Thursday, February 26, 2009

FORGOTTEN BOOKS: BOMBSHIP BY BILL KNOX!

FORGOTTEN BOOKS: BOMBSHIP BY BILL KNOX!

I first discovered the prolific Scottish author Bill Knox via his twenty-four Thane and Moss police procedurals. These were solid, reality based, novels displaying Knox’s reporter’s eye for detail and characterization. However, while the Thane and Moss novels became Knox’s most successful series, I was more enamored with another of his series characters – Webb Carrick of Her Majesty’s Fishery Protection Service.

I think part of my fascination with the Webb Carrick series is how Knox managed to make ‘Fishery Protection’ into a constantly inventive pursuit – I never knew Fishery Protection could be so interesting. Knox was obviously interested in more than just fish and offshore treaties, although either could be the start to a more complicated and dangerous situation. The upstanding Carrick is far more Coast Guard officer than fisherman and never shies away from action of any kind.

Knox also makes a point of allowing Carrick to progress through his career with Fishery Protection in Hornblower style from his first ship assignment through his first command – all of which adds to the rich background of these relatively short novels by today’s bloated blockbuster standards.

One of my favorite titles in the series, which started in 1964 with The Scavengers, is Knox’s 1980 entry, Bombship:

When the submerged wreck of a World War II ammunition ship begins discharging its lethal cargo of explosives near the Scottish coast, diving officer Webb Carrick of Her Majesty’s Fishery Protection Service is dispatched to prevent a disaster. If the bombship is blown up, the entire village of Port Leister may go along with it, but the deadly tide of live mines and shells threatens both the local beaches and the shipping lanes outside the bay.

To complicate matters, the wrecked hull is teeming with a mutated species of giant conger eels with unnatural strength and an unusual inclination to attack. But the greatest danger of all is posed by a ruthless organization of modern-day pirates operating from a hidden base on a nearby island.

Following a trail of murder and conspiracy, Webb Carrick discovers the prize they are after: half a ton of missing gold bars at the bottom of the bay. . .

Knox began his writing career as a young Glasgow journalist and was variously employed as crime reporter, motoring correspondent and news editor. He made many contributions to radio and television and was well known to Scottish viewers as the writer and presenter for twelve years of the Scottish Television police liaison program, 'Crime Desk.'

Aside from the twenty-four Thane and Moss books and the fifteen Webb Carrick novels, Knox wrote many other crime novels – mostly for Crime Club – including separate series under the pseudonyms Robert MacLeod, Michael Kirk, and Noah Webster. He died in March 1999.

THE WEBB CARRICK NOVELS:

The Scavengers (1964)
Devilweed (1966)
Blacklight (1967)
The Klondyker (1968) aka A Figurehead
Blueback (1969)
Seafire (1970)
Stormtide (1972)
Whitewater (1974)
Hellspout (1976)
Witchrock (1977)
Bombship (1980)
Bloodtide (1982)
Wavecrest (1985)
Dead Man's Mooring (1987)
The Drowning Nets (1991)

Most titles can be easily and cheaply acquired through online used book sources and will provide hours of reading entertainment.

4 comments:

David Cranmer said...

It sounds like my kind of reading.

Chap O'Keefe said...

Ah, memories! Bill Knox was one of my contributors when I was editing the Edgar Wallace Mystery Magazine in Mitcham, south of London, in the 1960s. I still have some correspondence from him in the boxes in the basement at my current home in New Zealand. I will have to hunt it out.
Keith

bish8 said...

Chap ~ Too funny! I grew up in Mitcham. Left there when I was eight in 1962 to immigrate to the States with my parents. I'll be back there for a visit in about a month.

Cool post on Blast to Oblivion and Sherlock Holmes over at your Black Horse Western page.

Chap O'Keefe said...

Paul, Micron Publications/G.M.Smith Publishing Co., Gorringe Park Avenue, was situated in a big warehouse (more of a shed, in fact) in the middle of suburban residential properties. So it really was a "backstreet" publishing outfit in every sense! The editorial office was tacked on the front, had uneven floors and was cold and draughty in winter.
Hope you enjoy your visit to today's Mitcham.
Thanks, too, for your mention of Blast to Oblivion and the Black Horse Extra.
Keith