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Yet More Espionage from John Flagg

Murder in Monaco / Death’s Lovely Mask by John Flagg (Introduction by Nicholas Litchfield)

John Gearon, better known by his other handle, John Flagg, was a hard-working playwright who reinvented himself as a crime fiction writer at precisely the right moment to capitalize on the paperback boom of the 1950s. Before the emergence of his pen mane, Gearon had experienced success and failure in theaters across New York and New England. He had written for radio and magazines. He had also been a newspaper columnist. He even found success as a novelist, with his debut novel optioned for film during the 1930s.

Later, Flagg emerged—a writer of exciting pulp yarns featuring boozy, two-fisted government intelligence men. They were typically freelance spies who lived out of a suitcase and boarded as many women as they did flights throughout Europe and the Middle East.

The tales were loaded with action, suspense, and political intrigue, and Gearon’s humor, aptitude for crisp dialogue, and opulent settings set him apart from his contemporaries. His stage-managed plots and bawdy humor probably held him back a bit.

It’s been many decades since the two stories in this fresh Stark House Press reprint first hit the shelves. They were Fawcett Gold Medal originals released in 1957 and ’58—books 3 and 4 charting the adventures of O.S.S. agent Hart Muldoon.

My essay, “The Further Adventures of Fearless Agent Hart Muldoon,” introduces the volume Murder in Monaco / Death’s Lovely Mask, published recently by Stark House Press. These 1950s spy thrillers mark the final time Muldoon saw the Mediterranean. His final adventure, set in the Sixties, sent him beyond Europe and into the midst of battle on one final mission. But I’ll stop there, as that’s for another day.

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