat Transplant (more about which you can read here). An additional assortment of Ted Mark book façades can be relished here.

And you can click here and here for lists of the Ted Mark novels. You never know: it might be worth watching for these in your travels through used-book stores.

READ MORE:This Title Is Not to Be Seen by Unauthorized Persons,” by James Evans (Electric Sheep).


Editor Bill said...

I fondly remember these books from my early teenage years- a combination of humor and sex. These were considered quite risqué at the time - so much so that I remember actually shoplifting them so no one would know I was reading them. My only foray into crime and it involved books. I don't know if I should be proud or ashamed. (And I hope the statute of limitations is in force here.)

Anonymous said...

Rudy, to me he was more than a great artist, he was my great uncle and one of the kindest people I had the privilege of knowing. My memory of him will always be, He had many interests, many a good story, a man of great humor and kindness. Likewise his wife Peggy was the most sincerely thoughtful and kind person. Everyone always spoke well of them. They were an inspiration to those around them. I missed them when they moved away so many years ago.. I will greatly miss Uncle Rudy and Aunt Peggy.