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Creasey, John

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1908-1973) UK author, publisher and literary agent who began writing for the Boys' Papers in 1926, turning to adult thrillers in 1932. He wrote 562 books under (it is widely reported) 28 pseudonyms, but it is doubtful if all were exclusively by him (Michael Moorcock was at one time approached to do writing for him). Like George Griffith with his Future-War novels, Creasey exploited contemporary fears of organized crime and of terrorist and revolutionary activities, often including sf elements as an additional horror – for example, his first novel, Seven Times Seven (1932; rev 1971), depicts a criminal gang equipped with "freezing gas" (see Inventions). Several of his books for boys, beginning with The Stolen Formula (1935) as by M E Cooke, make use of sf Inventions and other advanced Technology; the last of these, The Missing Monoplane (1947), in which the sf element is a Ray capable of immobilizing aircraft, may have been drafted before the outbreak of World War Two rendered the simpleminded Imperialism here espoused no longer sellable. Within a short while, sf themes began to become more prominent in his adult tales, though his straight detective and thrillers titles always far outnumbered his work with fantastic elements.

Two series contain most of Creasey's sf. The Department Z sequence [see Checklist below] beginning with The Death Miser (1933; rev 1965) and The Mark of the Crescent (1935; rev 1970), focused on the eponymous counter-espionage department and initially featured anti-Nazi stories, not all of which edged into the fantastic. After World War Two, this sequence became more sf-oriented, and late titles merge with the long Dr Palfrey series [see Checklist below], which includes Dangerous Quest (1944; rev 1965), a futuristic novel about an underground Gestapo group in liberated Yugoslavia, The Children of Hate (1952; rev vt The Children of Despair 1958; vt The Killers of Innocence 1971), in which midget aircraft piloted by Zombie-like children attack the world's cities, The Flood (1955) which deals with imminent human-induced world Disaster, and The Unbegotten (1971) in which an Alien Invasion is defeated. It has been speculated that Dr Palfrey's secret organization, which is called Z5 and is staffed by men with near super powers, neatly bridges the gap between Doc Savage and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and probably inspired the latter. All were sensational in nature, though it may be noted that the pre-War titles were accurate in the targetting of enemies; late titles contributed relatively little to the genre, and were influential mainly on the library-thriller market. [JE/JC]

see also: Crime and Punishment; Sexton Blake Library.

John Creasey

born Southfield, Surrey: 17 September 1908

died Bodenham, Salisbury, Wiltshire: 9 June 1973

works (selected)


Department Z

Including known fantastic titles only.

The Sexton Blake Library

Dr Palfrey

Patrick Dawlish

individual titles


previous versions of this entry

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