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Posted by on 5 May, 2024 in Australian Pulp, Men's Adventure, Pulp, Spy Fiction, trashy covers, Trashy Tuesday | 0 comments



The latest edition of Paperback Fanatic (No. 48) by Justin Marriott just arrived and it is another terrific issue!

Paperback Fanatic 48

As usual, the issue is full of fascinating articles from James Bond movie tie-ins, to Children’s Horror Anthologies to a look at Vampire Procedurals and Alistair Maclean’s When Eight Bells Toll (the first Maclean I ever read), and Jules Burt’s collection of the eclectic covers associated with UK publisher Panther’s ‘Crimeband’ series.

There is a wealth of fascinating material here, with my favourites being James Doig’s article on the ‘wave of shark-exploitation in Australian paperbacks during the “Summer of Jaws”‘ and editor Justin Marriott’s ‘Strangers In A Strange Land’, which looks at works by authors in genres you wouldn’t typically associate them with.

As always, the high quality of the articles is matched by terrific illustrations of all the relevant covers in full colour. It is really a feast for the eyes for fans of paperback fiction, and is incredibly well priced on Amazon. It is a must read for anyone interested in vintage paperbacks or popular culture from the second half of the twentieth century.

The Reluctant Assassin by J. E. Macdonnell (Horwitz, 1970)

I had the pleasure of contributing an article to Paperback Fanatic No. 48 on the Mark Hood spy novels written by James Edmond Macdonnell for Australian publisher Horwitz.  J. E. Macdonnell had enjoyed great success for himself and Horwitz with his popular war novels, but by the mid-1960s he was looking for new fields and turned to spy fiction in 1965.

Between 1965 and 1970 Macdonnell wrote 13 published novels for Horwitz in his series about agent Mark Hood from the international intelligence agency Intertrust. The books were published in America under the nom de plume of James Dark, not to be confused with the James Dark novels produced by Horwitz, and enjoyed some moderate success.  In Australia, however, all of the Hood books appeared under Macdonnell’s name.

In the article in Paperback Fanatic I discuss the evolution of the Mark Hood books, with a particular focus on The Bamboo Bomb, and the various covers.

The Bamboo Bomb by J. E. Macdonell (Horwitz, 1965)

Since completing the article I have come across, courtesy of James Doig, some of the original records from Horwitz that Graeme Flanagan had obtained during the research for his book Australian Vintage Paperback Guide (1994). These records throw some interesting light on the Mark Hood novels, including the American publication schedule and the existence of three additional Hood novels that were submitted by Macdonnell, but never published by Horwitz, or the American publishers Signet.

The below checklist is derived from these notes. It shows the Australian and USA titles (which sometimes differ), the different publication dates and the Signet book number. Note that Operation Octopus and Spying Blind appeared in a different order in the USA (see notes below):

  • 1. Come Die With Me (Aust Feb 1965) Come Die With Me (USA July 1965 – D2741)
  • 2. The Bamboo Bomb (Aust Oct 1965) The Bamboo Bomb (USA Oct 1965 – D2774)
  • 3. Assignment Hong Kong (Aust Feb 1966) Hong Kong Incident (USA August 1966 – D2935)
  • 4. Operation MissSat (Aust May 1966) Assignment Tokyo (USA Sept 1966 – D2987)
  • 5. Spy From The Deep (Aust Oct 1966) Not published in USA
  • 6. Caribbean Striker (Aust Feb 1967) Operation Scuba (USA Mar 1967 – P3134)
  • 7. Black Napoleon (Aust July 1967) Throne Of Satan (USA May 1967 – P3185)
  • 8. Sword Of Genghis Khan (Aust June 1969) Sword Of Genghis Khan (USA Oct 1967 – P3271)
  • 9. Spying Blind (Aust Aug 1969) Spying Blind (USA May 1968 – P3454)
  • 10. Operation Octopus (Aust Feb 1970) Operation Octopus (USA Jan 1968 – P3303)
  • 11. Operation Ice Cap (Aust March 1970) Operation Ice Cap (USA May 1969 – P3862)
  • 12. The Invisibles (Aust Sept 1970) The Invisibles (USA Aug 1969 – P3956?)
  • 13. The Reluctant Assassin (Aust Nov 1970) Rejected in the USA
  • 14. Operation Brain Power/Operation Black Panther Delivered by Macdonnell in May 1969 but not published in Australia and rejected by the American publishers
  • 15. Operation Hellcat Delivered by Macdonnell in Oct 1969 but not published in Australia and rejected by the American publishers
  • 16. Operation Insanity/Operation Showdown Advance paid, but possibly not delivered by Macdonnell. Rejected by the American publishers.

Some notes on the above:

  • By book 4, Operation MissSat/Assignment Tokyo, the books started appearing in America in advance of their Australian release. For some reason Spy From The Deep was never published in America.
  • Operation Octopus and Spying Blind appeared in a different order in the USA to how they appeared in Australia. Macdonnell delivered both books in 1967. Spying Blind was numbered JD 9 in Australia and Operation Octopus JD 10, but they appeared in the reverse order in America.
  • The final book published in Australia, The Reluctant Assassin, was rejected by the American publishers and not published there.
  • Horwitz commissioned 3 further books in 1969, but although two of them appeared to have been delivered by Macdonnell they were never published in Australia. The notes say that they were rejected by the American publisher. It seems that Horwitz had over estimated the lasting appeal of the Mark Hood books.
  • Only three of the books were republished in Australia in the 1980s: Come Die With Me, Operation MissSat and The Invisibles.
  • The books often had different titles to their original commissioning titles. For instance, Assignment Hong Kong was originally commissioned as Day Of Terror and Operation Ice Cap was originally Cap Of Doom.
  • An additional Mark Hood book by James Dark was published in America – Sea Scape (1970). I have seen some references to it being a re-titled version of The Reluctant Assassin, but this is not the case. It would appear to be a totally different book. It does not appear on the Horwitz records. I suspect that it was written by someone other than Macdonnell, but have no supporting evidence.
  • There are notes indicating that Phil Belbin did some of the original Australian covers, but it is not clear which ones.
  • There were three spy novels written under the house name of James Dark – Impact (1962), Havoc (1962) and Spy From The Grave (1964). The first two were written by James Workman and the third by Richard Wilkes-Hunter. These are not related to the Mark Hood novels by Macdonnell.
Caribbean Striker by J E Macdonnell (Horwitz, 1967)
Spy From The Deep by J.E. Macdonnell (Horwitz, 1966)
The Invisibles by J. E. Macdonnell (Horwitz, 1988)

Hope you have enjoyed the article. Once again thanks to James Doig for the information.

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