Bill Truscott

Created by Griff
Pseudonym of Ernest Lionel MacKeag

Known only as “Griff” to his many readers, this British writer was perhaps the biggest challenge to Hank Janson and Ben Sarto in the Mushroom Jungle.

Too bad he didn’t really exist.

Turns out “Griff” was the house name used by Modern Fiction, a British publisher that flourished from 1945 to 1958, for a variety of authors, including F. Dubrez Fawcett, William Newton, John Russell Fearn, A.J. B. Peterson, and David Boyce.

The house name was first used by Ernest Lionel MacKeag, arguably the most successful of the Modern Fiction writers to use it. Among his many works, he churned out a series of novellas featuring BILL TRUSCOTT, a hard-boiled reporter for the New York Tribune-Sun who later becomes a private eye. But the turf remained the same: organized crime, pornography, drug dealers and that good ol’ standby of the “jungle,” white slave traffickers.

Like most of the Mushroom Jungle books, they were all pretty much standard “American-style” hard-boiled stuff, full of fast-paced, snappy dialogue, casual violence, and as seedy and salacious as they could get away with. The final book in the series, Trading with Bodies (1950), did gain a little extra notoriety for its infamous whip-wielding cover (by illustrator Ray Theobold).

It was deemed to be so offensive to the sensibilities of the British reading public that copies were seized in a 1952 police raid (two years after the book had initially been published) and ordered destroyed. Not that Americans should feel too smug: the stereotypical Mexican on the cover alone would probably be grounds enough to have the book banned these days.


Ernest Lional MacKeag was born in Newcastle-on-Tyne, and served in the Royal Navy before joining Lloyds Newspapers Ltd as a reporter. In 1921 he began writing stories for juvenile publications and joined Amalgamated Press, where he is believed to have written over 300 episodes for a long-running detective series, Colwyn Dane, which was aimed at younger readers, and moonlighted at night on the hard-boiled Griff books.


  • Rackets Incorporated (1948)
  • Only Mugs Die Young (1948)
  • Dope Is for Dopes (1949)
  • Trading with Bodies (1950)
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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