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ALISTAIR GRANBY

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Full Name: Colonel Alistair Granby
Nationality: British
Organization: British Intelligence
Occupation Spymaster

Creator: Francis Beeding
Time Span: 1928 - 1946

ABOUT THE SERIES

       Alistair Granby is an agent with the British Secret Service.
       When we first encounter him, he is definitely an operative for that intelligence organization, and a mighty good one at that, but as time progresses he will assume far more of leadership role and take on the duties of sending others out into the dark alleyways and back rooms to gleam the hidden information the government needs to best govern, making him fit the spymaster role better. Since, however, most of the adventures we have of him put him solidly and dangerously in the field, we stick with the agent label.
       "Steady, the Buffs!" That is the second sentence we will hear Granby utter, the first simply asking a young man what was going on, in The Six Proud Walkers. The exclamation was a curious one to me so I looked it up and found it was a reference to a British regiment dating back to the 1500s and the phrase has come to mean simply "take it easy!" or "relax". Granby would enjoy saying this on more than one occasion when tempers flared and people got agitated.
       "Pretty Sinister" is another turn that he will use quite easily in the same conversation, this time referring to a situation that is interesting and possibly dangerous and, for Granby, well worth looking more closely into. Seldom would we ever find Granby being foolhardy but he is perpetually curious and prone to looking into things others would have avoided.
       The gentleman who narrates the first adventure we read of Granby, a British fellow named Geoffrey Carroll, had just had a series of unpleasant and potentially deadly incidents befall him and when he came across one of those causing the trouble and tried to talk with him, that man pulled a knife. Carroll would have died then had not Granby thrown a solid punch of Carroll's shoulder and onto the miscreant's jaw, putting the latter on the ground dazed.
       It is in the aftermath of that encounter, when both Granby and Carroll are safely away and able to relax, that we learn Carroll's impression of Granby. He describes Granby as having "a pair of the most piercing blue eyes I have ever seen, blazing out of a thin, tanned face". He goes on to note that there was a "twinkle in those eyes". We learn that the rest of Granby is as thin as his face and that he is of relative short stature, likely around 5'6" because when Carroll commented about another individual being that height and being short, Granby mildly bristled that it was hardly short since it was also his height.
       "Haven't we already shared God's best gift together, which is a hearty scrap", Granby tells Carroll and in those words we get an excellent view of the mindset of Granby, a love of adventure and daring and not a little mayhem.
       At another point when Carroll was stunned that Granby believed his "improbable" story, Granby quipped, "I don't expect things to be probable. Nobody does who knows anything about them."
       Granby, trying to get a description of a man, asked Carroll if he had observed the man's ears and when told he had not, directed, "Always remember people by their ears when you can see them. There's nothing so distinctive." Granby would also lament the normal inability to really notice things with "Nobody ever sees anything unless they have their noses rubbed hard into it. It's painful, but it does'em a world of good."
       We learn early on that during WWI, Granby had operated deep in enemy territory in what is now Albania and further north in the Balkans, working to undermine the other side as best he could. He had done well and made a name for himself, shown by the fact that when the adventure required meeting with the Prime Minster of Italy, that man commented he had heard of Granby and his successes.
       Since the War, though, what Granby has been doing really depends on who he is talking to and all likely not true as Granby likes to make himself sound like an opportunistic entrepreneur instead of the intelligence man he really is. In The Five Flamboys, Granby describes his organization as the "Secret Service. Most amphibious. One foot in the Foreign Office and the other in Scotland Yard. And always very private and confidential." With others, though, he acts more like an outsider who just likes to meddle.
       The truth is, as we learn going along, Granby is a very important part of British Intelligence and his importance will grow as the series progresses, becoming the head of his very secret department and, for the most part, running the Intelligence system.

BOOKS

Number of Books:17
First Appearance:1928
Last Appearance:1946

1 The Six Proud Walkers The Six Proud Walkers
Written by Francis Beeding
Copyright: 1928

Young Geoffrey Carroll was on holiday in Italy when he was nearly run down by a fast walking man who proclaimed he was one of the "Six Proud Walkers". Curiosity would land Carroll in the middle of intrigue and mystery and get him kidnapped, pommeled, and nearly killed. When the strange Colonel Granby shows up and wants his help to stop them, Carroll is in too deep to say no. Told from the viewpoint of Carroll.

2 The Five Flamboys The Five Flamboys
Written by Francis Beeding
Copyright: 1929

A representative of the League of Nations, John Butler, finds a dead body in Scotland. This will put him, involuntarily at first, on a path set by Colonel Granby to stop a planned revolution in the European nation of Roumania.

