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Saturday, April 14, 2012

John F Watt

John F. Watt has been a mystery that has me mystified since the 1980s. He was a prolific writer, but almost nothing appeared under his own name and trying to trace the network of pen-names he used is proving to be a nightmare. I've traced 46 pen-names so far and it seems very likely that he used double that number.

Biographically, all that's known about him is that he was a Scot who began writing in the 1930s, selling stories under several names in Britain, South Africa, Canada, America and Ireland. After serving with the R.A.F., he returned to writing, his steadiest markets being romances and confessions written for Martin & Reid and Hamilton & Co.

In 1949 he wrote his first novel for John Spencer & Co. and was thereby already established with the company when they launched a series of new magazines in the spring of 1950. With romance, crime and gangster novels already under his belt, knocking out a steady supply of science fiction was no problem... nor, were westerns for another Hamilton-related company, Curtis Warren.

Watt maintained a steady output of stories and novels for Spencer over the next couple of years; at the same time he was also selling romances to Oracle magazine.

Novels appeared under a variety of house names, including Earl Ellison, Rex Marlowe, Brett Diamond and Rick Madison, names shared with other authors. Watt penned both titles in Spencer's Private Eye series before embarking on two new ventures for them: the foreign legion was proving a popular subject and most of the paperback publishers leapt in with knock-offs of P. C. Wren. But whilst Watt's foreign legion yarns were fairly standard, he did pen an exciting series of four novels set in the North-West Frontier under the name John Russell featuring a lone outlaw, the Falcon, known as the scourge of the Afghan Hills.

As the paperback boom died out in the wake of the Hank Janson trial, Watt began turning out stories for Paget Publications' saucy magazines Jaunty, Sprite, Kitty, etc. before reappering at Spencer's with a series of western novels in 1962-64.

I have found no more of John F. Watt's work after that date, but there is every chance that there is a great deal yet to discover... this outline dips into a writing career that lasted over thirty years and at least 57 novels. I hope someone out there will be able to let us know more about this fascinating author.

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