Monday, December 23, 2013

Thrift Shop Book Covers: The Freedom Trap

The Freedom Trap is the eighth novel published by Desmond Bagley.  Its United States debut was a hardcover published by Doubleday in 1971, but it is the Fawcett Crest paperback edition that caught my eye.  The cover art has everything an adventure novel should—a frogman, a bikini clad beauty, an exploding boat in the background, and the tide breaking onshore.  The artist, as far as I know, is unknown, but it is a fine example of a 1970s Fawcett paperback.

The novel itself is pure adventure.  Reardon is a high class criminal who is hired by a man named Mackintosh for a simple job—knock over a postman delivering a shipment of uncut diamonds and hand them over to Mackintosh and get paid.  But like everything, nothing is as simple as it seems and Reardon finds himself in prison serving 20 years.  And all this in only the first 38 pages; and it astonishingly gets better.
It is widely believed The Freedom Trap was inspired by Soviet spy—or more accurately British double agent—George Blake’s October 22, 1966 escape from Wormwood Scrubs prison.  He was convicted of espionage and sentenced to 42 years in 1961.  The plot is similar to Jack Higgins’ 1967 Paul Chavasse novel The Dark Side of the Street, which was also likely influenced heavily by the George Blake story (due to the timing of its release) and is an excellent adventure novel in its own right.       

The opening paragraph:

“Mackintosh’s office was, unexpectedly, in the City.  I had difficulty in finding it because it was in that warren of streets between Holborn and Fleet Street, which is a maze to one accustomed to the grid-iron pattern of Johannesburg.  I found it at last in a dingy building; a well-worn brass plate announcing innocuously that this Dickensian structure held the registered office of Anglo-Saxon Holdings, Ltd.”        
The Freedom Trap was translated to film as “The Mackintosh Man” starring Paul Newman as Reardon.  The plot, and it has been several years since I have seen it, follows the novel quite closely.  It was directed by John Huston and written for the screen by Walter Hill.
Although for all excitement, action and even history of the novel, it is the cover on that 1973 Fawcett Crest paperback (M1789) that made me pick it up in the first place.  It’s a shame these lurid covers and well told stories are relics limited to thrift shops and forgotten used books stores. 

This is the first of a new series of posts featuring the cover art and miscellany of books I find at thrift stores and used bookshops.  It is reserved for books I purchased as much for the cover art as the story or author.  

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