Nick Carter was first brought to life as a pulp era private detective, smashing crime in the pages of his own pulp magazine. In 1964, in response to the then burgeoning spy craze in popular culture, Nick returned, courtesy of Award Books, in a series of original paperback adventures that lasted (under various publishers) until 1990.
Nick Carter was now code named Killmaster, a super spy in the James Bond tradition. Carter traveled the world fighting evil and bedding beautiful women. None of the books feature an author byline but a variety of pulp wordsmiths contributed to the series. Although I am a huge fan of sixties spy material, I'd never read a Nick Carter book until just the other day when I tore through SAIGON.
The sixth entry in the newly revived series, SAIGON (1964), was written by veteran genre writer Michael Avallone. No plot recap is necessary here except to list the standard elements and genre tropes that are found within the books' 157 pages: Cold War intrigue, evil Communists, French Intelligence agents, Chinese spies, a coded message hidden in plain sight, an exotic locale, a beautiful woman held prisoner in her late husband's plantation home, drugs, sexy French-Vietnamese women, a trek through the jungle, a wild helicopter ride, gun battles and hand-to-hand combat to the death.
What's most interesting about SAIGON is Nick Carter himself. As written by Avallone, Carter is an amalgamation of other pulp heroes. He's an agent of a super secret spy organization named AXE. His boss is a man code named "Hawk". Carter is described as tall and bronzed with piercing grey eyes. Tall and bronze? Hmmm. He also practices fifteen minutes of yoga on a daily basis. What, no two hour mental and physical workout? Wimp.
Carter uses a variety of weapons and gadgets including his trusty Luger, named "Wilhelmina" and a knife named "Hugo". This directly recalls Richard Benson, the pulp hero known as The Avenger and his weapons "Mike" (gun) and "Ike" (knife). Nick also has a small, fingertip mounted poison dart named "Fang" that is remarkably similar to a device used by Doc Savage. Carter gets his orders from "Hawk" via a self-destructing cassette tape player. Shades of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE!
If you're looking for well developed characters and a tightly plotted thriller, keep moving. There's nothing to see here. If you're in the mood for a slice of 1960s spy melodrama that's long on action and sex (although not graphic or explicit), SAIGON fits the bill.