3 Pretty Sinister Pretty Sinister
Written by Francis Beeding
Copyright: 1929

Il Duce of Italy, Cafarelli, is very concerned about the actions of a small group of powerful men who would love to see all of Europe erupt into another war. To stop this, he appeals to Colonel Granby to break up the cabal. From a different direction comes a man named Richard Merril from the British Foreign Office will find himself investigating the strange behavior of a lady friend and the doctor who holds such power over her. Merril's goal of freeing will entwine with Granby's. Told in the third person largely centered around Merril.

4 The Four Armourers The Four Armourers
Written by Francis Beeding
Copyright: 1930

The four armourers in the title refer to Frau Schindler of Germany, M. Lemesurier of France, Senor Mendosa of Spain, de Castro from South America, four very successful and very avaricious armament manufacturers. They are all after a secret chemical formula now in the hands of the inventor's widow. Also after the information is an American who is using his daughter, Julia, to assist him. Going against them is Colonel Granby and his friend, John Baxter. We the readers are left until the end wondering why the formula is so important. Most important in this adventure for Granby is the fact that he meets the lovely Julia. This tale is told from the viewpoint of Baxter.

5 The League of Discontent The League of Discontent
Written by Francis Beeding
Copyright: 1930

Several powerful men in different countries in Europe have become discontent with the current powers and know that they can do much better but need revolution to give them a chance. Colonel Alistair Granby is just a determined to keep peace and pulls in an old friend, Geoffrey Carroll, to help him. Told from the viewpoint of Carroll.

6 Take It Crooked Take It Crooked
Written by Francis Beeding
Copyright: 1932

One might hope that getting married and going on a skiing honeymoon might be a reason to let Alistair Granby go without trouble but that is not the case when his festivities are interrupted by a mission.

7 The Two Undertakers The Two Undertakers
Written by Francis Beeding
Copyright: 1933

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8 The One Sane Man The One Sane Man
Written by Francis Beeding
Copyright: 1934

The would-be world leader had the idea that to control the weather would mean to control the planet and to accomplish that he nabs the best minds in England and forces them to work on it. A reporter gets wind (bad pun) of it and steps in, with Colonel Granby's assistance. Told from several different people's perspectives, starting with Granby.

9 The Eight Crooked Trenches The Eight Crooked Trenches
aka Coffin For One
Written by Francis Beeding
Copyright: 1936

Gottfried Von Falkenburg is a high-level German who has tried to overthrow the Nazi government and failed. Now hiding in Switzerland, he needs help to get to freedom. Even as the German agents after him get closer, Colonel Granby has gone there in disguise to help but the Gestapo knows who he is. He is assisted by his subordinate, Peter Hamilton. Told from 3rd-person perspective.

10 The Nine Waxed Faces The Nine Waxed Faces
Written by Francis Beeding
Copyright: 1936

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11 Hell Let Loose Hell Let Loose
Written by Francis Beeding
Copyright: 1937

The Spanish physicist, Alberto Marquez, had offered a new invention of war to the British, Italians, and Germans. All were interested. All were negotiating in good faith. Then the Spanish Civil War broke out and things got very heated. Colonel Granby sends Ronald Briercliff to get the better end of the deal but the Italian and German agents already on the scene had different thoughts. Told from Briercliff's perspective.

12 The Black Arrows The Black Arrows
Written by Francis Beeding
Copyright: 1938

The Society of the Black Arrows, an ultra-extremist group in Italy, is unhappy with the 'moderate' measures the current fascist government there is taking and wants to overthrow it. The Duce, Cafarelli, appeals for help from Colonel Granby who sends ace Intelligence agent John Cowper. Cowper will find allies and enemies both in places he never expected. Told in the third person centered around Cowper's activities.

13 The Ten Holy Horrors The Ten Holy Horrors
Written by Francis Beeding
Copyright: 1939

Alec Ogilvie was less than thrilled to hear from Colonel Granby again knowing it would certainly get him involved in another dangerous escapade, despite Granby's assurances otherwise. This one would get the young Member of Parliament involved deeply with Granby as they follow the Prime Minister's orders to assist the Italian Il Duce and going up against one of the most dangerous of Nazi agents. Told in the third-person centering on Ogilvie's actions.

14 Not A Bad Show Not A Bad Show
aka The Secret Weapon
Written by Francis Beeding
Copyright: 1940

Roger Marples is halfway across the Atlantic when his ship is blown up beneath him, but not before he found on the person of a fellow passenger (who tried to kill him) half of the plans for a secret weapon. When he is soon rescued by, or accosted by Colonel Granby (depends on your perspective), he is enjoined into taking the deceased passenger's place to head to Germany to get the other half. With Colonel Granby's urging, he will have to take his search into the lair of Hitler himself. Told from Marples' perspective.

