The Man from U.N.C.L.E. novels

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. novels and short stories need to be digitized.  Someone, please, put them into an e-pub or mobi format, make them formally available on Kindle/Nook, pdf them as a last resort.

Because they’re simply too much fun to languish in obscurity. 

And they should do it now, as, once again, there are plans afoot to make a movie about this wonderful show.

I discovered The Man From U.N.C.L.E. years ago, when someone had me watch a few episodes he had on tape, and immediately I was smitten.  It had a unique format for its time — an American (Napoleon Solo, played by Robert Vaughn) and a Russian (Illya Kuryakin, played by David McCallum), at the height of the Cold War, working together in a multi-national agency (the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement) to protect the world from harm.  Ian Fleming, the creator of “Bond, James Bond,” was involved in crafting the show’s premise, which was originally to center around Solo — although that had to be altered when David McCallum’s character attracted the attention of fans.

I understand that UNCLE was the inspiration for my beloved SHIELD (of Marvel comics fame), which is itself soon to be a TV show in its own right.   

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. only ran for four years in the mid-1960’s, spinning off a short-lived sister show, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.  After being unavailable for years, the episodes finally were released on DVD and then digitally.  I promptly bought the DVDs, and as part of my decluttering, I’m slowly adding the digital versions on my iTunes account.  Although some people dislike the latter part of the second season and the third season for being more campy and outlandish, the show overall is one that is always fun to watch, feature interesting characters (including the ‘innocent of the week’) and a number of well-known actor guest-stars.  Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner appeared in the same episode — two years before they created sci-fi history in Star Trek.

It’s one of those shows where every episode has something in it that I like.  The action, the plot (no matter how outrageous) or simply the snarky commentary by Kuryakin and Solo.  Literally, there isn’t an episode that I don’t enjoy.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. had a number of merchandise tie-ins — games, toys, action figures (I hope to someday see one of those!), comics (I actually have found some, courtesy of my local comics store, and will, I vow, have them all!), and above all, novels and a monthly magazine that featured original stories about Solo and Kuryakin.

And it is those stories I want to be able to read in a digital format.

Altogether, there were 23 tie-in novels (well, 24 really, but more on that in a bit), and a number of short stories published over 2 years in the monthly magazine.  There were also a couple of books published for The Girl, a standalone called ‘the ABCs of Espionage’, etc.   And with one exception, none of them are available in a digital format.

And that’s a shame, because if you liked the series, you really do need to read the books.  As a rule, they generally followed the format of the show (even down to having the requisite ‘innocent’ character to be placed in danger, and calling each book ‘The (insert name) Affair’, just as almost every episode was named an ‘affair’).  The books were more explicit than the show in how they depicted the violence of a ‘spy’s life’), and in my opinion, you really do have to read them to have the full ‘UNCLE’ experience.

My personal favorite is book number 6,  The Vampire AffairAn UNCLE agent is found dead in a forest in Transylvania, drained of blood.  Napoleon and Illya are dispatched to investigate and along the way meet the descendant of Dracula.  The ending is a killer — in that they may actually have been dealing with a real vampire!

Over the years, through used bookstores and yard-sales, I’ve managed to get most of the 23 published books.  I’m still hunting for 19, 20, 22 and 23, as well as the books from The Girl.  I can always pick them up off Amazon, although the books I’m searching for can be rather expensive, as there seem to have been fewer of them published.  There was a 24th novel planned, but the series was cancelled and so it never made it into formal publication.  At some point, it ended up published as a pdf file online, and I’ve since managed to snag that file.  I’ve even come up with a few of the magazines.

But, as carefully as you care for these books, they are 50+ years old.  And while my copies still are tightly-bound in their bindings, the pages are discoloring, and eventually, they’re going to begin crumbling.

And so I need them in a digital format, where I can indulge in reading them without worrying that a fragile page is going to rip.  While we’re at it, someone needs to gather the short stories/novellas published in the magazines in one place as well.

Especially since, it seems, we may sometime in the next few years actually get a movie version of the show.  There’ve been a number of attempts to get one filmed, but they always seem to fall through.  But given the recent popularity of films based off classic TV shows, it might be time for Napoleon and Illya to make their triumphant return, either as a remake in 1960’s style, or an updated version of the show.

Just as long as they pull the books and stories into digital print along with them.

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