W. A. Ballinger - Down Among The Ad Men (SBL 45) (Mayflower, 1968)
Blurb: Blake is called in to investigate the disappearance of a model hired as the voluptuous figurehead of a nationwide advertising campaign. His search takes him far from the plushy world of high-powered advertising - to the seamy underworld of vice where beautiful women are also important. Important enough to be advertised ... though not in the national press.
Important enough to die, savagely and violently, if they happen to thwart the instructions of their masters ...
From the booze-fuelled world of Fleet Street hacks in Black Honey to the booze-fuelled world of a Kensington Ad agency. i'd been hoping that by reading a Baker directly after Black Honey it might offer some clue as to authorship but forty pages in and i'm more confused than ever.
Sexton Blake is in melancholy mood. He's just examined the the nude body of Miss Galaxy Dawn (née Maggie Dunn), draped across the back of Joe the friendly papier mache tiger, "her impeccable bosom, not yet flaccid with death, thrust upward in a last, proud, vain gesture." The bullet lodged in her forehead had been intended for Blake himself.
Rewind to a week or so earlier when Blake was first contacted by Alan Chaney, wannabe company director of the Barsford agency. It's Chaney who has masterminded the advertising campaign for a popular new fizzy drink, but now his gorgeous starlet and public face of Golden Glow, has vanished. All Chaney can tell the detective about the missing girl is that she's an alcoholic nympho who frequents the seediest parties, and that he's crazy about her. Before her disappearance, Galaxy had been seen in the company of Leon Procello, the shady entrepreneur, grown fat on the proceeds of his vice rings and dubious property deals.
Blake knows of this slippery customer and welcomes an opportunity to settle his hash. He gets to meet many a prostitute in his line of work and has a high regard for their tea-making skills. He's not so keen on their ponces. While he consults his dossiers, he has his terminally youthful sidekick Tinker investigate Procello's Soho nightclub, The Little Lion. Tinker gets lucky in that, breaking into the manager's office, the first filing cabinet he jemmies contains a stash of Galaxy Dawn nudie photo's, but while he's busy ogling, the entrepreneur's minders creep up on him and set about dispensing a right royal bashing.
Tough as he is, Tinker is no match for the combined might of toad-faced, ex-Eton public schoolboy, the Honourable Vavasour Quincy, and his monosyllabic underling, Harry The Ape. He is obliged to crash through a window and land among a row of reeking dustbins without a solitary polaroid of Galaxy's globes to show for his troubles. Blake manfully endures the stench to fetch him home, treating us to his thoughts on the subject of 'dirty pictures' as he drives.
To be continued ...
From the first, I set myself against "literature"; the story was the thing, and no amount of style could persuade me to select a story that lacked genuine, unadulterated horror. For those who wanted something high-brow there was plenty.
it is a little - a bit later time-wise, but still very hip for its day and for Blake... this was actually the last SBL of all, as the one or two h/b titles after that weren't reprints were unnumbered, so it is a bit of a landmark in its own way. slipping off the trainspotters mac and thick pebble lenses, i have to say it went out on a bang as it is a superb, pacy little thriller.
if you're looking for 60's ad man crime and spy novels (which may not be as small a field as it sounds) you could do worse that desmond skirrow - 'i was following this girl' and 'i'm trying to give it up' were p/b'd by corgi and are excellent reads - witty, fast and exciting. i think there may have been one or two more, but i've never found them. skirrow was a pseudonym for an ad man who also wrote childrens books under his own name, but that seems to be an official secret! certainly has the authentic tone of a real ad man though (he says, not having ever been one).
the cover art of 'i'm trying...' was so good that we used it for the second ohr musik lp (which was me & david 'son of laurence' james with guests) hoping some of the magic would rub off.