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John Creasey and Department Z

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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

Although John Creasey's first published book, Seven time Seven, has much in common with Department Z, on which his popularity was founded, The Death Miser was the first in the series, which continued with one or two new titles each year until The Black Spiders, which was written in 1957. This book was very close to the way the Dr Palfrey, or Z5, series was developing, and to the disappointment of many readers Creasey then virtually merged Department Z into the Palfreys which had become a form of science (Creasey preferred the word 'fantasy') fiction.

All of the Department Z stories have a common theme: that of espionage in Great Britain. The Department leader, Gordon Craigie, uses a surprising variety of patriotic and intrepid agents whose sole purpose is to guard the nation's interests. The early stories deal with the pre-World War II scene, and some of the books, notably The Mark of the Crescent, have proved to be startlingly prophetic. Here, Creasey used his deep interest in political and international affairs to show how he believed the Nazi-cum-Mussolini threat was developing, and he was almost undoubtedly right. His war-time Department Z books have a great 'feel' of the tension and the danger as well as day-to-day living under bombing and black-out, while the immediate post-war books in the series show an almost uncanny preview of the conditions prevailing today.

The main feature of the series, however, is the tremendous pace, the 'set pieces' of action being drawn so vividly that most readers virtually live through them as through an actual experience. When Arrow books began to re-issue the early books in paperback their enthusiastic reception by readers, both young and old, was immediate; and when John Long began, in 1965, to re-issue the titles in library editions, these had the same warm welcome.

All these publishers had been quick to realise that for loyal Creasey readers, as well as many new ones, there was a whole new source of the author's books. The final accolade, as it were, came when Popular Library in New York bought the series for first-time publication in the USA; more than 30 years after the original publication.

A Sunday Times reviewer once said that 'Department Z readers are as loyal as club members'. The membership of this particular club grows larger all the time.

Original TitleFirst British EditionFirst US edition
The Death Miser1932-
First Came a Murder*19341972
Death Round the Corner*19351972
The Mark of the Crescent*19351972
Thunder in Europe*19361972
The Terror Trap*19361972
Carriers of Death*19371972
Days of Danger*19371972
Death Stands By*19381972
Murder Must Wait*19391972
Death by Night*19401972
The Island of Peril1941-
Go Away Death1942-
The Day of Disaster1942-
Prepare for Action1943-
No Darker Crime1943-
Dark Peril1944-
The Peril Ahead1945-
The League of Dark Men1947-
The Department of Death1949-
The Enemy Within1950-
Dead or Alive1951-
A Kind of Prisoner1954-
The Black Spiders1957-

* Paperback only in USA from Popular Library.

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