Created by Peter Carter Brown
Pseudonym of Alan Geoffrey Yates; other pseudonyms include Carter Brown, Peter Carter-Brown, Raymond Glenning, Sinclair MacKellar, Dennis Sinclair and Paul Valdez
From small things, baby, big things one day come…
His books became a global phenomenon, but Alan Geoffrey Yates’ first crime novel (well, novelette), published in September 1951 by Australia’s Horwitz Publications, wasn’t expected to set the world on fire.
Yates, an ex-pat Brit living in Australia was working as a publicist for Qantas, and struggling as a writer, pumping out science fiction and romance stories for various pulp publishers, with relatively minor success. Yates wasn’t a great writer, but he was quick, and eager to please. Horwitz convinced him to try his hand at a series of American-style hard-boiled novelettes–despite the fact he’d never been to the United States. But I guess he’d seen a few Humphrey Bogart movies, and read some Chandler.
The result, The Lady is Murder, as written by “Peter Carter Brown,” introduced American tough guy private eye MIKE STAYNES, who travels to London with his client, a sexy widow, to retrieve a valuable painting, and soon runs afoul of various crooked cops, gangsters, Nazis, and a bunch of ex-GIs from back home who are intent on keeping the painting–by any means necessary.
The book became an instant success, and the “Lovely” Mystery Series was born. Horwitz expected the author to write two 20,000-word novelettes a month, and eventually signed him to a thirty-year contract. From there it was a short leap to international bestsellerdom and a lucrative contract with American publisher Signet (NAL), who were looking for someone to fill the hole after Mickey Spillane‘s abrupt departure (he stopped writing the Mike Hammer books when he became a Jehovah’s Witness in 1952. Of course it didn’t hurt to have legendary illustrator Robert McGinnis, to do the covers, each featuring some statuesque babe almost wearing some clothing, for the American paperbacks.
Soon enough “Carter Brown” (the “Peter” was soon dropped, was cranking them out big time, juggling between four ongoing series, three featuring American private eyes: Mavis Seidlitz, Rick Holman and Danny Boyd. He also found time to write about Al Wheeler, a homicide cop with the sheriff’s department of Pine City, near Los Angeles. All in all, Brown must have written hundreds of slim, trashy paperbacks; raunchy, spicy little romps (130 pages or so), each about as nutritious as potato chips. But also, it should be noted, just about as irresistible. Betcha can’t eat just one.
“At his peak in America,” Lyle Moore of Horwitz, “he was selling 350,000 copies a book and in Australia we were doing 30,000-40,000 a book….so you can see how he built up to 100 million copies. Yates was bigger than big…it was difficult to find a country he wasn’t published in.”
- The Lady Is Murder (1951; aka “Lady is a Killer”)
- Carter Brown and The Australian Craze For Faux American Crime Fiction
Great piece by Andrew Nette on how Brown gave birth to a phenomenon. (April 2020, CrimeReads)
- “The Mysterious Case of Carter Brown” by Toni Johnson-Woods
Fascinating chapter from Who’s Who: Hoaxes, Imposture and Identity Crises in Australian Literature (2004, edited by Maggie Nolan and Carrie Dawson)