Any ambassador for Generation X rash enough to undertake a trip by Tardis back to the 1970s would probably perish through anaphylactic shock to their PC sensitivities. And this long forgotten thriller from 1971 offers ample evidence to understand why. But for those of us that were there the first time around its a waltz down memory lane to a world where a slapped backside was an occupational hazard of being female, where speed of communication was dictated by how far away the nearest telephone kiosk was, where society as a whole went into stanby-by mode every sunday afternoon and where cars could be run on the fumes of their drivers, tanked up on alcohol consumed in industrial quantities.
For half its page count THE RAINBOW CONSPIRACY offers an enjoyable if run-of-the-mill reading experience. It centres around chain-smoking, hard drinking (are there any other kind) London journalist Jeff Plummer who has been banished to the medieval backwater of the northern provincial office for some unspecified misdemeanor. When he stumbles across the body of a scrap dealer dumped on the moors with two bullet holes punched through him he begins an investigation, aided by a local piece of posh crumpet called Sarah Braithwaite who - for a wheeze - Plummer attempts to promote as the Debutante Detective in the gossip columns as a means to the end of getting his leg over - even though the receptionist at the country club is already providing him with the sort of room service that doesn't tend to get itemised on the bill. So far so good. And the plot proceeds from there along pretty standard formal lines, bringing in a cast of stock northern stereotypes, skinflints, no nonsense mill workers, brassy barmaids et al, before eventually forging a surprising link to one of the most iconic real crimes of the 1960s.
And it is at this point - without any forewarning whatsoever - that the book suddenly morphs into some barking mad international insurgency romp concerning a S.P.E.C.T.R.E-like organisation called Rainbow. And when Rainbow abducts Sarah and incarcerates her in the dungeon of a ruined castle in Ireland it unleashes Plummer's inner 007. Because despite hitherto displaying no more physical fortitude than required to raise a beer glass Plummer is suddenly flying to Ireland and assembling a team comprised of two-fisted mill foreman Reg Abbott, laid back Aussie pilot Frank Deering and gargantuan Irish land baron Paddy O' Mahoney. There, with an arsenal of sten guns and grenades obligingly donated by the local Provos cell Plummer and co assault the castle to rescue Sarah.
Barmy does not even begin to do justice to what ensues. But if you can imagine Last of the Summer Wine does The Wild Geese it will give some flavour of it.
How amusing. It sounds as if it would have been a shoo-in for that "men's adventure" book club series you were chronicling some time ago. Always lovely to discover something like that by the way.
There's no flies on you Steve. Because that is exactly where it comes from. As the supply of vintage paperbacks into the second-hand market continues to dwindle away into little more than a trickle so I find I come to rely more and more on that Odhams set for my period kicks. It remains an invaluable and hugely enjoyable resource.