15 Eleven Were Brave Eleven Were Brave
Written by Francis Beeding
Copyright: 1940

Alistair Granby and his colleague, the young Orford, are in Paris in 1940 as the German army nears the capital. They are there to learn as much as they can about the Fifth Columnists working behind the scene to bring down the French government.

16 The Twelve Disguises The Twelve Disguises
Written by Francis Beeding
Copyright: 1942

General Creighton, a propaganda expert, has disappeared in occupied France and the British government sends Colonel Granby behind enemy lines to find him. Granby will have to use all his tricks and then some to make it home alive. This tale is related from Granby's perspective.

17 There Are Thirteen There Are Thirteen
Written by Francis Beeding
Copyright: 1946

Colonel Granby takes considerable interest in the activities of the French Underground Movement but even more on the actions of Lavel, Squire of Chateldon, a man known for taking advantage of any opportunity. Playing a huge role in the mystery are 13 incriminating gramophone records.

NOVELLAS AND SHORT STORIES

Number of Stories:1
First Appearance:1937
Last Appearance:1937

1 The Erring Under-Secretary The Erring Under-Secretary
Written by Francis Beeding
Copyright: 1937

[plot unknown]

MY COMMENTS

       A quick glance at the grade I have given this series shows how very much I loved it and how much I value that talent of the two men who were the writing team known as "Francis Beeding". For quality of writing, storytelling, characterizations, and dialogue, Beeding was arguably one of the very best writing spy thrillers, if not Number One.
       Certainly I would have to live on the difference between the quality found in Beeding's pages and those of W. Somerset Maugham's. And another huge favorite of mine from that era, Eric Ambler, would not release any of his masterpieces until over a decade after Beeding had his start.
       There were numerous others putting out some great stuff around the same time as Beeding. E. Phillips Oppenheim practically ruled the book shelves having been putting out terrific works for 30 years by then. Edgar Wallace's entertaining adventures were just winding down as he had moved to Hollywood to write screenplays (anyone remember King Kong?).
       There were even more crafting not quite such memorable works. Bernard Newman would do quite well. Sidney Horler would be highly successful though (IMHO) not in the same league as the ones above. Clarence New was ending his career. Herman McNeile was already famous with his Bulldog Drummond adventures.
       But from the first books "he" put out, those in the R√©hmy & de Blanchegarde series, Beeding showed how good spy adventures could be and "he" would not stop for quite a few years and books later.

       Alistair Granby is such a singular character. When we first meet him he is adventurous, daring, highly resourceful, and generally amused at his life. He so obviously relishes his escapades as well as a good dinner and a fine beverage. As he ages through the series, he gets a bit more serious, especially when he assumes the mantle of leadership but his love of adventure, and taking the odd chance here and there, never leaves.
       But one thing that is especially wonderful about his stories is that the authors did not make him the focal point to hardly any of the books. Many are told from the vantage point of amateurs who stumble into a mess and who probably would not get out of it without Granby's assistance. Then there are those that Granby kind of nudges into the mire and then is nice enough to offer a hand pulling him out. And more than one hardy soul returns to let Granby do it again, it being so much fun and in the end not fatal.
       This frees the authors to give different viewpoints on the problems at hand and on Granby himself. Most like him but a couple are irked more than a bit. This variety is delightful as it does not make Granby two-dimensional.

       One aspect of the Granby books that I completely missed but which a friend, an author and book editor so he would have a better eye than I, mentioned to me in passing was that both the men who made up 'Beeding' worked at most of the time for the League of Nations and so had as their inset desires the same goal as that organization - keeping the peace. The horrors of the Great War convinced it and them that another similar war would destroy the planet so must be prevented at all cost, even to the point of allowing dictators to rule without challenge. Both Hitler and Mussolini, especially the latter, are brought into many of the adventures and though they are not particularly made out to be good guys, the stability of their regimes, as well as those of Great Britain and France was paramount. To help achieve this in the plots, those seeking to overthrow any of the existing governments were always made out to be worse.

       I would caution those who have not yet read Beeding but are thinking of it to remember that most of these books, as so many of that period of the late 20s - early 30s were, are romantic adventures. In that I mean that many of the books will have young men, in the course of the situation, meeting and falling for young women and sometimes making a right fool of themselves in the process. So few books do so in our modern era which is a pity since infatuation and puppy-love and outright love still get far too many people in over their heads. Back then it was fashionable to write about it. Not really today.
       But I say this so people will not expect the almost constant action so much modern adventures give us. Beeding takes the time to let people be people, albeit many of the guys going nutso from a smile and a glance.
       Still, there is action aplenty in the pages. Car chases galore, with heroes having to take time to crank-start the jalopy first. There are bucketfuls of bullets fired, poison overflowing, fisticuffs flying, and a few wisecracks in the heat of the moment.
       All done with skill and style.

GRADE

My Grade: A+

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