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Full Name: Department Z
Nationality: British
Organization: Department Z
Occupation Agency

Creator: John Creasey
Time Span: 1932 - 1957

       Department Z is a British Intelligence agency.
       In the early 1930's, the government of Great Britain knew it needed an organization that could help in the troubling international times ahead. War was brewing too quickly and spies and trouble-makers were everywhere. The official groups, such as the Special Branch, were equipped to handle the majority of cases but once in a while there were events too strange or too sensitive to leave to a group so well known.
       The answer was Department Z, an ultra-secret collection of 'civilians' who could work the dark alleys and back rooms without publicity. To head that hush-hush division, the government looked to Gordon Craigie.
       In the many years, before, during and after the Second World War, the men of Department Z fought the enemies of the Crown no matter where they were found. Be it the corridors of Whitehall, the mansions of the countryside, or the fields of foreign lands, the many dedicated men of Department Z served their country and their leader, Craigie, with distinction for a quarter century.
       Officially, the members of Department Z were civilians and therefore the government was able to deny much of their activity. Nevertheless, when the troubles came, the men could call upon many of the resources of the nation, secretly, of course.
       It was a solid rule throughout the life of the department that only single men need apply. Worried that the concern of a spouse or children might keep a man from giving a mission his all, Craigie followed the tenet of unattached only throughout. This included the forced retirement of his key agent, Jim Burke, as well as other, lesser known agents.
       When Pyramid and Arrow both elected to republish the books in paperback format, whether separately or as a concerted effort, John Creasey took the opportunity to modernize the stories somewhat. He indicated it was to smooth things out a bit but in the smoothing some changes were made and possibly an inconsistency or two snuck in. Nevertheless, the stories do not suffer.


       From its introduction in 1932 until the end of the war, Gordon Craigie and his Department Z faced on average two major crises a year, at least documented one. Considering the many other series that he was penning (Gideon, Inspector West, the Baron, Dr. Palfrey, Patrick Dawlish, the Toff - to name a few of the more famous ones) that isn't bad work.
       These books are highly enjoyable for several reasons. The times and the mores of the period are excellently captured in the words that Creasey wrote. The drive for freedom and preserving the British way of life is there in a wonderfully unabashed style. The bad guys are bad guys because they will do anything to wreck that culture. They never succeeded, either in real life or in the works of Creasey.
       On a completely different level, the books are interesting because, unlike just about every other spy series written, the cast of characters changed dramatically as the years went along and the change was intelligent and made sense.
       Throughout it all, Gordon Craigie was the leader and often he played a strong role in the destruction of the villains at the end. But the books were not about him. They were about the people who worked for him. And the stories worked. There was very little of the soap opera element in the transitions that took place. It was just life changing.
       One leading character dies. Another marries and is forced to resign. A third, highly important member is severely crippled and put out of action but comes back as a voice of experience. The department never stayed the same. And that worked.


My Grade: B-

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