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Sunday, July 27, 2014

David Griffiths

David Arthur Griffiths was an author who, as far as I'm aware, never published any work under his own name. In fact, his writing career appears to have lasted only fifteen months from the publication of his first novel in October 1950 to the last in January 1952. In that time, he produced seventeen short (36,000-word) novels for the publisher Curtis Warren, where he was also working as an editor.

The majority of his books were science fiction and, had it not been for the speed with which he churned out these novels, Griffiths could have perhaps become a writer of interest. Some of his contemporaries, notably Ted Tubb, Ken Bulmer, John Burke and John Brunner, all managed memorable careers after having started writing for the cheap end of the paperback market.

Tubb in particular has a place in this brief story. Griffiths was a fan of science fiction and known to Tubb as an attendee of the White Horse, where fans of SF gathered each week, and of the Festival Convention in May 1951. At the time, Griffiths was working as a manuscript reader for Curtis Warren, who were just launching a new line of science fiction novels; he invited Tubb to submit novels which he would feed into the system. Thus Tubb's debut novel appeared under the pen-name King Lang, which was for the most part used by Griffiths.

Griffiths was slightly older than Tubb, so probably born around 1918. He would have been 20 or 21 when war was declared, and probably served the full six years of the Second World War.

His earliest known novels are a series of much sought after Burroughs-inspired novels featuring the character Azan the Apeman. Inspired by the popularity of Mark Goulden's reprints of Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan novels, Griffiths quickly penned six novels featuring an RAF pilot who befriends a native after crash-landing in the African jungle. Nursed back to health, but with no memory of his former life, the pilot becomes known as Azan to the local tribesmen.

The six Azan novels were fast-paced, unpretentious adventure yarns. Unfortunately, they were a little too close to Tarzan for the comfort of ERB Inc., who threatened to sue the publisher unless the series was dropped. The pen-name Marco Garon must have been a popular one, as it was subsequently used on a long series of Jungle Jim-style African adventures written by Denis Hughes.

Griffiths, meanwhile, was also writing SF as David Shaw, King Lang and Gil Hunt. It is also likely that he penned one of the crime novels that appeared under the house name Brett Vane, although this, too, might have been one that Griffiths channeled through to Curtis Warren.

Although Griffiths wrote the kind of space opera yarns typical of the time, he was a reasonably imaginative writer and certainly a cut above his contemporaries at Curtis Warren. I remember when Phil Harbottle and I were putting together a bibliography of 1950s paperback SF that one or two of Griffiths' novels were pretty good compared to most of the chaff I was having to read. Novels like Astro Race and Task Flight (both as King Lang) and Vega (as Gil Hunt) stood out as being pretty good. Some of the others were... not so good.

Griffiths' writing career was cut short when, in the Winter of 1951-52, he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps., never to return to science fiction. What happened to him is a mystery that still has me mystified.

PUBLICATIONS

NOVELS AS MARCO GARON

The Missing Safari
Curtis Warren, Oct 1950, 128pp, 1/6. Cover by Terry Maloney

The Lost City
Curtis Warren, Oct 1950, 128pp, 1/6. Cover by Terry Maloney

White Fangs
Curtis Warren, Jan 1951, 128pp, 1/6. Cover by Terry Maloney

Tribal War
Curtis Warren, Jan 1951, 112pp, 1/6. Cover by Terry Maloney

Jungle Fever
Curtis Warren, Mar 1951, 128pp, 1/6. Cover by Terry Maloney

King Hunters
Curtis Warren, Mar 1951, 112pp, 1/6. Cover by Terry Maloney

NOVELS AS DAVID SHAW

Laboratory 'X'
Curtis Warren, 1950, 128pp, 1/6. Cover by Terry Maloney

Planet Federation
Curtis Warren, Nov 1950, 160pp, 1/6. Cover by Ray Theobald

Space Men
Curtis Warren, Jan 1951, 128pp, 1/6. Cover by Ray Theobald

NOVELS AS KING LANG

Gyrator Control
Curtis Warren, Jan 1951, 112pp, 1/6. Cover by Ray Theobald

Astro Race
Curtis Warren, Feb 1951, 112pp, 1/6. Cover by Ray Theobald

Task Flight
Curtis Warren, Feb 1951, 111pp, 1/6. Cover by Ray Theobald

Rocket Invasion
Curtis Warren, Aug 1951, 111pp, 1/6. Cover by Ray Theobald

Projectile War
Curtis Warren, Sep 1951, 111pp, 1/6. Cover by Ray Theobald

NOVELS AS GIL HUNT

Vega
Curtis Warren, Oct 1951, 111pp, 1/6. Cover by Ray Theobald

Fission
Curtis Warren, Jan 1952, 111pp, 1/6. Cover by Ray Theobald

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