Edward Mercer (Venetian Bird)

Created by Victor Canning

Private eye EDWARD MERCER, like most of prolific British thriller writer Victor Canning’s other P.I. creations (such as James Helder and Rex Carver) leans more toward the international thriller than the mean streets, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth checking out.

In Bird of Prey (1950; aka “The Venetian Bird”), Mercer’s only appearance, the London-based eye travels to Venice on behalf of a French insurance company to locate a man due a reward for his service in the war. Shortly after arriving, though, Mercer becomes the prime suspect in the murder of his local contact. In his quest to clear his name, Mercer uncovers a plot to overthrow the Italian government. As one is wont to do…

The novel was later made into Venetian Bird, a rather talky but well regarded 1952 Euro-noir starring Richard Todd as Mercer. A competent little flick, perhaps most notable for its climactic roof top chase and some truly impressive on-location black-and-white camera work by cinematographer Ernest Steward. The film was also released as The Assassin in some markets.

But wait! There’s more!

In 1975, the novel was adapted into a two-part, eighth season episode of the CBS private eye TV series Mannix entitled “Bird of Prey, its original title.” It was shot on Catalina island, which posed as an unnamed Latin American country.


Victor Canning wrote over 60 books in his lifetime, mostly espionage and adventure novels, but also children’s stories, several historical novels set in Roman and Arthurian Britain, short story collections, a travel book and several radio plays. He soared high in the sixties and seventies, and was one of the best selling authors of his era.


  • Bird of Prey (1950; also known as “Venitian Bird”) Buy this book


    (aka “The Assassin”)
    (1952, British Film-Makers)
    94 minutes
    Based on the novel by Victor Canning
    Screenplay by Victor Canning
    Directed by Ralph Thomas
    Cinematography by Ernest Steward
    Starring Richard Todd as EDWARD MERCER
    Also starring Eva Bartok, John Gregson, George Coulouris, Margot Grahame, Walter Rilla
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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