Johnny Maquis

Created by Vernon Warren
Pseudonym of George Warren Vernon Chapman

“Private-eye” JOHNNY MAQUIS was apparently a one-shot shamus brought to you by the same Brit who did the Mark Brandon series.  His lone appearance, Back-Lash, came out in 1960, and had Johnny investigating a five-year-old payroll robbery at the Fairfax General Engineering company (presumably somewhere in the States) that had left two security guards dead and a cool quarter million in cash missing in action. But when Johnny tries to crack the case, he finds the FBI on his tail…

It was billed on the back cover as “one of the  most exciting and powerful stories Vernon Warren has yet written.”


It seems the author, who showed up a little late for the Mushroom Jungle party, was very popular with members of the Thriller Book club in Britain, and 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 or so 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.”


  • Back-Lash (1960)


Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith, following a lead from Jeff Schofield, with special thanks to Henry Gaskin on Rara-Avis 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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