Dan J. Marlowe and Earl Drake, 5: collecting the Man with Nobody’s Face, inc. bibliography

(NB: An expanded version of this post, with additional images, can be found on Existential Ennui.)

For Part 1, go here; for Part 2, here; for Part 3, here; and for Part 4, go here.

Dan J. Marlowe‘s final Earl Drake espionage adventure, Operation Counterpunch, appeared in 1976, by which point the series numbered twelve volumes, including the initial two hard-boiled crime works, The Name of the Game is Death (1962) and One Endless Hour (1969). In the States all of the novels had been published as paperback originals by Fawcett Gold Medal, which meant that in the UK, Hodder Fawcett/Coronet had acquired the rights (much as Coronet had begun publishing Richard Stark’s Parker novels once Fawcett in the US picked up the rights as of 1967’s The Rare Coin Score). But as it happened, Coronet wasn’t the only publisher to issue the Earl Drake novels in Britain in the early ’70s . . .

In 1973, British publisher Gold Lion (no relation to Gold Medal . . . I don’t think) issued the initial six Earl Drake novels over successive month . . . all of them in hardback with dustjackets—the only time any of Marlowe’s novels have appeared in that format. Evidently Gold Lion—a publisher which would only exist for a couple of years—were on something of an American crime thriller acquisition spree at that juncture, because in the same year they also published three Parker novels as hardbacks—see this post from last year. Like those three Parkers, the dustjacket designs on the Drakes were variously illustrative and photographic—perhaps the most striking being the photo covers of The Name of the Game is Death (the interior of which is the revised 1973 Gold Medal text) and Operation Fireball—and also like those Parkers, all of the Drake hardbacks have since become incredibly scarce. To give you an indication, at present AbeBooks has just four Drake Gold Lions listed, three of those being copies of the same book, Operation Breakthrough.

Over in the States all twelve of the Fawcett Gold Medal paperbacks—two of which, Operations Fireball and Flashpoint, boast Robert McGinnis cover art (the latter of those, in its 1972 retitled edition, I nabbed at November’s London Paperback & Pulp Bookfair)—can be acquired fairly easily online, although if you’re seeking first editions, it can be a bit of a minefield working out which are first printings and which are later printings. One thing to bear in mind especially is which version of the debut Drake, The Name of the Game is Death, you want. As I outlined in the previous post, for hard-boiled crime aficionados, the original 1962 printing is probably preferable (if pricey; a cheaper alternative is the later Black Lizard edition of that version), while for those with more of an interest in the Earl Drake series as a whole, the 1973 revised edition may well suit.

In the UK, only the revised edition was ever published, in hardback by the aforementioned Gold Lion in 1973 under the novel’s original title, and in paperback by Coronet that same year under the new title Operation Overkill, although retaining the interior running head The Name of the Game is Death:

Coronet issued all of the Drake novels—bar the final one, which to my knowledge they never published—from 1972 to 1977, although not always in the correct order (I believe they actually began with the sixth one, Operation Drumfire). They did, however, add the appellation “Operation” to all of the titles, even One Endless Hour, which became Operation Endless Hour. The covers of the Coronet editions are all variations on the same theme, a curious mixture of photography and illustration, with a photo of leggy model—the same model on each cover, I believe—collaged into line-and-wash artwork, all set against a white background. I rather like them.

Most of the Coronet editions are in relatively plentiful supply online, apart from the first two, Operation Overkill and Operation Endless Hour, which are becoming uncommon, and the final Drake novel Coronet published, Operation Deathmaker, which is highly uncommon. As for the final Drake novel overall, Operation Counterpunch, the only option there if you want a copy is the US Gold Medal edition.

Mind you, I say the final Drake novel overall: there’s a level of disagreement online as to the correct running order of the entire series. Each of the four bibliographies I’ve been referring to throughout this run of posts—Mystery*File, Thrilling Detective, Fantastic Fiction, and Spy Guys & Gals—has the books in a slightly different order. This confusion seems to have arisen because Gold Medal, who originally didn’t number the books at all, introduced a numbering system midway through the run, adding numbers to the covers of the earlier volumes as they reprinted them. But then to add to the muddle, it appears as if the publisher numbered some volumes earlier or later than where in the sequence they originally appeared.

For my Earl Drake bibliography I’ve gone with the Spy Guys & Gals running order, even though the copyright dates given suggest that Spy Guys & Gals used the later Gold Medal numbering. I’ve done this partly because, broadly speaking, I’ve found the site to be accurate in matters to do with spy fiction (although I’ll happily revise the running order if a compelling case to do so is presented to me), but also because their list handily includes pithy synopses of all of the novels and a fair-minded overview. The Gold Medal pub dates I’ve chiefly taken from the Mystery*File bibliography (which in turn was adapted from Allen J. Hubin’s Crime Fiction IV), while the Gold Lion and Coronet pub dates I researched myself.

(UPDATE: It’s since been pointed out by Violent World of Parker reader Jason that the Thrilling Detective running order is the correct one, so I’ve changed the below bibliography accordingly.)


1. The Name of the Game is Death (US Fawcett Gold Medal PB, 1962; revised edn. 1973 / UK Gold Lion HB, 1973) / Operation Overkill (UK Hodder Fawcett Coronet PB, 1973)

2. One Endless Hour (US Gold Medal PB, 1969 / UK Gold Lion HB, 1973) / Operation Endless Hour (UK Coronet PB, 1975)

3. Operation Fireball (US Gold Medal PB, 1969 / UK Gold Lion HB, 1973 / UK Coronet PB, 1974)

4. Flashpoint (US Gold Medal PB, 1970) / Operation Flashpoint (US Gold Medal PB, 1972 / UK Gold Lion HB, 1973 / UK Coronet PB, 1973)

5. Operation Breakthrough (US Gold Medal PB, 1971 / UK Gold Lion HB, 1973 / UK Coronet PB, 1973)

6. Operation Drumfire (US Gold Medal PB, 1972 / UK Gold Lion HB, 1973 / UK Coronet PB, 1972)

7. Operation Checkmate (US Gold Medal PB, 1972 / UK Coronet PB, 1973)

8. Operation Stranglehold (US Gold Medal PB, 1973 / UK Coronet PB, 1974)

9. Operation Whiplash (US Gold Medal PB, 1973 / UK Coronet PB, 1974)

10. Operation Hammerlock (US Gold Medal PB, 1974 / UK Coronet PB, 1975)

11. Operation Deathmaker (US Gold Medal PB, 1975 / UK Coronet PB, 1977)

12. Operation Counterpunch (US Gold Medal PB, 1976)