She looked like a sleek, golden animal…

She relaxed half a notch. Even nervous, she was one of the most gorgeous women I’d ever laid eyes on. She had glossy red hair pulled into a pony-tail but it wasn’t the kind of red you see on white-skinned Irish girls. This was a tawny color that accented the pale honey tan of her skin. Her face was angular with full lips and almond-shaped eyes. She wore high heels, skin-tight Capri pants on long, long legs and a white blouse tied up at her slender waist. The skin of her belly was firm and tanned. She looked like the French actress Agnes Laurent. She looked like a sleek, golden animal. I wanted her.”

During the time I was starting to conjure up the character of the book’s femme fatale, Justine, I went to the PCC swap meet in Pasadena and picked up a dozen or so vintage Playboy Magazines from the late 1950s.

As luck would have it, one of them was dated July 1958 – the very month and year that “Ritual” takes place – and there was a pictorial on a beautiful French actress called Agnes Laurent.

Agnes Laurent, Playboy
Spread from Playboy, July 1958, featuring Agnes Laurent.

Ms. Laurent was one of a handful of French starlets who were briefly touted in magazines like Playboy as the “next Brigitte Bardot” – she may not have been that, but her photos would certainly have made an impression on a lot of American males at the time.

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