Sunday, 2 May 2021


AuthorJohn Michael Brett (aka Miles Barton Tripp)
Publisher: Pan Books
Date: 1964
Pages: 155
Not currently available in eBook format

Have you ever had a love/hate relationship with a book? I didn't think I would, but Diecast by (John) Michael Brett is certainly a title that I lurched from loving to absolutely hating on a regular basis while I read it.

Diecast is the first book in a short-lived spy series by Brett (real name Miles Tripp), that stars his protagonist Hugo Baron, man about danger. This is not the series of books that lead to the TV Series "The Baron", which originated from books by John Creasey. Brett's run of titles only lasted for three books over consecutive years; Diecast (1964), A Plague Of Dragons (1965) and A Cargo Of Spent Evil (1966).

Better known as Miles Tripp (1923 - 2000), an English author of Crime and Thriller novels from Hertfordshire, England. He is probably best known for his alomost yearly run of books starring the private detective John Samson throughout the seventies, eighties and nineties (all of which are currently available as eBooks, and are worth trying out if you have Kindle Unlimited). After serving in RAF Bomber Command during the Second World War, he studied Law and trained as a solicitor before becoming a writer.

Tripp uses his experience in the law industry for this book. And there are more similarities between the hero of the story and its author. For a start Hugo's surname is but a single letter away from being the writers' middle name (Barton). Baron is an unmarried 37-year old solicitor who is bored of the humdrum lifestyle he has developed and is eager to become a writer/journalist. He has already been submitting stories to a national paper run by maverick multi-millionaire Paul Lorenz, who has a fascination with Julius Cesear and is referred to as "J.C." by his employees.

Out of the blue, Baron gets a call from the office of the newspaper owner asking him to attend a meeting. The budding writer thinks that this might be to discuss a permanent place on the writing staff of the paper. Unfortunately, it is a bit more complex than that. Lorenze has been approached by a young French woman who claims to be the illegitamat child of a romantic wartime tryst. She threatens to reveal all to the more sordid newspapers of the day, and ruin Lorenz's reputation. He wants Baron to investigate and, if possible arrange for the threat to be nullified (using lethal force) or to bring the young lady around to a more amenable arrangement.

It turns out that Diecast is the name of the organisarion that Lorenz has established, along wiith secret international partners, in order to bring a little choas to the espionage commiuunity. Will Baron be able to save the day, and will he be convinced of the purpose for which D.I.E.C.A.S.T.  exists; enough to join its ranks?

On the one hand, this novel is packaged (especially in the UK) like an alternative James Bond caper. The title organisation is given a very Bondesque logo to adorn their covers, however Baron really is nothing like 007. He isn't a trained assassin, despite his self-proclaimed love of danger and seemingly wonderful self-defence knowledge. For me the central character didn't play out as remotely believable, even within the realms of his own book. I just could not accept a successful solicitor as a hard-nosed lover and pugulist. I don't understand what Tripp was aiming for, but he ends up with a mixture of Cary Grant in North by Northwest and Roger Moore in The Saint.

On the other hand the atmosphere and interplay between the characters is quite entertaining, and despite some strange action sequences (running up a streetlight to escape being beaten for instance) and a really out of place sex scene where Baron encounters a naked communist who appears to be waiting for any male to turn up and fall into bed with, the plot is quite entertaining and fast-paced. Tripp does have an odd take on the spy-story here and some of it is novel, but running through it all Hugo Baron himself is a enigma that won't please every reader.

Reading the back cover blurbs for the two further adventures of Baron, they might have more promising and exotic plots for the hero to experience. At this moment in time though, I can't see myself delving into them. I wanted to like this, but the love/hate relationship is balanced more towards the negative than the positive currently.

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