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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Frank Crisp

Frank Crisp was a popular children's author in the 1950s and 1960s who has rather fallen out of the spotlight. His most popular series was the adventure novels featuring schooner skipper Dirk Rogers, a salvage master and pearl diver who works with his cousin Jim Cartwright around the world. Beginning with The Sea Robbers in 1949, Dirk featured in 10 novels in all, the titles including The Haunted Reef (1950), The Java Wreckmen (1956), The Manila Menfish (1956), The Sea Ape (1958), The Demon Wreck (1958), The Giant of Jambu Gulf (1959), The Ice Divers (1960), The Coral Wreck (1964) and The Sanguman (1965). Many of his other books (e.g. The Devil Diver, 1954, and The Treasure of Barby Swin, 1955) featured young boys involved with deep-sea diving and treasure hunting in the Pacific.

Frank Robson Crisp was born on 30 November 1915 in Durham, the son of Frank Robson Crisp and his wife Sarah (nee Sinton). Crisp served with the British Merchant Navy, spending several years as a bosun aboard an inter-island steamer in Indonesia; he also worked as a pearl fisherman in Western Australia before settling in England after World War II to become a writer.

He made two whaling trips to the Antarctic, which he used as for his novel The Adventure of Whaling (1954). Although he could bring an authenticity to novels with a background of sailing and diving, not all his books involved the sea: The Golden Quest (1952) and The Weird Archer (1953) were historical novels and some, including The Ape of London (1959), were science fiction—in this instance an alien creature takes over the minds of human beings and gives them inhuman strength. His 1960 novel The Night Callers was filmed in 1965 by Armitage Film Productions Ltd. in association with New Art Productions Ltd. under the title The Night Caller. It was released in the USA as Blood Beast from Outer Space.

Crisp's career as a writer seems to have come to an end around the same time as the film was released and he subsequently went into business in London. Living in Wembley, he was the director of a catering service and wrote only part-time.

He died in June 1996. Crisp married Margaret Diston in 1941 and had three daughters.

Crisp contributed to Eagle Annual in the early 1950s and his novel The Coral Wreck was first serialised in The Children's Newspaper in 1962. Three of his novels were adapted into comic strip form in Super Detective Library in 1955-57 and Dirk Rogers was the inspiration for the character Pike Mason in Boy's World.

Novels (series: Dirk Rogers)
Within This House. London, Stanley Paul & Co., 1947.
The Voice from Yesterday. London, Stanley Paul & Co., Jun 1948.
The Sea Robbers (Dirk Rogers), illus. A. K. Lee. London, Bodley Head, Oct 1949; New York, Coward-McCann, 1953.
The Nail of Suspicion. London, Stanley Paul & Co., Dec 1949.
The Haunted Reef (Dirk Rogers), illus. A. K. Lee. London, Bodley Head, Oct 1950; New York, Coward-McCann, 1952.
By Whose Hand. London, Stanley Paul & Co., 1951.
The Golden Quest: A Seventeenth Century Tale of Adventure for Older Boys and Girls. London, Bodley Head, 1952; New York, Coward-McCann, 1953.
The Weird Archer. London, Bodley Head, 1953, abridged as The Rogues of Alwyn, London & Glasgow, Collins, 1964.
The Adventure of Whaling, illus. Winston Megoran. London, Macmillan, 1954; New York, St. Martin's Press, 1954.
The Devil Diver. London, John Lane, 1954; New York, Coward-McCann, 1954.
The Chandu Men. London, Stanley Paul & Co., 1955.
Fazackerley's Millions. London, Stanley Paul & Co., 1955.
The Treasure of Barby Swin, illus. Richard Powers. London, Bodley Head, 1955; New York, Coward, 1955.
The Java Wreckmen (Dirk Rogers). London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1955; New York, Coward, 1956.
Maori Jack's Monster. London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1956.
The Manila Menfish (Dirk Rogers). London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1956; New York, Coward, 1957.
The Manila Stranger. London, John Long, 1957.
The Sea Ape (Dirk Rogers). London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1958; New York, Coward, 1959.
The Demon Wreck (Dirk Rogers). London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1958.
The Giant of Jembu Gulf (Dirk Rogers). London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1959.
The Ape of London. London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1959.
The Night Callers. London, John Long, 1960.
The Ice Divers (Dirk Rogers). London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1960.
The Coral Wreck (Dirk Rogers). London, Jonathan Cape, 1964.
The Sanguman (Dirk Rogers), illus. Patrick Williams. London, Jonathan Cape, Sep 1965; New York, McCutcheon, 1966.

