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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

TV Tie-ins: Danger Man

A fondly remembered spy thriller series, starring Patrick McGoohan as John Drake, a role which shot him to stardom and subsequently allowed him to pick and choose his next project – the baffling The Prisoner series. What differentiated Drake from other espionage agents was a very un-Bond aversion to guns and women; although they were often around in equal numbers, Drake never shot anyone nor openly flirted with his leading ladies. He was dedicated to his work as a troubleshooter for NATO’s secret service department which took him around the globe, first in a 39 episode black & white half-hour series (1960-62), and subsequently in 45 hour-long episodes (1964-66) and two episodes filmed in colour (1968). In the USA, the series was shown by CBS as Secret Agent.

Departure Deferred by W. Howard Baker. Consul 793, Apr 1965, 137pp, 3/6. Cover design by Ken Freeman.
Taking the identity of a dead agent who was hostile to British Intelligence John Drake is ordered to rescue—at all costs—a young woman sentenced to death by a Peking-orientated clique in Albania. It is an assignment that could shift the course of nuclear power and Drake has only 36 hours in which to see it through.
Storm Over Rockall by W. Howard Baker. Consul 794, Apr 1965, 142pp, 3/6. Cover design by Ken Freeman.
Radio Seatime was the latest addition to the pirate radio movement. It poured out endless programmes of popular music... and something else—instructions for widescale sabotage of Britain's atomic programme.
__So the call went out: "Send for John Drake" and in the events which followed he found himself pitted against one of the most dangerous groups of saboteurs that the nation had ever had to face.
Hell for Tomorrow by Peter Leslie. Consul 802, 1965, 176pp, 3/6. Cover design by Ken Freeman.
Behind the shooting of a teenager in Paris lies a sinister plan to flood Europe with cut-price drugs--but why doesn't the gang want to make any profit from the sales? And why are all its members British?
__Posing as a seedy peddler, secret agent John Drake follows the trail to the fabulous Cote d'Azur, where he discovers a conspiracy with as bizarre a plan to seize power as he has ever encountered.
The Exterminator by W. A. Ballinger. Consul 803, Jan 1966, 137pp, 3/6. Cover design by Ken Freeman.
The Exterminator was the official executioner for the 'other side'. And he carried out his work with deadly efficiency and despatch.
__John Drake's mission was to find him and destroy him. It was a mission that took Drake from the luxury yacht of an American millionaire to a bizarre Sicilian villa with a shark-filled private lagoon and, finally, to the steaming slopes of Mount Etna.
No Way Out by Wilfred McNeilly.Consul 804, 1966, 144pp, 3/6. Cover design by Ken Freeman.
There is only one end to the careers of men like John Drake—they die or are killed. There is no way out. That was the bitter lesson Tony Harris had to learn. He wanted out. and he thought he had found the perfect exit. He would be discharged dead. But there are flaws in every plan and the flaw in this one was to take John Drake to Macao. His mission: bring Harris back to the fold... or destroy him. And for Drake it was the bitterest task of his career; Tony Harris was his friend.
Amongst the first British TV novelisations, the Danger Man series was penned primarily by authors associated with the Sexton Blake series. W. Howard Baker had been the editor of the Sexton Blake Library between 1955 and 1963 and McNeilly one of his regular writers, often working together on books. W. A. Ballinger was a pen-name they shared, initially for books written by Baker but subsequently used by McNeilly. The only non-Blake author involved in the five-book Danger Man series was Peter Leslie.

Shortly before the first Danger Man novel appeared, Baker struck a deal with Fleetway Publications and Mayflower Books to revive Blake in a series of paperbacks and the two series ran concurrently until World Distributors brought the Consul Books paperback line to a close in 1966. The first title, Departure Deferred, also had a not-so-obvious Blake connection: it was a revised version of a ten-year-old Blake story, Dark Frontier by Arthur Maclean (George Mann).

The books were reprinted in America by Macfadden-Bartell, replacing the Danger Man title with the title it was given for American TV, Secret Agent. An earlier Secret Agent novel had appeared in America in 1962: Target for Tonight by Richard Telfair. In France the series was known as Destination Danger and following the reprinting of four volumes by Solar in 1967-68 a fifth volume appeared under the byline John Long.

Sabotage et Cafouillage [Storm Over Rockall] by W. Howard Baker. Solar, 1967.
L'exterminateur [The Exterminator] by W. A. Ballinger. Solar, 1967.
L'enger est pour Demain [Hell for Tomorrow] by Peter Leslie, 1968.
Mangances a Macao [No Way Out] by Wilfred McNeilly. Solar, 1968.
Chinoiseries en Albanie by John Long. Presses de la Cite, 1969.

Although often credited as an original novel, I wouldn't be surprised to discover that this is actually a reprinting of Departure Deferred, which has an Albanian setting. Some cover scans of the French novels (along with the American reprints) can be found here.

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