Black Swan #2: The Cong Kiss, by J.J. Montague
No month stated, 1974 Canyon Books
Running to three volumes and published by Canyon Books, the same outfit that gave us the early volumes of Hitman and, uh, The Illusionist, Black Swan is ostensibly about a horny female spy, much along the lines of the vastly superior The Baroness. However this is one of those series that is woefully overpriced on the used books marketplace, so I’ve only been able to acquire this second volume – sort of.
For, as I read The Cong Kiss, my Sleaze Senses started tingling. Within the first few pages, in which we are introduced to series protagonist Shauna Bishop, a “latent nymphomaniac” brunette spy babe who lives in Newport Beach and who allows herself to have sex with one random guy per week, I was stricken by a feeling of déjà vu. I was certain I’d read something identical to this, and not too long ago.
Anyway, to cut to the chase, folks – the other year I picked up a 1971 paperback titled Code Name: Gypsy Virgin, credited to Max Nortic and published by sleaze imprint Midwood Books. This was one I’d started reading but given up on midway through. I got my copy back out and thumbed through it. Just as I expected, the style was identical, with even some of the exact same words and phrases throughout, particularly when it came to the introduction of the lusty heroine.
The plot of Code Name: Gypsy Virgin was about a “latent nymphomaniac” brunette spy babe named Erica Wilson who allowed herself to have sex with one random guy per week, and who was eventually called out on an assignment in which she had to give vent to her sapphic impulses. The style of the book was more literary than pulpy, with random bursts of hardcore sleaze throughout. Doing some research, it appears that the plot of The Chinese Kiss (ie the first installment of Black Swan, published in 1974), was the same as that in Code Name: Gypsy Virgin: Shauna Bishop had to go lesbian for her assignment.
So then it seems pretty clear that some unknown author published Code Name: Gypsy Virgin as “Max Nortic” for Midwood, and then a few years later went back to his manuscript, changed “Erica Wilson” to “Shauna Bishop,” and sold the book to Canyon – and this time also got a deal for a series. No idea if “J.J. Montague” was his real name, but the Black Swan series is credited to Canyon. The closest comparison I can make to Montague’s style in the genre would be James Fritzhand, a literary author who delivered the Nick Carter installment The Katmandu Contract.
For like Fritzhand, Montague appears as if he’d be more at home penning a Proustian-type work of insight and introspection, heavy with the topical flourishes and scene setting, and not so heavy with the action or excitement. There’s some quality writing throughout The Cong Kiss, even at some points echoing the style of Joseph Conrad (whom Montague name-drops in the narrative), but when it comes to the action it’s very tepid, relegated to brief fistfights or firefights. The novel is more of an espionage thriller than anything, only leavened with elaborate sex scenes every several pages.
Above I wrote that Shauna Bishop was “ostensibly” the protagonist of the Black Swan series. Humorously, though, she spends the majority of The Cong Kiss sitting in a hotel room in Thailand while her fellow agent – and bedmate – Paul Hiller does all the heavy lifting. The true star of the show, Hiller is a tough secret agent in the Nick Carter mold. The Cong Kiss is weirdly formatted: it opens with Shauna in her Newport Beach pad, having just sent off her latest random lay, and reflecting back on her first assignment, “four years ago.” The Cong Kiss is that first assignment, thus the entire novel is a sort of neverending flashback.
Strangely though, despite Shauna setting off the proceedings via her reminiscing, Paul Hiller is the protagonist, and rarely do we even see Shauna! Anyway, the novel flashes back four years and stays there until the final pages. Shauna’s first field operation has her going to Bangkok, where she’s to assist her boyfriend, Paul Hiller. The two are in a hot ‘n heavy sexual relationship, and Hiller’s concerned that Sheila’s emotions will endanger them. Also, he doesn’t think she’s got the right stuff to be a field agent – other, that is, than her nymphomania, thus she has no qualms when Paul occasionally orders her to go screw some guy so as to pose a distraction.
As mentioned, Montague fills the novel with plentiful sex scenes, the majority of them displaying a kinky oral bent – Shauna is real fond of going down on guys, especially Paul, who is eager to repay Sheila in oral kind. The sex scenes too tread the literary line, evidencing the unusual style Montague employs for the book:
Their bodies found the right rhythm, as the softness of her legs locked around the hardness of his skull. He kissed softly, lifting her up higher with each kiss, and tonguing into her, burying his face against the drenched flesh of her, lips sinking, nubbing the turgid cavity, while she gasped and thrust it up closer for him, wanting him to pull the sweet gift out of her, out of the vulva-heart, going madly out of her mind for the moment of it, wanting him to drown in there. His tongue was a feathery rage, encircling the labia, then his mouth was open for the final nurturing vaginal kiss.
And for all that, occasionally Montague will figure to hell with it and just go for low-brow sleaze, ie: “And then Paul was kissing her full, warm tits.”
The plot of The Cong Kiss has Sheila and Paul in Bangkok, there to bring back to the US a former Green Beret who went rogue named Winston Belle. Having served as a mercenary with the Viet Cong and the Thailand Cong Hai, Belle has apparently undergone a change of heart and wants to come back to the US. Paul and Sheila’s superiors have their hesitations but send the two in anyway. Sheila goes along because it was through her old school friend, a French babe named Claudette, that the US has even been able to make contact with Belle again.
Thus it’s all very “Hearts Of Darkness in Thailand” as these four characters plot and counterplot against one another, Sheila as mentioned spending most of her time in her hotel room and eagerly screwing Paul when he’s come back from his latest foray. Sheila and Paul at one point share a room with Claudette, and a devious Sheila one night drugs Claudette just so she can get off on Paul screwing her right beside the comatose form of her old school pal:
She moaned and groaned softly as she felt the heart-shaped head spear into her, followed by one long thrust of the entire length of him. He filled her stretched cavity with one plunge, then pounded her into the floor with triphammer thrusts. She twisted and squirmed under him, her knees pulled up even with his head, sobbing and babbling at the insane pleasure she was receiving, jerking with frantic spasms as one climax after another exploded inside her.
When he finally crushed her thrashing body to him and rammed home into her depths, she raked his back in erotic frenzy as he emptied into her, filling her with his gushing discharge as he spent himself entirely. Exhausted, he collapsed on her, twitching as she continued milking and pulling at his half-flaccid meat.
A scene, by the way, which features Sheila imploring Paul to place his “heart-shaped head” right over the lips of a sleeping Claudette! But don’t worry, ol’ Claudette gets her own go with Paul later in the book. However Claudette is in love with Winston Belle and serves more as a thorn in Paul and Sheila’s side, constantly trying to keep her “true love” from the harm she is certain Paul and Sheila will bring him.
There isn’t much action at all, just a few chases and fights. Montague goes for more of a suspense vibe, with the book as mentioned having more of a realistic espionage yarn, playing more on the duplicitous nature of the Thai agents our heroes must work with. But there’s no big climax (so to speak), and of course there’s no tension because we already know all this happened four years ago and thus Sheila made it out just fine.
All told, The Cong Kiss doesn’t have much going for it, other than a somewhat literate style and a penchant for random bursts of hardcore sleaze – much like The Illusionist, in fact, but much less gut-churning. But the sad fact is the book is boring despite it all, and I do not recommend paying the absurd prices these books go for – you aren’t missing much with this particular series.