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The Real Austin Powers (only much better)

June 14, 2021

As an impressionable teenager one of my favourite books was The Great Spy Race (1968) by Adam Diment, purchased for two shillings from The Effingham Junction Railway Station paperback exchange – the source of many of my formative literary experiences. Seeing a cheap copy on eBay last month I re-aquainted myself with the book and found that it holds up weell.

The Great Spy is a great romp through late 1960’s Swinging London. Its protagonist Phillip McAlpine is a reluctant hero who usually ends up doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. He is more Harry Palmer than James Bond, only whisky is replaced by dope and acid and I can’t imagine Len Deighton putting Harry into a lime green suit.

I then set out to acquire the other three Phillip McAlpine novels – The Dolly Dolly Spy (1967), The Bang Bang Birds (1968) and Think Inc (1971). All are good, although Think Inc does contain rather more musing on the human condition than is entirely desirable in a thriller. Each one of them would have made the basis for a thoroughly entertaining film, and it is surprising that they did not although according to this Esquire article David Hemmings planned to follow up his success in Blow Up with the lead role in The Dolly Dolly Spy.

As far as I know Diment has published nothing since 1971, although there seems to be a resurgence of interest in his books according to this Guardian article. If you see a copy of any of the quartet I strongly recommend that you investigate. There are also some terrific cover designs to enjoy.

And at no point does anyone say “Groovy baby”


From → Media

  1. Mike Baess permalink

    Sounds great. Wish I’d known about this then instead of the Skinhead and Suedehead books by Richard Allen that were going round school at the same time.




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