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Monday, July 11, 2016

Graeme Cook

Graeme Cook’s career in comics may have lasted only a matter of a few years. A former editor at D. C. Thomson, he was recruited fresh from Dundee by George Beal to take over from Keith Chapman as editor on various annuals at Odhams in 1967. Chapman, who had joined Odhams from Micron three years earlier, recalls: “He was a  good bloke, full of stories about the penny-pinching ways of the canny Scottish family firm told in a broad accent. My co-workers at Odhams were most amused and incredulous, but with memories of the mean streets of Mitcham still with me, I could well believe everything he said about the independent, non-union firm.”

Cook, who joined around March 1967, was handed the reins of a range of annuals, including Boys’ World Annual 1969 and the Daily Mirror Book for Boys, for which he also wrote features about aircraft. In early 1971 he wrote a handful of features for Countdown.

Cook spent most of the 1970s writing non-fiction books for boys, mostly air and sea adventures. Titles included Spotlight on Aircraft for Hamlyn, the Air Adventures and Sea Adventures series for Macdonald, the Weird and Wonderful Aircraft and Weird and Wonderful Ships for World Distributors and a variety of titles for Hart-Davis MacGibbon, including Wings of Glory, None But the Valiant, Commandos in Action, Break Out, Survival Against the Odds, Missions Most Secret, Silent Marauders, The Single-Handers, Small Boat Raiders and Rescue.

It is thought that Cook lived in Ireland during the 1980s where he met and married theatre and TV actress Fidelma O’Dowda.

In around 1990 they moved to Kirriemuir in Scotland and set up Scotpress Publications Ltd. in 1990, publishing Discovering Kirrie and the Glens. Scotpress also published Angus Business Profile which made headlines locally when it was announced in September 1992 that Cook, having seen footage of starving Somali children on television, donated the profits from the sales of the book to help save the children

With his wife, he set up Parkmill Publishing Ltd. in 1995, which published the quarterly University of Dundee News form 1996.

Cook, aged 59, died of multiple injuries on Sunday, 25 April 1999. At 5:10 in the afternoon, Dr Elizabeth Crabbie, who had a blood-alcohol concentration of 249—three times the blood alcohol limit of 80mg per 100ml of blood—failed to negotiate a bend as she drove erratically downhill on the A94 near Balbeggie, crossing onto the wrong side of the road in her Subaru and ploughed into Cook’s Peugeot. Fidelma Cook suffered a fractured collarbone and breastbone and their 12-year-old son, Lorcan, suffered cuts and bruises.

In April 2000, after admitting causing Cook’s death at the High Court in Edinburgh, Dr Crabbie was jailed for five years and banned from driving for ten years, the sentence upheld even after an appeal. Released in 2002, Dr Crabbie settled a claim for substantial damages out of court; she was banned for a further nine years in 2015 after being caught drink-driving again.

Cook’s final book was published shortly after his death. Warlock: The Curse of the Black Baron was written with the aid of children from the local Southmuir Primary School who, over a six-week period, aided in the development of characters and creating the storyline. One of the 24 pupils, Nadia Kouhi, later commented: “Together, along with the rest of my classmates, we created this adventure story jam packed with mystery and fantasy. Take my word for it—it’s got to be what a child likes if it’s the children who came up with many of the ideas!”

The novel concerned the adventures of two children, Annie Thomson and Jamie McLeod, who battle the evil Baron von Blitz in a remote Scottish glen during the Second World War. The book was reissued on the Kindle in January 2016 by Fidelma, who later worked for Angus Council developing youth work opportunities in the community, and Lorcan.


Warlock: The Curse of the Black Baron. Kirriemuir, Scotland, Corriebeg Books, 1999.

Wings of Glory. Stories of air adventures. London, Hart-Davis MacGibbon, 1971.
None But the Valiant. True stories of war at sea. London, Hart-Davis MacGibbon, 1972; New York, Taplinger Publishing Co., 1973.
Spotlight on Aircraft, illus. Gerry Palmer. Feltham, Hamlyn, 1972.
Air Adventures. Landmarks in the true story of flight. London, Macdonald & Co., 1973; New York, St. Martin’s Press, 1975.
Commandos in Action. London, Hart-Davis MacGibbon, 1973; New York, Taplinger Publishing Co., 1974.
Adventure at Sea 3: The Sea Raiders, illus. Brian Roll; introduction by R. E. D. Ryder. Basingstoke, Macmillan, 1974.
Break Out. Great wartime escape stories. London, Hart-Davis MacGibbon, 1974; New York, Taplinger, 1974.
Sea Adventures. True stories of sailors in peace and war, illus. Douglas Phillips. London, Macdonald & Jane’s, 1974; New York, St. Martin’s Press, 1975.
Weird and Wonderful Aircraft. Manchester, World Distributors Ltd., 1974; Scaucus, New Jersey, Enterprise Books, 1975.
Weird and Wonderful Ships. Scaucus, Manchester, World Distributors Ltd., 1974; New Jersey, Enterprise Books, 1975.
Amazing Vehicles at Work, illus. John Young. London, Hamlyn, 1975.
Survival Against the Odds. London, Harwood-Smart, 1975.
Missions Most Secret. Blandford, Harwood-Smart, 1976.
Silent Marauders. London, Hart-Davis MacGibbon, 1976.
The Single-Handers. London, Hart-Davis MacGibbon, 1977.
Small Boat Raiders. London, Hart-Davis MacGibbon, 1977.
Rescue. London & New York, Hart-Davis MacGibbon, 1978.
Home Ireland 1987/88. Guide to buying, building and selling a home. Dublin, 1987.
Discovering Kirrie and the Glens. Kirriemuir, Scotland, Scotpress Publications, 1992; revised ed., 1994.
Angus Business Profile. Kirriemuir, Scotland, Scotpress Publications, c.1992.

Journey to the Centre of the Earth.
Chester Chronicles.
‘Now Let’s Be Serious’.

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