Monday, December 14, 2009

J. A. Jordan

Another "Mysteries That Have Me Mystified" column...

J. A. Jordan was a very prolific writer active for at least thirty years but who has remained stubbornly elusive as far as information goes. His writing CV is fascinating—to me at least—as it takes in most of the 'cheap' end of the market of three decades in one form or another.

His earliest publications appeared in the Aldine War Stories series which ran to 28 numbers in 1930-30, with Jordan contributing four 64-page yarns. Most of the authors were regulars of the boys' adventure market—Rowland Walker, Ernest McKeag, R. Coutts Armour (writing as Reid Whitley)—and it seems possible that Jordan also contributed to the anonymous Aldine Wild West Yarns series which ran 1932-33.

Between 1935 and 1942, Jordan wrote a number of novels for Mellifont Press, a Dublin-based printer who churned out cheap paperbacks for over twenty years, paying as little as £10 for a (short) book. All of Jordan's contributions were 48 or 64 pages long, bar one longer novel written for the juvenile series about a mystery goalkeeper called Dynamite. Apart from contributing to a couple of other cheap paperback markets (Gramol, Piccadilly Novels), I've not found any other work from Jordan's pen in the 1930s.

In 1941, he seems to have begun selling stories to Gerald G. Swan, who published them in a variety of magazines; these ranged from Westerns to Romance, fairy stories for the very young and two contributions to the Schoolgirls' Pocket Library. Another regular market was Featherstone Press, who published a number of further schoolgirls' adventure tales.

After the Second World War, Jordan began contributing romances to Pemberton and Westerns to Grant Hughes and Curtis Warren. He switched to gangster yarns when writing for Barrington Gray, using the pen-name Chris Wheatley, a fact related to me by Gray himself. Nine novels appeared in reasonably quick succession in 1950-53, with one later title appearing in 1956 but quite possibly sold years earlier.

From Gray I learned that Jordan was from "up North"—based in the Birmingham area. This was confirmed by Vic Hanson who, like Jordan, began writing for Brown Watson in the 1950s. Vic dedicated one of his books to him: "For J. A. Jordan—Fellow scribe". When I quizzed Vic about this many years later, he said that he had never met Jordan, and the dedication was inspired when he heard that Jordan was a fellow Brummie.

The odd thing is that the dedication appeared in Vic's 1963 novel Creatures of the Mist and Jordan's last known novel, Coffin Creek, had appeared in 1959, the last of eight Westerns that appeared under Jordan's name from Brown Watson.

Even odder is the fact that one of those eight wasn't written by Jordan. The 1957 novel Kansas Valley was, in fact, written by Albert King. An announced title that Jordan found he couldn't deliver? A mix-up with manuscripts? Is there a novel under the Ames King byline (Albert King's regular pseudonym) actually written by Jordan? Who knows? Sadly, not me.

These kind of errors do happen, and sometimes they favour the bibliographer. For instance, a novel credited to Ben Sarto on its cover was credited to J. A. Jordan on the title page. Whether Jordan contributed any other novels under the Sarto byline I cannot say. It's an unfortunate fact that all the books from this era are becoming increasingly scarce—the situation aggravated by the idiot policies of charity shops who throw out pre-decimal paperbacks because "they don't sell".

Hopefully someone can help me fill in some gaps in my knowledge of Jordan. Already active in 1931, presumably he was born before the century reached its teens; presumably he's lurking somewhere in the 1911 census as a young lad, maybe somewhere in the Birmingham area. Did he die around the time his last novel was published... could he be James Afred Jordan (1895-1960) who died in Birkenhead, or James Arthur Jordan (1902-1960) who died in Croydon? Or was he still active in 1963 when Vic Hanson dedicated a novel to him.

The British Library lists him as James A. Jordan, but mistakes are not unknown in the BL Catalogue. Barrington Gray referred to him as Joe Jordan, but may have been misremembering; when I spoke to him it was getting on for fifty years since he'd published his novels, after all.

Jordan wrote over 50 books... for all I know there are another 50 lurking under pen-names. If you know anything, please drop me a line.

