Created by John Harvey
Pseudonyms include Jon Barton, Jon Hart, Terry Lennox and James Mann
John Harvey is best known for his acclaimed Inspector Charlie Resnick novels, about a jazz-loving Nottingham cop, but he’s also the man behind a series of paperback originals featuring London’s SCOTT MITCHELL, “the toughest private eye – and the best.”
It was Harvey’s first attempt to transplant the American-style tough guy detective to England. While it’s not always successful (a sort of wordy Britishness occasionally creeps in), it certainly demonstrates Harvey’s skill.
Here’s a sample of dialogue from his last Mitchell novel, Neon Madman from 1977 (all four books are from Bob Dylan lyrics):
“Kind-hearted Mitchell they called me, the private eye with the soft centre. Only this time I wasn’t living up to my name. It had become a case of the survival of the fittest and I was determined that if I had to go down, I’d go down fighting.
As it turned out I had very little choice. Pollard had hired me to see if his wife was cheating on him and it didn’t need Sherlock Holmes to find out that she was. The guy’s name was Murdoch, that much I knew. But when I tried to find out more I came up against a brick wall at every turn. A brick wall and a face full of fist. It was the fist that made me realise that, if I wasn’t careful, I could end up in a very unpleasant situation. Or, to put it another way, dead… “
Harvey may be best known for his crime fiction, but he’s written all over the place. He taught English and Drama in a number of secondary modern and comprehensive schools for several years before giving it up to become a full-time writer, and certainly made good use of his career change, pumping out a slew of books in all genres over the years. His first big sales (mostly under various pseudonyms) were mostly westerns, although he eventually wrote a few mens’ adventures (“mostly for series that bombed,” he confesses), as well as six books for the Doubles series of soft porn comedies as Jonothan White (6 books). During this time he also wrote the four Scott Mitchell thrillers for British paperback house Sphere. According to Harvey, “The first one, Amphetamines and Pearls’, did quite well, but the others sold less and less. It’s a shame as 2 & 3 – The Geranium Kiss and Junkyard Angel – aren’t too bad.”
He eventually planned to return to the shamus game with a novel about an English private investigator named John Dancer, called Dancer Draws A Wild Card (1985) under the pen name of Terry Lennox, but to tell the truth, I’m not sure this one was ever released. And more recently, he’s written a few stories about Jack Kiley, a former cop and footballer turned London-based P.I.
TRIVIA AND TRIVIER…
- I don’t know if it’s coincidence or not, but Scott Mitchell was also the name (or pen name) of another British author who wrote American-style private eye stuff, mostly featuring American gumshoe Brock Devlin.
- Amphetamines and Pearls (1976) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- The Geranium Kiss (1977) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Junkyard Angel (1977) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Neon Madman (1977)) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- How Does It Feel (Part Two)
Private eye titles are lifted from Bob Dylan lyrics