Thursday 17 September 2015

John Creasey: Phenomenally Productive

Today, let us pause and doff our opera hats to the astoundingly prolific novelist John Creasey, born on this day in 1908. Even by the standards of the pulp writers of the last century (and he was several notches above mere pulp), Creasey was phenomenally productive and fast-working. In one year alone (1937), he published 29 titles, and in the course of a career of 40-odd years he turned out well over 600 novels, published under his own name and some 28 pseudonyms. These included, for his westerns, Ken Ranger and Tex Riley, and for his romances Margaret Cooke and Elise Fecamps. But it is for his thrillers are detective novels that he is best known; many were filmed or adapted for TV, and a surprisingly large number of them remain in print, more than 40 years after his death.
 Creasey's most famous and successful creations were Commander George Gideon (of the Yard), Chief Inspector Roger West, Dr Palfrey, The Baron (John Mannering) and the monocled aristocrat (The Hon. Richard Rollison) known as The Toff. These series alone account for more than 200 titles, but were still in total the smaller part of Creasey's prodigious output. Somehow, in the midst of all this literary activity, Creasey also found time for a political career, first as a committed Liberal activist, later as founder of the All Party Alliance. And he was awarded an MBE for his services to the National Savings movement during the War.
 They don't make them like John Creasey any more - and even if they did, the publishing industry and the reading public could no longer sustain such levels of output. Creasey was writing at a time when there was enormous demand for novels that offered the kind of easily-absorbed escapist entertainment that is now largely provided by television and, increasingly, online media.
 Years ago, in the days when I used to enter the literary competitions in the Spectator and New Statesman, the challenge one week was to come up with titles of serious academic treatises on wildly unlikely writers. One of my entries was The Monocular Vision: Problems of Perception in the Toff Novels of John Creasey. I was rather pleased with that one...


  1. An author of the same vintage as John Creasy was born across the bay from where I live:

    "Duluth-native Lauran Paine was one of the most-published authors in the world. He was best known for his westerns, but he also wrote romance, mystery, and science-fiction novels and non-fiction books. He published over 1,000 books under about 80 different pseudonyms and in the 1980s was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s most prolific author."

    You can read more about him here

  2. Thanks Dave - Paine makes Creasey seem a bit of an idler - and I notice he married a reference librarian! Another contender is Charles Hamilton (Frank Richards, creator of Billy Bunter), estimated output 100 million words. I feel tired...