Non-fiction
Ships. London, Macmillan, 1955; New York, St. Martin's Press, 1955.

(* The Children's Newspaper © Look and Learn Magazine Ltd. With thanks to Tony, Frank's nephew (see comments) for the photo.)

35 comments:

  1. Frank Crisp was my grandfather and it is wonderful to see this information about him. The family are trying to collect a copy of all his titles.

    Thank you

    Sally Veness

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This message is for you:
      Hello Sally
      I am from France. My parents gave me the book "Le Galleon d'Or" (The Golden Quest) one Christmas when I was 10 years old. I am now 72, and this book remains one of my best of all times.
      I was searching for a copy online and found this blog.
      Your grandfather has stirred the imagination of many children around the world with his fantastic stories.
      best regards
      Jean-Bernard Chadrou

      Delete
  2. Hi Sally,

    Glad you enjoyed the piece. If you or your family have any memories to share of your grandfather (or even a photo), they would be very welcome.

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  3. When I was a pupil at Yardley Court preparatory school in Kent, the headmaster's wife used to read Frank Crisp's Dirk Rogers adventures to us before bedtime. They were as good as anything by Buchan or Rider Haggard and I cannot understand why collections like the London Library do not appear to include any of Frank Crisp's work. One of my great regrets is losing a treasured copy of The Java Wreckmen during a house move.

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  4. My grandfather, an English teacher and tutor to Harvard undergrads struggling with deficient composition skills, gave me Crisp's THE GOLDEN QUEST for Christmas when I was about ten. He said he had read it in one sitting and that it was better than KIDNAPPED and TREASURE ISLAND combined. I read it ten times in a row and it changed my life. It led me to a career teaching English language and literature, which I have done for the past 40 years.

    My grandfather initiated what has become a tradition. Each of my three sons loves the book, and I intend to bequeath it to my grandsons (two, so far). I guess girls would enjoy it too, but today's young ladies would probably prefer a more resourceful model than Jack Besom's sister Alice.

    I continue to find Crisp's narrative of the father-quest utterly masterful: vivid, taut, evocative, mythopoetic. And I love the illustrations in the original edition.

    jrh

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  5. I vaguely remember my father reading the Pike Mason Sea Ape comic strip to me when I was very young but didn't realise that it was based on a book by Frank Crisp. The first two books I ever read were The Manila Menfish and the Ice Divers. Do you know who wrote the comic strip?

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  6. Dave,

    The scriptwriter on the comic was Tom Tully, one of my favourites. Only the first story was based on Crisp's novel and it probably used as a jumping off point by Tully rather than adapted, which is why it's unrecognisable (I've yet to read the book, so I don't know how the two compare). The rest of the series was pure Tully.

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  7. Hi. I recently read The Devil Diver and the Sea Robbers. I have two questions. First, I came across a title THE ROGUES OF ALWYN: A TALE OF ADVENTURE. Is this a Frank Crisp book? If so, would you be able to give me the gist of the plot. Secondly, I was wondering if you might be able to post a brief synopsis of the plots of each of the Dirk Rogers books. If you can't accommodate these requests I understand. Thank you anyway, and thank you for this informative site.

    Steve

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    Replies
    1. I would really love to have a copy of "The Rogues of Allwyn". can someone send me an e-book if it is fine?

      Delete
  8. The Rogues of Alwyn was an abridged reprint of Crisp's 1953 novel The Weird Archer. I've no idea of the plot.

    If anyone wants to tackle a set of plot summaries for the Dirk Rogers yarns, please let me know.

