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John Creasey--The Man of a Thousand Pen Names


Well, twenty-eight by y_r friendly blogger’s count.  Creasey in his various iterations is credited with 562 novels!  Do you know how many people haven’t even written one novel?  Most!

John Creasey (1908-1973) was an unbelievably prolific author but he did seem to have a fair spot of bother getting started.  He is said to have received over 700 rejections before his first crime novel, Seven Times Seven, was published in 1932. He had published several novels by 1935, and they must have done all right, for that year Creasey was able to leave behind his day jobs and devote himself full time to writing.  No doubt this was at least partly due to his incredible output.  How incredible?  In 1937 alone, he published 31 titles!  Think about that for a moment--it’s more than one every other week!

John Creasey wrote standalone novels, Westerns, romances, and at least dabbled in just about every subject under the sun.  Not only that, but he created numerous series characters.  Among the most popular are the Gideon series, a Scotland Yard detective who starred in 21 novels, written under the name of J.J. Marric. Gideon was noted for his astounding memory and his ability to juggle multiple cases at once.  He was also a television star, 26 episodes of Gideon’s Way were produced in the mid-sixties for ITV in the UK.  A film entitled Gideon’s Day (Gideon of Scotland Yard in the US) was directed by John Ford and released in 1958, to acclaim.

Writing as Anthony Morton, the Baron was introduced in 1937 (Meet the Baron) and proved popular from the beginning.  It must have, for four Baron titles were published each year from 1937-40. Again adapted by ITV, this time as a 30-episode series, it showcased an American working for British intelligence. However, in the books, the Baron is a reformed jewel thief and British to boot.  47 Baron novels extended his career from the thirties to the seventies.  

Upper crust crime sleuth The Toff (aka Richard Rollison) made his bow in 1938 with the first of 59 novels, Introducing the Toff.  A ‘toff’ is British slang for an aristocrat.  ‘Toffee’ is a delicious confection of caramelized sugar with butter, and has nothing to do with this post.   

Two Toff films were also produced in 1952.

Noted physician Dr. Palfrey was lured into the spy organization Z-5 to fight the Axis during WWII and underwent a great deal of character changes over the course of the series, starting in Traitor’s Doom (1942). Many times over the course of the 34 novels we see the old ‘madman threatening to destroy the world’ situation, but keep in mind that after the war, things did change.  When reissued some years later,  the author revised his stories somewhat.  Wouldn’t it be interesting to read two editions side by side to see what Mr. Creasey deemed worthy of changing?


Inspector West Takes Charge began a series of procedurals featuring the handsome title character in 1942. Forty-two adventures later, West had been promoted to Superintendent and seen his two boys (named after the author’s own sons) grow up.

The Department Z series first saw print in 1933 with The Death Miser and these espionage tales are fast-paced thrillers. These are among the titles that author Creasey revised upon republication.


How many fans of the tough, no-nonsense Gideon would realize that the selfsame author wrote the posh Toff books as well?  Or that Dr. Palfrey, the leader of the worldwide espionage organization Z5 and the gentle, elderly physician Dr. Emmanuel Cellar were created by the same man?


A paragon of versatility, invention, and consistency, John Creasey is criminally overlooked today and you, as a mystery aficionado, should investigate his oeuvre immediately, if not sooner.  Here’s a sample:


Here at Mysterious, we have lots of way cool vintage Creasey titles, call and ask about them at 212.587.1011, order off this very website,  or better still, drop by!


Questions/Comments/Noms des plumes?





Written by Ian Kern — November 17, 2016

Specializing in Mystery Fiction and all its subgenres, including Detective, Crime, Hardboiled, Thrillers, Espionage, and Suspense.

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