Ostara Publishing’s Top Notch Thrillers imprint has now completed its republication of the five-volume series of novels by the late James Mitchell which feature his iconic secret agent hero Callan.
Originally created for a one-off television drama in 1967, the character of David Callan – the surly but vulnerable and ferociously downbeat professional hit-man working for a very dirty section of British Intelligence – struck an instant chord with the viewing public. As portrayed by actor Edward Woodward, Callan went on to feature in highly successful television series (1967-1972), a film and a TV movie, some 40 short stories syndicated worldwide in newspapers and five novels.
First published in 1975, Smear Job is the longest and most densely-plotted of the Callan novels, featuring all the characters Mitchell created for ‘the Section’ – his fictional (one hopes!) department which deals in surveillance, blackmail and even assassination of anyone deemed a threat to national security.
Callan’s sidekick Lonely – the cowardly and often pungent professional burglar – play a key role, as do Spencer Purceval FitzMaurice, Toby Meres and even Hunter finds himself ‘in the field’ as the action moves, at Mitchell’s typically lightning pace, from Sicily to London gangland, to Las Vegas and Mexico, from Cold War West Germany to the deserted Suffolk coast.
Bonfire Night, the fifth and final book in the series, was written more than 25 years later and published in 2002, the year of James Mitchell’s death. It has been out of print for 13 years and, with no previous paperback edition, this rapidly became the most sought-after of the Callan novels. The new Top Notch Thriller edition comes with a specially-written Introduction by the author’s son, Peter Mitchell, describing the extraordinary circumstances under which Bonfire Night was written, towards the end of his father’s life.
Series editor Mike Ripley said: “Since the Top Notch Thrillers imprint was established in 2009 to revive and republish great British thrillers, we have had many requests from readers to reissue Bonfire Night – ‘the lost Callan’ – far more than for any other title and we are now proud to so. After long consultation with the author’s son Peter, I have kept editing to the bare minimum so that dedicated Callan fans can read this final coda to the Callan saga as the author intended. It is something of a ‘difficult’ book as Mitchell tried to merge a typically serpentine plot with major developments in the lives of his main characters. Callan is now rich, in danger of falling in love, and living in retirement in his own personal castle in Spain and the new Hunter heading the Section, is a woman. The seismic character change, though, is for Lonely, who has (thanks to a prison education course) become a computer genius and software millionaire!
“But if the world of Callan seems to have turned upside down, he still finds himself having to deal with old enemies (including a vicious ex-Stasi villain who tortured Callan in East Berlin back in the day) and treacherous former allies, but he does so with all the ruthless efficiency of the Callan of old.
“In his Introduction, Peter Mitchell describes, sensitively and poignantly, how Bonfire Night came to be written and I strongly recommend his account to readers.”
Smear Job (£12.99) and Bonfire Night (£10.99) are now available as Print-On-Demand trade paperbacks.
Other Callan titles by James Mitchell from Ostara Publishing are:
A Magnum for Schneider
Death and Bright Water
Callan Uncovered 2*
[* short stories and scripts]
For further information visit www.ostarapublishing.co.uk.