Glory Guns. London, Aldine, Feb 1931.
Action Front. London, Aldine, Mar 1931.
Bravo, the Rifles!. London, Aldine, Jul 1931.
Sterne of the Secret Service. London, Aldine, Oct 1931.
Death in the Wind. London & Dublin, Mellifont, 1935.
Dynamite, Mystery Goalie. London & Dublin, Mellifont, Jul 1935.
The Love Nest. London & Dublin, Mellifont, 1935.
Four Men in Her Life. London, Gramol, Dec 1935.
Moorland Love. London & Dublin, Mellifont, 1936.
The Crimson Shadow. London, Gramol, Oct 1936.
The Gunboat Mystery. London & Dublin, Mellifont, 1937.
The Grey Mask Men. London & Dublin, Mellifont, 1938.
The Haunting Shadow. London & Dublin, Mellifont, 1938.
The Death Singer. London & Dublin, Mellifont, 1939.
Night Club Murder. London & Dublin, Mellifont, 1939.
Matched with Mystery!. London, Piccadilly Novels, Jan 1940.
The Murder Trap. London & Dublin, Mellifont, 1940.
Out to Win. London & Dublin, Mellifont, 1940.
Margot’s Mystery Mascot. London, Gerald Swan (Schoolgirls’ Pocket Library 5), Nov 1941.
The Devil’s Eye. London & Dublin, Mellifont, 1942.
The Murder Mask. London & Dublin, Mellifont, 1942.
The Black Sheep of Harchester (and The Old Folk at Home by John Gray). London, Featherstone, 1944.
H.P. The Lone Scout (and Cheering Grandfather by John Gray). Walthamstow, Featherstone, 1944.
The Mistress of Danesforth (and The Strange Treasure by Elizabeth Portwin). Walthamstow, Featherstone, 1944.
Rabbits and Raynore (and The Funk of the School). London, Featherstone, 1944.
The Witches of Silvermead School. London, Gerald Swan (Schoolgirls’ Pocket Library 20), 1945.
The ‘Snatching’ of Susan Smith. London, Featherstone, Dec 1946.
Guilty Hands. Manchester, T.A. & E. Pemberton, Jun 1948.
Love and Service. Manchester, T.A. & E. Pemberton, Jun 1948.
Love and the Veldt. Manchester, T.A. & E. Pemberton, Jun 1948.
Limehouse Incident. London, Grant Hughes, Apr 1949.
Cottonwood Gallows. London, Grant Hughes, Jul 1949.
Fighting Rangers. London, Curtis Warren, Jul 1950.
Rustler’s Trail. London, Curtis Warren, 1950?
Lone Sheriff. London, Curtis Warren, Jun 1951.
Dead Diggers Valley. London, Brown Watson, Jan 1955.
Tombstone Valley. London, Brown Watson, Aug 1956.
Ranger Guns. London, Brown Watson, 1957?
Boot Hill Bait. London, Brown Watson, Jan 1958.
Blood Feud. London, Brown Watson, Jun 1958.
Ghost Peak Plunder. London, Brown Watson, May 1959.
Coffin Creek. London, Brown Watson, Nov 1959.

Novels as Ben Sarto
Baby Moll (credited to J. A. Jordan on title page). London, Modern Fiction, Nov 1957.

Novels as Chris Wheatley
This Dame Spells Death. London, Grayling Publications, Sep 1950.
Dames, Diamonds and Death. London, Barrington Gray, Jan 1951.
Date for a Dame. London, Grayling Publications, Feb 1951.
Dizzy Dames Die Fast. London, Barrington Gray, May 1951.
Hot Dames—Cold Lead. London, Grayling Publications, Jun 1951.
Dead Dames Can’t Cheat. London, Barrington Gray, Sep 1951.
Murder at the Blue Garter. London, Barrington Gray, Sep 1952.
Red Ice. London, Barrington Gray, Sep 1952.
Baby Don’t Get Rough. London, Barrington Gray, Mar 1953.
Never Trust a Dame. London, Barrington Gray, Jan 1956.

Short Stories
Man She Distrusted (Yankee Romance Shorts 1, 1941)
Borrowed Sweetheart (Yankee Love Shorts 9, 1942)
Hal Manton’s Run-Out (Yankee Gang Shorts 20, 1942)
Summer Storm (Romance Shorts 8, Apr 1943; reprinted in Western Shorts 1, 1943?)
The Witch’s Daughter (Fairies Album 1944, 1943)
The Witch’s Comb (Fairies Album 1947, 1946)
Treasure at Dainstrang (Girls’ Fun, Feb 1947)
A Psychic in the Upper Third (Girls’ Fun, 16 Jun 1947)
Clean Sport (Scramble, May 1948)
The Icy Finger (Cute Fun 38, Aug 1950)
Sparks at Strathdene (Giant Story Book for Boys, 1957?)


  1. Steve
    Add the following:
    The Elephant Stone. By J. A. Jordan, as told to George Leith. (it claims in this catalogue record that JA= John Alfred. Year: 1959, London : Nicholas Kaye, [1959.]


    The Mistress of Danesforth, by J. A. Jordan, and The Strange Treasure (by Elizabeth Portwin).
    1944 Walthamstow : Featherstone Press

    Found on Copac


  2. Hi Norman,

    The latter is already listed, although I have now added the second story (not by Jordan but by Ted Portwin).

    John Alfred Victor Jordan is a different person entirely. He ran a business hunting, trapping and dealing in wild animals and a number of books appeared relating to his adventures in Africa.



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