No Place for a Tickle
(published by Robert Hale, 1975)
A small temperance hotel in North Devon was hardly William Pitt’s cup of tea. He never drank the stuff. After a lamentable lifetime divided between luxury hotels (food generally fair; room service indifferent) and more Spartan establishments (food generally porridge; room service very attentive) Pitt’s immediate future looked dull. Still, the voluptuous chambermaid Dulcie (built big, her mother said, and Pitt wouldn’t argue) was a start - of a trail leading to murder, mystery and murder again… It was all too much for Sir George Rickett, retired - well, almost - Whitehall department head and certainly not in trim for palpitating manhunts by land and sea (particularly sea. He was a rotten sailor.) Violence, sex and sadism? Not at all. It’s a happy comedy thriller. Ask Sir George’s alarming wife, Marjorie. And good luck.
The Patsy Prize
(published by Robert Hale, 1976)
Mick had spelt trouble from the start, which for Hughie Bush was their return to London from wartime evacuation in North Wales. From that first meeting it was always the same: Mick had the fun, Hugh paid for it. The odd cuff round the ears, a rollicking in juvenile court - Hughie could take those. But when it went on to phoney alibis, a stretch inside, robbery with violence, and murder, Hughie wanted out. The desperate flight from London by road, river and rail led back to the wilds of North Wales, living rough in the hills of Snowdonia, pursued by both police and underworld, and by the woman who had always wanted him. Hughie was after a new life, but trouble just wouldn’t keep away.
(published by Robert Hale, 1976)
No-one would ever pick out Stanley Plackett, a quiet, diminutive accountant, from the commuter crowds that jostled with him at Cannon Street Station every night. And yet - someone did, and Mr Plackett’s life was turned upside down. The telephone laid the terrifying trail that took him on a tube train from Whitechapel, then an Inter City sleeper bound for Scotland. But who stalked him down the nave of one of England’s great cathedrals? Who led him to the foot of the Shivering Mountain in the heart of the Derbyshire Peaks? Who were the men who lived and died by violence? That same trail took him by canal to a dark, silent place where the big cats prowled as the eagles watched. And he still had to find the answer - for they were not what they seemed: the red-haired call girl, the nun in the phone box, the man in the camel-hair coat. Mr Plackett was a quiet, diminutive accountant, but was he, too, more than he seemed?
Blood on Blue Denim
(published by Robert Hale, 1977)
Women were something of a mystery to a quiet, academic bachelor like John Steele. Picking up a beautiful blonde hitch hiker was one thing, but Las Vegas and Paris showgirls, exotic snake danseuses, diamond, drug and currency smugglers, undercover agents - all these were way outside his experience. Or had been, because since the breathtaking Fran had flitted briefly in and out of his life, Steele’s quiet working holiday in the heart of the Wye Valley turned into a nightmare of guns and gruesome death. He was hunted the length of the Malvern Hills to the British Camp, Iron Age fort on the Hereforshire Beacon and no place to be trapped and besieged at night, specially with a woman he couldn’t trust.
The Tennyson Code
(published by Robert Hale, 1979)
It was No Place for a Tickle that introduced the irascible Whitehall department head Sir George Rickett, his suave assistant Major Croft, the deplorable William Pitt, connoisseur of penal establishments, and the voluptuous Dulcie, formal Devon schools breaststroke champion. With the passing of the years, Sir George is now contemplating the daunting prospect of retirement with his wife, the dreadful Marjorie. Major Croft is preparing himself optimistically for his succession to Sir George’s chair, while Pitt is continuing his personal research into Her Majesty’s purveyors of porridge and Dulcie is pulling pints in the Pelican and wondering about a third husband. But Pitt is unexpectedly released one morning and unwittingly triggers off a chain of muggings, murders and mayhem which soon leave him longing for the peace of his Parkhurst Prison cell and those quiet games of chess with Vladimir Kolensky, enemy agent and improbable devotee of Alfred, Lord Tennyson. But who is the sinister Lavek? Where does the cold eyed killer Connors come in? And who can crack the Tennyson Code? Will Sir George make his pension? One wild week on the Isle of Wight supplies all the answers.
(published by Robert Hale, 1984)
(Also published in America under the same title by Academy Books, Chicago, and in France as A Bas Les Tourists By Series Noir.)
The Capital Murders started on a Saturday night in the heart of London’s West End. And as the week wore on they continued. They terrified the tourists as the shopped in oxford Street, walked in royal parks and lunched on Tower Hill. They dominated the lives of others as well.
From the Law, there was Det. Chief Inspector Tom Baxter of Paddington Common police station, near the end of a busy career, but not yet ready to retire to his roses and Gilbert and Sullivan. The killings were to be his very last case. There was Sgt. Steve Franklin from the Los Angeles Police Department, whose brother-in-law was one of the victims. He wasn’t going home until he saw the killer caught. His first and last trip to London.
From the press, there was Harry King, Daily Globe reporter, who had seen it all from freeloading lunches to air disasters, and was growing tired of legwork. The killings were to be his last story too. There was Kevin Toomey, up from the provinces and ready to sell his soul for a front-page by-line. His first big story, but, he hoped, not his last.
There were the football fans: Kenny and Wayne and Agger and Terry, scarves at the wrist and menacing boots below half-mast trousers. Some were no strangers to violence.
And there were the Dunns, Elsie and Jim, with a flat in Giles Buildings, dreaming of the day when they got a bathroom of their own. And their young son Sidney, not yet 20, biker and misfit.
The climax is a bloodbath on Fleet Street’s own doorstep, but the midseason melancholy that started it all could be called the Chelsea Blues.