“The Devil Had Worshipers Long Before Lenin”: The Occult Spy Novels of E. Howard Hunt

By Michael Grasso

In his series of “Peter Ward” novels, published by various paperback houses (Signet, Dell, and Fawcett) between 1965 and 1971, Hunt conjures an agent with a pedigree strikingly similar to his own: Ivy League-educated (at Brown), possessing both a mysterious past involving disastrous CIA ops gone wrong and a burning desire to see himself accepted by the clandestine Washington D.C. power structure…

Deserts, Screens, and Empty Smiles: The Vast Wastelands of Jean Baudrillard’s ‘America’

By Michael Grasso

In the early 1980s, French philosopher, media theorist, and cultural scholar Jean Baudrillard visited the United States several times, taking in the vastness of the continent-spanning nation, from Manhattan to Manhattan Beach. In 1986, his account of these trips, America, was published in France. Two years later, the book came to the US in a translated edition. In the work, Baudrillard ruminates upon Mormons and breakdancers, fitness nuts and canned laughter on television, on all of the sources of beauty and horror of American culture and society in the 1980s…

Usborne’s ‘World of the Unknown: UFO’s’, 1977

The mandate of British publisher Usborne Books was to produce beautifully illustrated children’s publications, designed and written by its in-house team. The first wave of books Usborne released in 1975—which included the popular Spycraft—had sold well, and in 1977 the company followed it up with the World of the Unknown series: a triptych that included Monsters, Ghosts and UFO’s