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  9. When I was young, my uncle gave me a book he read when he was himself young.
    This book, the french version of "The golden quest", was by far my favorite one, and as an adult, I still sometimes read it again.

    Thanks Mr Crisp to have enlightened my chilhood with your wonderful story.

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  10. I read your article shortly after it was written and there were no comments at the time. I have just revisited and the read the fascinating additions. Frank was my uncle, his wife (Peggy) was my father's sister. My brother and I were ardent fans of Uncle Frank's books and had several first editions signed by the author. Sadly they have all gone apart from a copy of The Sea Robbers which I still retain with its hand written dedication "To Nana from Frank and Peggy". Nana was my grandmother and Frank's mother-in law. It is gratifying that others still remember and cherish his wonderful early books. Before he left the north to live in London he worked as a driver for the local Evening Chronicle newspaper which allowed him time for writing. I have a photograph which you are free to use if you wish:

    http://media.photobucket.com/image/frank crisp/anthonywd/Family1/FrankCrisp1.jpg?o=1

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  11. Tony,

    Thanks for commenting. Any further memories you or your family can provide about Frank would be very welcome. And, as you can see, I've taken you up on the offer of the photo. Very much appreciated.

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  12. If Sally Veness is reading this, could you please contact me on paulmurphy42@yahoo.com I would like to ask you some questions on Frank Crisp, I think he was the best author ever! Please please reply!

    paulmurphy42@yahoo.com

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  13. My late Dad gave me a copy of The Rouges Of Alwyn in the 60,s a ripping tale of the adventures of Tom Alwyn who gets caught in the middle of a plot to eradicate the Alwyn family name from Newcastle to the Scotish borders non stop action with the likes of Angel Geordie Curst Hobbie and of course the deadly Weird Archer

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  14. In unpacking boxes of books given to me by my father I have uncovered The Manila Menfish by Frank Crisp, ripping yarn and my 12 year old boy loved it also. We live in the land down under and would love to know were we may be able to get hold of more of Frank's books in Australia. Any ideas greatly appreciated. Cheers Jim
    pidgeon1961@hotmail.com

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  15. For my 11 birthday my father gave me The Golden Quest (Dutch copy). Since then it never has left my bedside and over the years I must have read it some 200 times. I'm 64years now and have started to read it to my grandchildren. I was very happy that I could get hold of the English one when I visited The Childrens Bookstore in Hay on Wye, some 15 years ago. And last year I succeeded in getting an old (but good shape) Dutch copy, like my first one that is completely read to pieces. The story of Jack never bores me, it intriges me completely, the same as the first time I read it, when I was young. When somebody asks me of my most favourite book, answer is allways "The Golden Quest" or in Dutch "De Jacht op de Zeerovers".
    I was happy to find this website, great!!!
    love, Sophie from Holland

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  16. I rerad The Haunted Reef at school. An excellent adventure story. Could well stand reprinting.

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  17. Did anyone ever manage to get in touch with with Sally, Frank's granddaughter. I have tried through several different avenues without success. I would love to reconnect with that part of my family and this would seem a lovely way of doing it.

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  18. alfstone...I am his grand daughter, Sally. I have not received any communication from you. I can be emailed on sally.veness@gmail.com.

    thanks it is wonderful to read all these comments. I am trying to get a copy of all his books but they are quite hard to find! I am happy he was able to touch so many people's lives.

    Sally

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  19. Another fascinating and well-researched article, Steve. I recently turned up a UK paperback of The Devil Diver and, if you and others are interested in taking a look, I have posted a scan in my Flickr photostream - http://www.flickr.com/photos/16186640@N05/6066567908.

    Best regards,

    David

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  20. I have had a copy of the Coral Wreck for years and have just revisited it again after finding it at my parent's house. I am 42.

    I have suggested to my 9 yr daughter that she may like to read it as she devours adventure stories at a great rate.

    This blog is an excellent resource. Glad that I found it.

    Billy Gareth

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  21. I read THE JAVA WRECKMEN 50 years ago and still remember it fondly. It would be great if Frank Crisp's books were available again, even in ebook format.

