30 May 2022

Walking in on Virginia Box and Baird Rodd

The Girl From H.A.R.D.: Virginia Box and the "Unsatisfied"
James Moffatt
London: New English Library, 1974
112 pages 

I first visited the UK in 1974, arriving on a British Airways jet still painted in BOAC colours. My mother had brought us – my sister and myself – to meet relatives and friends of our late father. She gave me fifteen pounds, by far the most money I'd ever held held, which I spent it on a hardcover copy of the most recent Guinness Book of Records, a SHADO Interceptor, and a SHADO 2 Mobile.

The SHADO Dinkys have proven good investments – I have them still – but if I could go back in time, I would buy every copy of Skinhead, Suedehead, Demo, Boot Boys, Skinhead Escapes, Skinhead Girls, Glam, Smoothies, Sorts, Teeny Bopper Idol, Top Gear Skin, Trouble for Skinhead, and Skinhead Farewell I could find. Written by Canadian James Moffatt, sold for 30p, few can be purchased for under one hundred quid today. 

The Girl from H.A.R.D.: Virginia Box and the "Unsatisfied" was published during that 1974 summer in England. The second novel in the series, Moffatt presumes that the reader has read the first (right). I had not, but found it took little time to get up to speed. H.A.R.D. is the Hemisphere Administration for Regional Defence. Virginia Box – "leggy, busty blonde" – is its most valued agent. Baird Rodd is her superior. He sits on a "phallic-backed chair" behind a buttock-shaped "erotic desk."

Juvenile stuff, right? But things turn very dark in the fourth and fifth pages with Virginia working to procure an abortion for Ima Kissoff. Here the uninitiated are given a sense of what transpired in the the first Virginia Box novel. A Soviet agent, Ima was defeated by H.A.R.D., and at some point was raped by a man named Willi Kumm.

The Girl from H.A.R.D.: Virginia Box and the "Unsatisfied" is a lighter read. Our heroine is assigned to infiltrate Connie and the "Unsatisfied" (always in quotation marks), a rock band suspected of having ties with T.R.U.S.S. (Terrorism, Revolution and Underground Specialists in Sabotage). Much is made about lead singer Connie Linguistam being a lesbian, as are T.R.U.S.S. higher-ups Dolores Glamm and Magda Hott:
It stank of Rodd manipulation. As if her boss had deliberately put the computers to work and punched Box against lesbian and waited for a tray of cards to provide him with some inner, perverted sense of achievement.
May as well add that Ima Kissoff is also a lesbian.

Virginia's value to the agency is a sexuality so great that it can destroy creepy H.A.R.D. scientist Dr Spill's "sex computer" Exita (EXItments Transmitted into Action). Everyone is attracted to Virgina Box and wants to bed her. Club owner Dick Long gets lucky, but only because the agent was feeling amorous. There are no sex scenes, nor is there anything particularly sexy. Nothing else is so hot or inept as this passage:
Quickly now, she dressed. When she finished she postured before the mirrors again. The small, uplift brassiere did nothing except emphasise how firm her breasts really were and hoe exciting their nipples could be when fully awakened. The transparent blouse let every man see this. And the mini-skirt only served too whet appetites which could not, after one glance, have failed to be already whetted. Curvaceous legs, more curvaceous thighs beckoned sensually.
     "You're a sight for sore, lecherous eyes," she told her glassy self.
Late in the novel, Moffatt Rodd decides Virginia must uncover the identity of the man funding T.R.U.S.S. This she does by determining that his true initials are the reverse of those in his false name.

"'That's all you had to work on?' the man asked incredulously."


All in all a frustrating, disappointing read. And not because it didn't last long.

The Girl from H.A.R.D. was retired after a third adventure, Perfect Assignment (1975), in which she crosses paths with Perfect Laye, queen of the London underworld. 

Object and Access: A slim softcover. If WorldCat is to believed  – why should it? – only the National Library of Scotland has a copy. Mine was bought four years ago. I see only one copy listed for sale online. At US$9.96 it might seem a bargain, but the bookseller lists the shipping from New Zealand to Canada at an even US$37.00. 

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