Eve Drum, the Lady from L.U.S.T. (League of Underground Spies and Terrorists), was the star of a long-running series of softcore spy novels created to capitalize on the James Bond phenomenon of the 1960s. It has been called a spoof, but based on the one Drum novel I have, it isn't. It's meant to be fun and played tongue-in-cheek, but so are the Bonds.
First published by Midwood-Tower in 1967, the Lady from L.U.S.T. books were retitled and re-released many times over the next decade to the point where putting together a complete chronology is somewhat difficult, though I believe 23 books were written. This Web site does a pretty good job of sorting out the various printings and covers, though anyone putting together a full Lady from L.U.S.T. collection may be disappointed in the books' quality, judging from the one I read.
Eve Drum, codenamed Oh Oh Sex, works for L.U.S.T., which is akin to the CIA and the State Department in battling evil around the world. In THE LADY KILLER, which was one of seven New Lady from L.U.S.T. novels published by Belmont Tower in 1975, Eve is assigned to investigate the vicious murders of two of a team of scientists developing Terathon, a miracle drug that cures heroin addiction. While Eve's boss, David Anderjanian, assigns bodyguards to the remaining two Terathon doctors, the 38-24-35 blonde superspy pokes around, asking questions, rescuing a 17-year-old hooker, and having tons of sex with her boss, her boyfriend, even a random muscleman.
As a sex novel, THE LADY KILLER is anti-erotic, as a mystery, it's uninvolving, and as an action/adventure, it's a real snoozer. The denouement plays like the climax of a HONEY WEST episode, and is over in a couple of pages. Actually, take away the sex, and the whole book reads like a typical '70s TV show and padded with inane conversations to reach 160 pages. Author Gray's twist involving the female assassin's identity is somewhat interesting, but, again, would not have been out of place in a MANNIX plot.
The most fascinating aspect of the Lady from L.U.S.T. series is its author, Rod Gray, which was a common pen name of Gardner F. Fox, one of the most prolific and successful comic book writers of all time. Fox's work at DC Comics includes virtually every important series and character in the company's illustrious line, including JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, THE FLASH, MYSTERY IN SPACE, Justice Society of America in ALL-STAR COMICS, BATMAN and many others. However, after several decades of sterling work at DC and other companies, the former pulp sci-fi writer was either forced out of the company or left over a disagreement involving health benefits, depending on which account you read. There does appear to be a consensus that Fox was unable or unwilling to adapt to the new style of comic books being produced in the late 1960s, and editor-in-chief Roy Thomas' attempt to hire Fox to write some Marvel titles in the early '70s led to lackluster comics.
Fox, using the Rod Gray pseudonym and others, wrote many novels in the Lady from L.U.S.T. and Cherry Delight series, as well as dozens of other adventure novels. Counting his comic book work, Fox may be one of the most prolific American authors who ever lived. That said, I don't know whether THE LADY KILLER is one of Fox's books. It certainly isn't among the writer's best work, whoever he is.