SAS – France’s James Bond

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Though little known in English-speaking territories, Gérard de Villiers’ SAS series of novels  ran to 200 volumes between 1965 and de Villiers’ death in 2013. The title SAS is a play on Son Altesse Sérénissime – French for ‘His Serene Highness’ – and the tie-in with the British SAS (Special Air Services). However, lead character prince Malko Linge actually works for the CIA, taking on their most dangerous missions in order to finance repairs to his Austrian castle. Like James Bond, Linge is essentially an ageless character, and the stories have adapted to reflect the threats of the day – from the Soviet Union to Al Queda and ISIS.

Otherwise, the SAS formula has been essentially unchanging – a heady mix of action, espionage and explicit sex. The covers are equally consistent, usually featuring a sexy girl and a gun.

A dozen SAS novels were translated and published in English in the 1970s, and between 2014 and 2016, five of the books were reprinted in the UK by Vintage Books. And two of the stories have been filmed – S.A.S. à San Salvador starring Miles O’Keefe was made in France in 1983, and the Americans brought Linge to the screen in 1991, with Eye of the Widow. But it would be safe to say that the novels generally remain unknown in the English-speaking world. However, they have been hugely influential in Europe, inspiring comic strips (the stories have been published as comic books since 2006) and filmmakers like Jess Franco, who credits the books as an inspiration for his movie Two Female Spies in Flowered Panties.

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