Studying fictional realities means always consuming media with an eye towards the unusual and exceptional. The average episode of Andy Barker P. I. May be amusing, but the episode that crosses over with Buffy: The Vampire Slayer makes you rise from your chair in astonishment. (In the second episode of Andy Barker P. I., “Fairway, My Lovely” Andy investigates the death of Guy Halverson, the entrepreneur who created the Double Meat Palace chain of fast food restaurants. The Double Meat Palace, famous for its chicken/beef burgers, featured prominently in the sixth season of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer.)

With that in mind I am always grateful for what I call “Rosetta Stones” of crossovers, media that give me not one or two, but bunches of crossovers and cameos for me to dwell upon and learn from. One of the best and a model for how these things should be done, was The Man From U.N.C.L.E. novel, “The Rainbow Affair.”

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was a spy program from the sixties, done tongue in cheek, detailing the adventures of Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin, working for a top secret organization in battle with T.H.R.U.S.H., a group of world conquering bad guys. Like most popular TV series a bunch of spin-off paperback novels were written, and the best of these novels were written by Los Angeles based sci-fi fan and writer David McDaniel.

David McDaniel hung with the Los Angeles fan crowd in the sixties, including Star Trek uber-fan Bjo Trimble (she who wrote the classic, legendary Star Trek Concordance.) When McDaniel joined the L.A. fan scene, he adopted the pseudonym Ted Johnstone. He was the uncommon type who wrote under his real name and lived under a pseudonym. McDaniel accidentally died in 1977 from autoerotic asphyxiation. He would have been about 38 years old. The guy’s a minor legend in sci-fi fan circles.

But for our purposes, David McDaniel wrote very popular and quite enjoyable The Man From U.N.C.L.E. novels. These were not novelizations of existing episodes, but new adventures. The one that concerns us here is the thirteenth in the series, the fourth one written by McDaniel. The dedication is interesting. It’s to John Gosling, Det. Supt. (ret.). Gosling had written a book about a master criminal who went under the alias Johnny Rainbow, and that book became the inspiration for McDaniel’s. In real life Johnnie Rainbow may or may not be an actual super-criminal responsible for a great British Bank Robbery. Many of Gosling’s theories about the true identity of Rainbow are explored in the book.

Aside from Gosling and Rainbow another historical figure, T.E. Lawrence, the famous Lawrence of Arabia, is referenced through Ilya’s use of a borrowed motorcycle. Ilya uses a 1935 Brough-Superior motorcycle borrowed from “our friend at Clouds Hill, near Dorchester.” T.E. Lawrence lived at Clouds Hill and died in 1935 riding a Brough-Superior motorcycle.

The references come fast and furious, to detail them all would required a full annotation of the text, and even then I’d miss some of them. In the course of their investigation Solo and Kuryakin run into a host of famous British detective and adventure heroes and villains. Many of these are quickly recognized by modern readers, others are much more obscure.

Simon Templar, aka The Saint, was an adventurer, possibly an ex-criminal, who sets about to help those hurt or oppressed by “ungodly” villains. He gets his name from his initials, ST. The saint was introduced in a series of novels written by Leslie Charteris, and later was the subject of radio dramas, at least two television series, and movies. The most famous actor to play the Saint was Roger Moore, who used the role to springboard into movies as James Bond. The Saint is sometimes pursued by his nemesis, Inspector Claude Eustace Teal.

James Bond himself receives a mention. Bond, the most famous and longest lasting fictional spy, was created by Ian Fleming and is still immensely popular today.

Jane Marple, better known as Miss Marple, is an amateur spinster detective, and along with Hercule Poirot the most popular of Agatha Christie’s creations. Miss Marple has had her adventures dramatized in novels, movies and television.

John Steed and Emma Peel were the main characters in the television series The Avengers. The team operated in a universe similar to that of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and the crossover makes a lot of sense. John Steed was famous for his dapper Edwardian outfits (bowler hat and umbrella) and Emma Peel for her martial arts prowess. The opening credits can be seen here.

In 1902 Adam Llewellyn De Vere Adamant was frozen by his arch nemesis, “The Face,” only to be revived in 1966, in the middle of the swinging sixties. Adam Adamant teamed up with Georgina Jones, a typical mod chick of the time, and the pair fought crime and had adventures. The BBC series was called Adam Adamant Lives! And ran two short seasons. The 80’s band Adam and the Ants took their name from the show, and Michael Meyers did a neat reversal and updating of the idea in Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery. Check out the series opening here.

Sax Rohmer introduced Fu Manchu, the ultimate epitome of the so-called “yellow peril” way back in 1913. The explicitly racist adventures were toned down over the years, and in 1955 there was a television series based on the character. (Perhaps the first television series named for a villain.) "The Rainbow Affair" includes Peko, Fu Manchu’s monkey, which is an explicit reference to the television series. Fu Manchu’s protagonist, the Holmes to his Moriarity, is Sir Denis Nayland Smith.

G.K. Chesterson created detective Father Brown and wrote 51 short stories about the crime-fighting priest. Based on a real life Catholic priest that helped Chesterson in his conversion to Catholicism, Father Brown is more of an intuitive than deductive detective. In "The Rainbow Affair" the good father is portrayed as a friend of Miss Marple.

John Creasey must have been a favorite of McDaniel’s. Creasey wrote over five hundred novels under many pseudonyms. The three of his many characters that concern us here are Dr. Palfrey, Z5, the Toff and Inspector Roger West. The Toff is Richard Rollison, a character with more than a passing similarity to The Saint. He receives a quick mention only. Inspector Roger West is a Scotland Yard detective that was sort of a reversal of the Sherlock Holmes/Inspector Lestrade model. Here, the Inspector is the great detective, and his amateur friend, Mark Lessing, the also ran.

Where McDaniel truly began to weave disparate elements of two separate continuities was the way he detailed the history of the U.N.C.L.E. organization and showed how it was related to Dr. Palfrey’s similar spy organization Z5. McDaniel wove a seamless history between the two continuities, showing how Solo and Kuryakin’s boss, Mr. Waverly, was a protégé of Dr. Palfrey and how the U.N.C.L.E. organization is a spin-off of Z5.

Not content to play it straight, McDaniel introduced Neddie Seagoon, a character in the British radio comedy The Goon Show, which co-starred Peter Sellers. In The Goon Show Neddie Seagoon would narrate his adventures, and jump from job to job for comic effect.

The last identified character from "The Rainbow Affair" is Sherlock Holmes. The story is set in the early sixties, so Holmes would be well over a hundred years old by this point, kept alive by the queen jelly he cultivated from his bees nests. The elderly Holmes has assumed the identity of William Escott, and helps the U.N.C.L.E. agents with some well-timed advice.

In the context of the story, the U.N.C.L.E. agents travel to Great Britain for an adventure. Not content with merely one nod to a favorite character he filled the book with many favorite characters, so that an ordinary adventure becomes a trip to a meta-fictional England, filled with all the spy, adventurer, detective characters McDaniel so obviously loved and enjoyed. In this new expanded universe, in which U.N.C.L.E. is related to Z5 and MI-5 employs James Bond and John Steed, and in which Sherlock Holmes is still alive, it becomes possible that James Bond’s boss “M” is indeed named so in memory of Mycroft Holmes. The universe, and our experience of it, becomes bigger.


mike weber/fairportfan said...

You DOn't mention my own favourite corssover character - one of the more obscure ones these days - Tommy Hambledon, at whose flat Solo and Kuryakin encounter Steed & Peel, and whose friend Chief Inspector Bagshott allows them to be part of the Covent Garden (is that right? been years) raid.