Monday, 11 August 2008

Introducing Carter Brown

The persona ‘Carter Brown’ started modestly enough in the Sydney offices of Horwitz Publications. Sometime in 1951, the Horwtiz editorial team approached one of their freelance writers, Alan Geoffrey Yates (1923-85), and asked him if he would be interested in writing a mystery series as “Peter Carter Brown”.

Alan G Yates was born in London in 1923; he visited Australia during World War II while in Navy. He fell in love with a local lass (Denise Mackellar) and they married in 1946. They lived in London for a short time but returned to Australia after 18 months (1948). After several jobs Yates worked for QANTAS in the public relations department, but in his spare time he wrote small novelettes -- westerns, science fiction and romances under a variety of names -- for the many Sydney publishing companies who needed cheap fiction for the growing reading market. (For more on the Sydney publishing industry read my Sydney Publishers Blog

Though it was a huge gamble, giving up a full-time job with QANTAS, Yates signed a contract. In exchange for a guaranteed weekly advance of £30 (almost double his QANTAS salary), he was to produce two novelettes and one full-length novel a month. The Lady is Murder, the first Lovely Mystery by Peter Carter Brown, appeared in September 1951. Yates continued to write science fiction for a couple of years but soon the Peter Carter Brown books were a success. They sold nearly 1million copies per year, the Australian pouplation was a little over 10 milllion at the time. So popular was the series, that it was soon being published overseas and the head of Horwtiz, Stanley Horwitz decided that it was time to take Carter Brown to the United States. He sent several books to one of the largest publishers, Signet (an imprint of the New American Library).

Signet co-founders (Victor Weybright and Enoch Powell) were impressed enough to sign a licensing agreement with Horwtz. Yates was now committed to write a new book every month, or at least ten per year. And he did so for the next thirty years, until his death in 1958.

Yates wrote approximately 300 Carter Brown novels and became Australia’s best-selling novelist: Signet claimed international sales of 80 million copies—the series was translated into nearly thirty languages, a Japanese tv series and two French movies. Many people remember the books not so much for the content (which is a pity because the books are amusing) but for their wonderful covers.

1 comment:

Dr Doc said...

Hi,

I have a few questions about CB.
First:
1. Boyd and Holman... Why TWO private eyes?
2. Did CB wrote the Donovan's novels? And the Randy Roberts's novels?

Thanks