Full Name: Charles Kirk
Nationality: British
Organization: Foreign Office Intelligence
Occupation Spymaster

Creator: John Blackburn
Time Span: 1958 - 1973

       General Charles Kirk is the head of the British Foreign Office Intelligence, Europe. In this capacity, it is his role to decide which jobs his agents will handle and which of his numerous qualified people he will send. He has been in this position for a fair number of years prior to the start of the series. Amusingly, he has a much put upon secretary of many years by the name of Miss Bond.
       A short, rotund man of advancing years, Kirk bears more than a few scars from action during WWII, and possibly before. This includes missing three fingers below the first knuckle on his left hand.
       Tough and ruthless when he has to be, he has the ability to show compassion and concern. When it comes to his enemies, however, he has no qualms about ordering death, or causing it himself. No longer a field agent, he still at times goes close to the action.
       Kirk is still every bit committed to his job as he ever was but he does, at times, realize that it has taken a toll. At one point he laments to a colleague, “we’ve sat in this dusty, unknown building that nobody normal ever comes to for a great many years.” More telling is his comment “when we do retire we’ll have … few old friends to talk to because we’ve sent most of our friends to their deaths.”

       Several of the missions in which Kirk and his people become involved have a decided occult feel to them as the adversaries are either trying to use strange forces or uncommon events take place to cause sane people to blanche. Science also plays a major role making the dangers more apparently horrific. Interestingly, Kirk is both bothered and fascinated by many of the events he uncovers and the fact that his mind can unravel the clues to come to the conclusions they do can worry some of his acquaintances.


Number of Books:9
First Appearance:1958
Last Appearance:1972

1 Scent Of New Mown Hay Scent Of New Mown Hay
aka The Reluctant Spy
Written by John Blackburn
Copyright: 1958

Something terrible had happened in Russia. The Soviets had moved troops to quarantine a huge region and were burning villages and farmland. Kirk fears whatever it was was spreading and he needed someone inside to find out what it was.

2 A Sour Apple Tree A Sour Apple Tree
Written by John Blackburn
Copyright: 1958

Word of the whereabouts of a notorious traitor from WWII arrives and Kirk sends an agent to meet with the informer but finds the man murdered. He is but the first of a series of deaths in which the killer then kills himself.

3 Broken Boy Broken Boy
Written by John Blackburn
Copyright: 1959

Gerda Raines had been an East German agent who had defected to England, bringing with her Iron Curtain missile secrets. Years later, she is found murdered and Kirk fears she is the first victim of a Soviet hit squad.

4 The Gaunt Woman The Gaunt Woman
Written by John Blackburn
Copyright: 1962

A Soviet spy is sent to England to uncover a horrible secret concerning a major figure in the British Treasury department. Kirk and his people know the spy is in the country but have no idea the reason and must find out before stopping him.

5 Colonel Bogus Colonel Bogus
aka Packed For Murder
Written by John Blackburn
Copyright: 1964

The new head of the Soviet Union is a bit too liberal for some of his own people and a contract is put out on him during his upcoming visit to London. Kirk knows he needs the help of the Soviets to protect their leader so he calls upon an old enemy, Colonel Danilenko. But is the colonel with the plotters?

6 Wreath Of Roses Wreath Of Roses
aka A Ring Of Roses
Written by John Blackburn
Copyright: 1965

First the young boy was kidnapped and then he was released. Then he came down with an incredible fever which put him on the brink of death. Sir Marcus Levin, a medical specialist, was called in to assist but the assistance soon ran to finding the enemy spy who had possession of the terrible disease.

7 Nothing But The Night Nothing But The Night
Written by John Blackburn
Copyright: 1968

The little girl was having nightmares about death. Then her own mother tried to kill her. Marcus Levin brings Charles Kirk into the case when things look even stranger. Then the matter moves to a castle on an island where strange experiments are being conducted, somehow related.

8 The Young Man From Lima The Young Man From Lima
Written by John Blackburn
Copyright: 1968

The death of a Central American village almost twenty years ago is somehow connected with the horrific murder of a Cabinet minister. A doctor and his wife are the only ones to see the connection and only General Kirk is willing to listen.

9 For Fear Of Little Men For Fear Of Little Men
Written by John Blackburn
Copyright: 1972

The villagers near the Welsh hill consider it haunted and no animal will graze on it. Furthermore, people who climb up it to investigate often disappear themselves. Charles Kirk is convinced there is more than superstition behind the stories.


Number of Movies:2
First Appearance:1969
Last Appearance:1973

Two movies were made of the Charles Kirk series, the first was made for television while the second was a theatrical release.

1 Destiny Of A Spy Destiny Of A Spy
Also known as The Gaunt Woman
Director: Boris Sagal
Writers: Stanford Whitmore, John Blackburn
Actors: Lorne Greene as Peter Vanin, Rachel Roberts as Megan Thoman, Anthong Quayle as Col Malendin, Harry Andrews as Charles Kirk, James Donald as Sir Martin Rolfe, Patrick Magee as John Flack
Released: 1969

Airing 10/27/1969, a retired Soviet agent is brought back for yet another job in England but he has the misfortune to fall in love with a double agent there.

2 Nothing But The Night Nothing But The Night
Director: Peter Sasdy
Writers: Brian Hayles, John Blackburn
Actors: Christopher Lee as Charles Bingham [Kirk], Peter Cushing as Sir Mark Ashley, Diana Dors as Anna Harb, Georgia Brown as Joan Foster
Released: 1973

The search for immortality by a mysterious organization is tied to several strange deaths and an orphanage.


       Mr. Blackburn was an excellent writer of interesting, enjoyable yarns and he proves that with this good series of spy fiction.
The cases that General Kirk involves himself and his operatives in seem, at least in the earlier ones, to be standard espionage fair but that is by no means a bad thing. Science plays an important part of the plots and there is nothing over the top or flamboyant about the missions; they are good spycraft done by serious, believable people.
It is the last three or four books that have an eerier feel to them. There is a similarity in style and substance to works by Dennis Wheatley about Duke de Richleau and Gregory Sallust, and, to a lesser degree, to the Dr. Palfrey books by John Creasey.


My Grade: B+

Andy Boot - 5/10/2013 12:04:23 AM

Interesting comparisons - a fair point, except that Blackburn is a far better writer than Wheatley. Some of these are being republished, which is excellent as they are quite hard to find. Kirk is a very strong character, but never overshadows the supporting players, who are all finely drawn in their own right. Both The Gaunt Woman and The Young Man From Lima are populated by characters who draw you into their lives. At times, this does threaten the pace of the tales,but Blackburn juggles his elements well. And, it should be noted, he ploughed the furrow of the early sixties downbeat spy world with an admirable disregard for 'Bonding-up' his world and trying to appeal to the mass audience, preferring to refine his craft. He deserves rediscovery.

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