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John Creasey - the First of Many

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John Creasey: Ten Authors in One | The First of Many | Simple Facts | The Toff
Gideon of the Yard (as JJ Marric) | Department Z | Dr Palfrey
Patrick Dawlish (as Gordon Ashe) | As Jeremy York | Inspector West
Michael Fane and Dr Cellini | The Baron

John Creasey's first book, Seven Times Seven, was published in London on 22, January 1932. On that morning he rushed to the library in Brentford, near his home, and to his joy found a review in the Morning Post, one of the earlier casualties among Fleet Street newspapers. Holding his breath, he read:

'Seven Times Seven' is a racy and amusing as well as up-to-date story of a gang of crooks whose operations are worldwide and in whose clutches a famous film star finds herself unwittingly involved. She is befriended by a young Englishman and his band of five 'pals'. With the incidental and timely assistance of Scotland Yard they eventually wreck the nefarious plot. But as the 49th man escaped we may judge that the plot is not wrecked beyond further reconstruction by Mr Creasey, who certainly spins his yarn with speed and ingenuity.

Head in the clouds, he went to 'sign on' at the Labour Exchange (employment office), for he was out of work, then he rushed home to tell his family but no one was in. Fearfully, he went to the nearest 3d (3 cents) a week library hoping to see the book for the first time, as his presentation copies hadn't arrived.

At the library he had a strange shock... Three years earlier, long before the book was written or even thought of (he seldom thought about a book until he was about to start writing it), he had been job-hunting on his bicycle. Back at home, he slumped into an armchair, exhausted, and had a dream. In the dream, he saw on the mantelpiece a book without author's name or title; it had a picture of the shadow of a man with his arms upraised. When the librarian handed him the actual book he saw the picture of his dream!

The Morning Post review was the first of eight about Seven Times Seven. He stuck them all in a school exercise book and later, in 1936, pasted these pages into a scrap book bought for 6d from WH Smith's, a newsagent. It was later bound with two other scrap books containing his early Gordon Ashe, Norman Deane, Tex Riley and William K Reilly titles, as well as notices of his biography of Jimmy Wilde and The Log of a Merchant Airman, written with John Lock.

In all, he had 32 press cuttings books, four for Creasey only', two for JJ Marric (Gideon) and for some other pseudonyms, at least one for every other pseudonym. Each book had about a hundred pages with ten cuttings on each, say 1000 cuttings for each book, or 32,000 press cuttings. Creasey himself said that there were some unfilled pages and probably no more than 20,000 cuttings, every one of which he pasted in himself.

There is a curious and I suppose almost sensuous pleasure in fingering, re-reading and snipping off the uneven edges before spreading the paste and placing each cutting as square as one can with the naked eye, and then writing in the name of the newspaper and the date. If I am out of England sometimes hundreds of cuttings will pile up, but no one else has ever put one into a book for me. It would almost be like having the book written by someone else.

He had one moment of sheer joy when a north country newspaper accused him of writing about a character in a Gordon Ashe book who had two whole legs although he had lost one in a previous book. In fact, it was a character in Creasey's Department Z series who had lost a leg. Since those days, when Ashe and Department Z were much the same in style, they became so different that not even careless critics could confuse them.

Note from Richard Creasey
Click here for the most comprehensive catalogue of my father's work.

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