Based solely on this first novel, I proclaim Pocket Book's the Baroness series as one of my favorite paperback series of the 1970s. It's fast-moving, sexy, violent, and downright weird--just the way I like 'em!
The Baroness is Penelope St. John-Orsini, the widow of both a secret agent and a car-racing baron who was left wealthy and bored after the deaths of her husbands. As "Coin," she works for the National Security Agency as a spy, using her cover as an internationally famous model and actress to travel all over the world solving cases.
Unusually for these series, the Baroness works with a team, all of whom are either models or photographers, including ex-Green Beret Dan Wharton, sexy Fiona, tough guy Eric, bombmaker Paul, master of disguise Yvette, Cherokee Joe Skytop, and Japanese Tom Sumo. She takes her orders from John Farnsworth, whose codename is Key.
Seven of the eight Baroness novels were released by Pocket in 1974. All are credited to Paul Kenyon, obviously a pen name, because the books were "produced" by packager Lyle Kenyon Engel, who was also involved with the Chopper Cop and Blade series, to name a couple. According to Bradley Mengel's SERIAL VIGILANTES OF PAPERBACK FICTION, Engel founded Book Creations, Inc. in 1973, a company that conceived novels on spec, hired writers, then sold the books to various paperback publishers.
So. THE ECSTASY CONNECTION. Well, it's an odd duck. Basically, Penelope and her team are investigating some strange isolated incidents in which people are literally sexed to death. That is, one starves to death, because he was enjoying something so pleasurable that he wouldn't stop it to eat. A stage actress literally masturbates herself to death in front of a live audience.
It's all because of a drug created by Dr. Jolly, who works at the plush Hong Kong estate of the blubberous Petronius Sim, a gigantic and evil bastard who plans to addict the world's leaders to the drug so he can control them. In his employ are zombies with electric sockets in their heads into which Sim inserts plugs that stimulate their brains with uncontrollable pleasure or pain to keep them in line.
Kenyon's major setpiece is a real action doozy. The Baroness, investigating an orgy at a Mafia hangout in a loft, finds herself in the middle of a machine gun slaughter, because Sim has ordered the men to kill all witnesses to his drug's effects. After escaping immediate death by hiding in a pile of nude corpses, she manages to lead her pursuers through windows, over roofs, and all over the building sans weapons or even clothes, for that matter. It's an exciting action scene with an extra touch of oddball sleaze to put it over the top.
It should be said that the book's sex scenes are quite graphic--something of a "hard R" nature. Personally, I'm not turned on by sexy passages in a book and find these moments tedious. I usually skip over the 3- or 4-page sex scenes, but your mileage may vary. Just to warn you that you may be surprised by the Baroness' libido and Kenyon's lengthy descriptions of her many lovemaking marathons.
THE ECSTASY CONNECTION is a terrific adventure I can't recommend highly enough for readers interested in action of an unusual bent.