Saturday, 21 April 2018

Ripley Uncovers

I always enjoy the company of the Talented Mr Ripley, for as a raconteur he is incomparable in the literary end of Crime and Thrillers; and he has a wickedly amusing sense of humour and proportion to boot.

Mike and I found ourselves spending a day together paying our respects to Phil Kerr, who passed away far too early. Mike Ripley was one of the group of new emerging talent in British Crime Writing in the late 1980s / early 1990s, as was Phil Kerr. Mike pays his respects to Philip Kerr in his April 2018 column of Getting Away with Murder – read it HERE

Apart from his own writing, his reviewing, literary commentary, bee-keeping and interest in archaeology, Mike acts as a literary consultant for Ostara Publishing, unearthing classic work from the Thriller genre. He is obviously well qualified for this role, as the writer / editor of the extraordinary Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang CLICK HERE for more information.

At Crimefest 2014 held in Bristol, in-concert with Barry Forshaw and Peter Guttridge, our trio of writer / critics presented an amusing, as well as insightful look at the British Golden Age of Thriller Writing. We have archived the video presentation from the event HERE and I am still giggling from the memory of the that day.

I was delighted to hear that The Talented Mr Ripley has uncovered two extraordinary thrillers - that I can still recall from my adolescence, so let Mike tell us more. 

New Titles from Top Notch Thrillers

First published in 1970, Kenneth Royce’s thriller The XYY Man introduced a new anti-hero into the world of spy and crime fiction and despite the rather questionable premise behind the main character, Spider Scott, the book launched a popular television series which spawned not one but two distinct spin-offs.

The unique aspect of XYY Man Spider Scott – said to be based on a professional criminal Kenneth Royce met whilst a prison visitor – is that he is blessed, or cursed, with an extra male ‘Y’ chromosome in his genetic make-up. This predisposes him to a life of crime, which was in fact a common theory in the late 1960s, though there was little – if any – scientific evidence for this.

Whatever his genetics, Scott is a ‘creeper’ or cat burglar and a very good one, so good that his talents come to the notice of British Intelligence when a dangerous piece of house breaking is called for – the ‘house’ in question being the Chinese Legation in London. Unfortunately, Spider is also firmly on the radar of Detective Sergeant Bulman and it was this antagonistic relationship which was not only the mainstay of the 1976 television series The XYY Man but allowed the Bulman character to develop in the spin-off police series Strangers in 1978 and then to star in his own series as a private eye, in Bulman in 1985.

Kenneth Royce (1920 -1997) wrote seven Spider Scott novels and, later, three novels featuring Alf Bulman. Top Notch Thrillers is proud to be able to reissue the first two novels, The XYY Man (which has been out-of-print for more than 20 years) and the immediate sequel, The Concrete Boot from 1971.

When The XYY Man was first published, Dame Ngaio Marsh called it ‘a brilliantly sustained thriller’ and the Manchester Evening News rated it ‘A new dimension in thriller writing’.

Top Notch series editor Mike Ripley, the author of the ‘reader’s history of British thrillers’ Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, said: ‘The Spider Scott books were not big, brash, shoot-em-up spy fantasies, as was very much the norm when they first appeared. They were down-beat tales of betrayal and fear, more Callan than Bond. Quite often Spider Scott – a criminal who is outside the protection of the law – when pursued by the KGB, the CIA, the Chinese secret police and goodness knows who else, has only his underworld contacts and fellow criminals to rely on. The books are highly recommended for their descriptions of Spider’s London, especially by night, in the early 1970s; a cold, hard city which has millions of inhabitants but where Spider is always alone.’

Top Notch Thrillers is an imprint of Ostara Publishing and has so far revived more than 60 British thrillers ‘which do not deserve to be forgotten’. The XYY Man and The Concrete Boot are available as trade paperbacks and eBooks.

Further details:

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