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  22. Not quite an e-book but you can read The Sea Robbers online here:

    http://www.archive.org/stream/searobbers00cris#page/n7/mode/2up

    It is every bit as rivetting as it was when I first read it all those years ago. This is the American edition while I have the first UK edition with a dedication by Frank Crisp "To Na Na from Frank and Peggy". Na Na being Frank Crisp's mother-in-law and my grandmother. I did intend to add a picture of the book but my scanner is playing up.Perhaps later.

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  23. Hi. Has anyone read "The Treasure of Barby Swin?" I don't think its a Dirk Rogers story but I'm wondering what its about.

    Steve

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  24. My father was a friend of Frank Crisp and has a number of his books. I believe he also still has letters from him.

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  25. tony.diston@talktalk.net8 Jun 2012, 23:01:00

    I would love to see your father's letters, Anonymous but I would think that Sally Veness would be eternally grateful to see them. Is there any chance that you could share them with us?

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  26. Hi,
    I've been a Frank Crisp fan since I read four of his books, including The Sea Ape and The Treasure of Barby Swin in 1961 at my library's Summer Reading Club in the U.S. (I was 12). To answer the question by the other Steve, "The Treasure of Barby Swin" is not a Dirk Rogers book, but is a sea story about young Dick Grover, set in 1804 aboard a whaler in the North Sea, with the evil Barby Swin and, of course, a treasure.
    Thanks to www.bookfinder.com, I've been able to obtain Frank Crisp's books from the U.S., U.K., New Zealand, and Australia.
    By the way, my favorite Frank Crisp books are "The Golden Quest" and "The Manila Menfish."
    Best Wishes on a great site,
    Steve Salem, Torrance, California, U.S.

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  27. My Mother Sylvia was Franks niece. We've lost touch with this side of the family when my great aunts passed away. It would be nice if any of Franks family see this and would like to get in touch to contact me on dgrfgliddle@gmail.com Gail (nee Edwards)

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  28. Hi Gail, I'm Sally, Franks Grandaughter. We will send you an email (I spoke to my mum, Kathleen and Aunt Judith who remember you).

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  29. Hello,
    I'm a French (skeptical)ufologist and for preparing a book about UFO abductions I've just read "The Night Callers" in the Panther edition. I don't know if a short idea of the book can interest people from this blog (discovered thanks to the ISFDb), but if yes, here is it.
    All events occur in London or in the area. A truck driver has found in the country a curious cristal with very strange properties, which arouse the curiosity particularly of a scientist, and which is soon stolen. And an investigation by Scotland Yard launched because of the disappearance of a (young and pretty) woman working at the War Office discovers she is not the only one who left voluntarily her home after having answered a classified ad from a strange Mr. Bostok and then received from him a wonderful photo of herself. Now both series of events converge on the discovery that the cristal is a matter-energy converter used by the members of a commando from Ganymede (one of Jupiter's moons)to materialize themselves in England and to send back to their own planet some twenty pretty young women, let us say hypnotized by their picture -- the motivation of the extraterrestrials is not given clearly, but it is probably sexual and/or genetic. Only their last victim escapes this fate, because the aliens must flee in the hurry.
    The novel is not a chef d'oeuvre, but it is well written and efficacious ; the "scientific" data (used with moderation) make the story seems plausible, and the police investigation seems rather convincing. Therefore, a good reading.

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  30. Coming shortly on eBay a first edition copy of The Sea Robbers well read but with a personal dedication by the author.

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  31. Has anyone read the Voice from Yestarday by Crisp?? What is the plot outline?

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  32. I have read two of Crisps books about Dirk Rogers. They where translated to Norwegian. I found them vert entertainer, Even now when I have become an adult! I have searched for more og his books in Norwegian, but havent found any more... Must collect them in English...

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  33. Hello Sally
    I am from France. My parents gave me the book "Le Galleon d'Or" (The Golden Quest) one Christmas when I was 10 years old. I am now 72, and this book remains one of my best of all times.
    I was searching for a copy online and found this blog.
    Your grandfather has stirred the imagination of many children around the world with his fantastic stories.
    best regards
    Jean-Bernard Chadrou

    ReplyDelete