Mark Brandon

Created by Vernon Warren
Pseudonym of George Warren Vernon Chapman

“Sleep? Who wanted to sleep, it’s for permanent when you’re dead, and everyone dies….”
— Brandon turns positively Marlowesque in Runaround (1958)

MARK BRANDON is a Chicago P.I. who appeared in a string of rather Chandleresque British hardcovers in the late fifties, one step up from the Mushroom Jungle paperbacks. He goes through the usual private eye hijinks. In one book, he becomes a suspect in a murder case when an unknown client pays him $250,000 to steal a rare postage stamp. In another, he’s hired by a millionaire to protect him from would-be assassins, and in Brandon Takes Over he goes after the local drug czar when his partner is murdered. Our man in Finland, Juri Nummelin,suspects the series was “one of those late-fifties British takes on the American genre. I think he gets mentioned (and slapped in the face) in Barzun’s and Taylor’s A Catalogue of Crime.

Apparently the author was very popular with members of the Thriller Book club in Britain, who enjoyed his Brandon series in particular (another gumshoe he created, Johnny Maquis, appeared in at least one novel).

Warren also enjoyed at least a short period of popularity in Italy in the late Fifties/early Sixties, according to a post on Rara Avis, in March 2001, by Luca Conti.

“As many as seven or eight of his books were issued by Italian publishing houses, and for a short while it looked like he could become a household name. It didn’t happen. At that time, Italian publishers were trying hard to find less expensive alternatives to the big American names. That’s the reason why, in those years, we could find large quantities of P.I. books written by Englishmen like Warren or Bevis Winter, or the occasional Australians. The most successful British P.I. writer in Italy during the Sixties was Hartley Howard, the creator of Glenn Bowman, an extremely popular private eye character to Italian readers back then.”

Apparently Chapman worked for Lloyds of London and emigrated to Alberta, Canada with his family in 1957 to work in insurance. He retired in Idaho, but eventually returned to Canada, where he passed away in 1996.

He didn’t write again until two years before his death. His final manuscript, The Windermere Kill, was never completed.

In November 2001, Lucy Dickinson wrote me that “…the last time I saw Vern was in Victoria, B.C. He was in relatively good health, I think, but with regular old veteran complaints. That was in 1994, when he used to take me out for steak, oysters (I found pearls in some!) and ballroom dancing. If half the stories he told me were true, he might have: been in the RAF during the war, got shot down over Italian waters, ran a ski resort in Idaho post-war and drank cocktails with many glamorous women. I wish I knew what he was up to now, but our paths led in different directions. He would love to know people are writing about him still, I’m sure.”



Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith, with special thanks to Henry Gaskin on Rara-Avis for giving me a lead, and Juri for supplying several important clues. Also a shout-out to Daniel O’Brien, a friend of the author, and, of course, the lovely Lucy Dickinson for sharing her memories of Vern with us…

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