Every bad spy novel has a scene where the hero is captured by the villain, who, drunk on hubris, shows him around the secret lair, explains his fiendish plans, and then sets in motion an unnecessarily elaborate execution sequence he doesn't have time to actually see through.
Such a novel is "The Doomsday Affair", the second tie-in paperback to the 1960s TV series, "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." Except that in this case, getting captured and lectured to is the heroes' whole story, over and over again.
The chief villain here working for evil network THRUSH is a mysterious figure known as "Tixe Ylno", which means either author Harry Whittington fell asleep at his typewriter or is having fun spelling things backwards. To save Whittington the problem of retyping that name too much, most of his duties are carried out by a junior operative named Sam. Sam's more than enough by himself. The boys from U.N.C.L.E., Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, spend most of their time in this novel falling in and out of Sam's clutches, making for a frustrating, boring read.
"The Doomsday Affair" begins with a bang, or just after one. Solo is in a hotel room in Hawaii, looking at what had been a defecting THRUSH agent until a bomb concealed in her lei went off.
"Napoleon Solo stood immobile, staring at the bewitching corpse without a face," Whittington writes. "He swallowed hard, thinking she was the loveliest corpse between where she lay on the pink shag rug - and eternity."
Bewitching? Loveliest? Imagine what a knockout the body would be if it still had a face!
There's a live woman, too, an exotic dancer named Barbry Coast who literally sleepwalks through most of the novel. Illya also does a lot of sleepwalking. Sam, it turns out, is quite the hypnosis enthusiast, which he needs to be if he's going to make Illya report all is well seconds before THRUSH drops the big one on Washington, D.C. Solo is characteristically at the forefront of things, but since most of his activity involves gritting his teeth in pain or telling Sam he'll never get away with his plan to kill millions, this is not necessary to his advantage.
Whittington does generate some interest with Sam and his relationship to Tixe Ylno, though the latter's identity is transparent well before his dramatic reveal. He also spends some time on characterization. Illya's role in the series had apparently evolved since the first U.N.C.L.E. spinoff novel was published earlier in 1965, and he is a bigger part of the story here than in the first novel. But instead of developing suspense or some kind of pace, Whittington keeps putting the seemingly clueless spies behind the eight ball, never working together and always one step behind Sam and Ylno until an improbable switch of fortune at the very end.
Of course you don't read a book like this for plot. You read it for an infusion of some of the show's idiosyncratic charm. But "Doomsday Affair" lacks any kind of charm. It's rather grim, in fact, harsher and bloodier than the TV show ever was but without any involving action sequences to justify the carnage. What happens after the final explosion? How does this story mesh with the rest of the U.N.C.L.E. universe? I didn't much care. I was just glad to be done with this.