Friday, January 13, 2017

I Spy: Message from Moscow by Brandon Keith

This 1966 Whitman hardback was a vital book for a generation that came of age watching the television show. It has since become one of Whitman’s highly sought after 1960s TV tie-in titles that collector’s love. I Spy: Message from Moscow is a pedestrian book, of interest today only because the television program it was based on has become a cult classic. What’s lacking in this story by author Brandon Keith is any of the pizazz and charm that actors Robert Culp and Bill Cosby instilled into their performances. It reads like the flat, exploitative product that it is, and even the artwork by Al Andersen, Ernie Kollar and John Miller fails to evoke any nostalgia associated with the famed TV show. I was thrilled to own this book in 1966 even though it failed to charm me. It is a collector’s item solely based on its appeal as a cultural artifact from the 1960s. Nostalgia is a part of its appeal, and that alone may account for some high prices I’ve see tagged onto this book. This book was written for young readers. I’m not saying the writing is bad, but it’s flat and uninteresting. This is a book that I’ve always wished was better than it is. The book’s physical merits lie in its cover design and endpapers which emulate the TV show’s opening montage. Later, I’ll post something about the I Spy paperback series, written for adults by Walter Wagner under the pseudonym John Tiger, and which are much better. I Spy: Message from Moscow is a must-have book for the I Spy fan and collector only.

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