Monday, March 29, 2010

Alistair Paterson

Another "mysteries that have me mystified" column...

Many, many years ago I co-wrote a book called Vultures of the Void about 1950s British science fiction, focusing on the magazines and cheap paperabacks that sprang up during the post-War years of paper shortage. My interest in the subject was inspired by Phil Harbottle, with whom I shared the byline on the book. Phil introduced me to John Russell Fearn and the curiously named Vargo Statten, under which name Fearn wrote over 50 novels in the early- to mid-1950s. At the time I was visiting the Science Fiction Foundation (back in the days when it was in Dagenham) and borrowed copies of a number of Statten novels. The SFF also had copies of the Vargo Statten Science Fiction Magazine, a magazine I've mentioned here before when I did a two-part cover gallery (Part 1, Part 2).

The original editor of the Vargo Statten Science Fiction Magazine was Alistair Paterson who shepherded the first seven issues to the presses. After three issues, Scion Ltd., the publisher, went into voluntary liquidation and a new company, Scion Distributors Ltd. was quickly set up to continue the magazine. Eventually, the magazine was passed on to Dragon Press, one of Scion's creditors, who continued to publish but now under the editorship of John Russell Fearn himself.

Alistair Paterson was also an author. As far as I can tell, Paterson began writing in 1952, his first novel appearing in January 1953 as Curves Can Cast Shadows by "Griff", a house name used by Modern Fiction. His first few novels featured the character Gentle Hoggarty and were influenced by Micky Spillane's early novels.

Paterson then began writing for Scion under the name Hans Lugar, a series of novels featuring a new character, Phil Casey. When Scion went into liquidation, Paterson continued writing for both companies, as Hank Spencer, Nat Karta and Blair Johns. Paterson then became one of the main authors behind the house name Ben Sarto. I haven't had a chance to examine every single Ben Sarto (they're as rare as hen's teeth!) but I've found at least eight Ben Sarto's by Paterson, the last appearing in 1958.

The pen-name Blair Johns is a clue to Paterson's identity. After a Western for Scion, Blair Johns switched to writing crime novels for Modern Fiction, which made me certain that it was a personal pen-name rather than a house name. One of the Gentle Hoggarty novels appeared under the Blair Johns byline, as did the character Con Shulman, who also appeared under the Hank Spencer house name.

In all, I've discovered 29 novels by Paterson under 6 different names between 1953-58. By 1958, the paperback boom was pretty much over and the paperback publishers who remained moved away from gangster/crime novels (Brown Watson, for instance, concentrated on war novels under their Digit Books imprint). It seems likely that Paterson gave up writing.

Discovering anything about Paterson has proved to be tricky. It would seem his full name is Alistair John Blair Paterson, his birth in 1935 registered in Croydon, Surrey. The source of his pen-name Blair Johns is obvious, and another pen-name—Armstrong Alexander, used in the first issue of the Vargo Statten SF Magazine—is probably derived (in part, at least) from his mother's maiden name, Alexander.

Paterson was married in 1956 and I believe he may have retired to Devon, but I've never managed to trace any further information on him. It's possible that he wrote more books under Scion and Modern Fiction house names and maybe wrote for others. It would be great to find out more about his writing career.


Novels as Griff (series: Gentle Hoggarty in all)
Curves Can Cast Shadows. London, Modern Fiction, Jan 1953.
The Poisonous Angel. London, Modern Fiction, Mar 1953.
Night Patrol. London, Modern Fiction, Jul 1953.
Main Street Morgue. London, Modern Fiction, Aug 1953.

Novels as Blair Johns (series: Gentle Hoggarty; Con Shulman)
Tough Hide Tenderfoot. London, Scion, May 1954.
Here Comes the Bribe. London, Modern Fiction, Jun 1954.
Unwise Guy! (Shulman). London, Modern Fiction, Oct 1954.
What Price Adventure?. London, Modern Fiction, Oct 1954.
Sinister Wooing. London, Modern Fiction, Dec 1954.
Enticement. London, Modern Fiction, 1955.
Silas Quelch (Hoggarty). London, Modern Fiction, May 1955.
Naked Souls. London, Modern Fiction, Apr 1956.

Novels as Nat Karta (series: Phil Casey)
The Elusive Corpse. London, Scion, May 1954.

Novels as Hans Lugar (series: Phil Casey in all)
Appointment With Desire. London, Scion, Oct 1953.
Harvest For Harpies. Scion, Nov 1953.
Death By Appointment. London, Scion, 1954.
The Marble Heart. London, Scion, Feb 1954.

Novels as Ben Sarto (series: Gentle Hoggarty)
Tne Viper’s Brood. London, Modern Fiction, Nov 1954.
East Side Exposure. London, Modern Fiction, Mar 1955.
Disillusioned. London, Modern Fiction, Apr 1955.
Dread (Hoggarty). London, Modern Fiction, Sep 1955.
Fear (Hoggarty). London, Modern Fiction, Sep 1955.
Vice Volcano. London, Modern Fiction, Jan 1956.
House of Sin. London, Modern Fiction, Jan 1957.
Stay Out of Menchis. London, Modern Fiction, Apr 1958.

Novels as Hank Spencer (series: Con Shulman)
No Face For A Killer. London, Modern Fiction, Jan 1954.
The Flesh Game. London, Modern Fiction, Mar 1954.
Gentleman’s Relish (Shulman). London, Modern Fiction, May 1954.
Shroud For A Redhead. London, Modern Fiction, May 1956.

Short Stories
The Pendulum of Power (as Armstrong Alexander; Vargo Statten Science Fiction Magazine 1, Jan 1954)

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