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Monday, 24 November 2014

Fedora

No, not the hat. Johnny Fedora is a fictional British secret agent who features in 16 novels published between 1951 and 1984. They were written by Shaun Lloyd McCarthy, using the pseudonym Desmond Cory (he died in 2001).  Desmond Cory is one of Britain’s most prolific thriller writers; his writing spanned over 40 years; he used up to three different pen names, such was the demand for his work.

Literary critics dubbed Johnny Fedora ‘the thinking man’s James Bond’. Fedora was also a hired assassin, but for many readers the Fedora plots were more complex and intellectual than Fleming’s. Fedora made his debut in one of two Cory novels published in 1951, Secret Ministry (the other being a crime novel, Begin, Murderer!) Fedora’s initial outing beat James Bond into print by two years (Casino Royale, 1953).

Fedora was the son of a Spanish father and Irish mother; a fact that I’d forgotten when I began writing about my half English, half Spanish private eye, Leon Cazador (Spanish Eye). Fedora was a former Spanish Civil War combatant, Chicago gangster and FBI counter-espionage agent, (as well as being a talented piano player!) Like Ashenden before him, Fedora was freelance, hired by British Intelligence on a case-by-case basis – often assisted by Sebastian Trout of the Foreign Office. He was pitted against Nazi spies, trained killers and Soviet agents. He was driven as much by a need to avenge the death of his parents as by patriotism or loyalty to British Intelligence. His first adventures were written in a more light-hearted manner than the latter ones.

The final five books in the series (in bold below) featured his nemesis, Feramontov, a deadly and highly skilled Russian agent, whose ruthlessness went as far as trying to detonate a nuclear bomb.

  1. Secret Ministry (1951) – republished in the US as The Nazi Assassins
  2. This Traitor, Death (1952)
  3. Dead Man Falling (1953)
  4. Intrigue (1954)
  5. Height of Day (1955)
  6. High Requiem (1956)
  7. Johnny Goes North (1956)
  8. Johnny Goes East (1958)
  9. Johnny Goes West (1959)
  10. Johnny Goes South (1959)
  11. The Head (1960)
  12. Undertow (1962)
  13. Hammerhead (1963) – republished in the US as Shockwave, probably as a book and film with the same title appeared by James Mayo about a secret agent called Charles Hood.*
  14. Feramontov (1966)
  15. Timelock (1967)
  16. Sunburst (1971).
 
    Official Desmond Cory website - http://www.desmondcory.com/
 
A 2012 review of Desmond Cory’s Fedora novels can be found at http://www.existentialennui.com/

* James Mayo was the penname of Stephen Coulter, a friend of Ian Fleming; apparently, he helped Fleming with some background on Casino Royale. According to Wikipedia, he was born in 1914 and is still alive, though his last book was published in 1988.

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