ormiston_bk_sis ormiston_colonel_bk_tha ormiston_bk_snr ormiston_bk_tmfw ormiston_bk_km ormiston_nv_lv ormiston_bk_saa ormiston_bk_tssg ormiston_bk_tsg ormiston_bk_sip ormiston_bk_tsm
Full Name: Colonel Ormiston
Nationality: British
Organization: British Intelligence
Occupation Agent

Creator: J. M. Walsh
Time Span: 1928 - 1938


Colonel Ormiston is an agent with British Intelligence.

In one passage he is described by a British official high up in the governorship of Egypt that the U.K. possessed at the time of these adventures, the early to mid 1930's, as being the "freest of freelances". By this he is indicating not that Ormiston works for whomever he wants but rather that he is free to work on whatever might interest him at the time. The speaker goes on to say that while Ormiston was certainly working in Egypt at the time of the inquiry, "when he goes a-hunting he just simply disappears. Then sooner or later he turns up with the bacon". With considerable regret that man also admits that Ormiston routinely vanishes for a time and his wife also will drop from view and, "until they turn up with their case all complete we can't do anything save sit down with folded hands, wait, and hopr for the best".

Interestingly, in that conversation when the asker mentioned Ormiston working for the British Secret Service, the responder stated, "we call it Intelligence amongst ourselves. And in dealing with outsiders we use - er - even more euphemistic terms".

Ormiston is said to be a master of disguise who is able to blend into just about everywhere. His use of (apparently) face paint and clothing, blended with his mimicry and acting skills and his native understanding of Arabic (and others) all work wonderfully to allow him to move about the people of the Middle East however he feels neccessary.

Note that as of yet, I have not found a first name. From the first moment we are introduced to him, he is Colonel Ormiston, unless he is, of course, in disguise. At times like that, and they are many since he seems to relish adopting any variety of identities,

Ormiston is married to the very impressive Rosalie, at least he will be at the beginning of the second adventure. He meets her in the first one and finds her a remarkably able agent already though she is likely a decade younger than he. In that initial meeting he Ormiston learns that she is known in the area as the "Rose of the Dark though in subsequent references it changes to "Rosalie of the Dark", at least by one opponent very much in fear of her. In another situation it was remarked of her that "wherever she is, there is trouble". She, too, is an operative for the British and together they make a formidable pair, indeed, to a particularly nasty opponent they faced a couple of times, Rosalie is likely the more dangerous of the two for when a henchman vowed to take care of Ormiston, his boss dissented worried about the anger of "the tigress robbed of her mate".

Also working with Ormiston at times, or more accurately with Rosalie, is her brother Terry and the two of them have an origin story that makes for quite interesting reading by itself.

Good line:

- About the British, an unfriendly Egyptian Arab remarks, "They are an unbelieving and pertinacious race".

- "A lie has a thousand tongues and the number of those who utter it does not make it any the more true."


Number of Books:11
First Appearance:1928
Last Appearance:1937

Note: The normal listing of books in the Colonel Ormiston series do not contain Book #0, The Silver Greyhound. That book is listed by Al Hubin in his excellent Crime Fiction IV index as being the first of two books in a series dealing with Insp. Storm. It is listed here because in the first "official" Ormiston adventure, Spies Are Abroad, a spymaster referenced Ormiston's activities in that adventure though it was under an assumed name of Thurgood.

0 The Silver Greyhound The Silver Greyhound
Written by J. M. Walsh
Copyright: 1928

Exact plot unknown. Adventure takes place in "Shan States" and deals with the troubles that Colonel Ormiston had there although he "went under the name of Thurgood then".

1 Spies Are Abroad Spies Are Abroad
Written by J. M. Walsh
Copyright: 1933

When the ship he was traveling on pulled into Aden for repairs, Colonel Ormiston is stunned to be approached by a young Arab girl and dressed by his name and told to follow her. This will be the first step in a journey that will take him back to England and then back to the Middle East looking for an extortionist threatening both the US and UK with the destruction of the Panama and Suez Canals.

2 The Secret Service Girl The Secret Service Girl
Written by J. M. Walsh
Copyright: 1933

Rosalie assured Colonel Ormiston that she had good reason for chatting up the man travelling to Algeciras and he, knowing her, trusted her even though they had only been married a week. She was certain the man was the key to learning what the Arab leader Sidi Muhammed Shabash was up to in his negotiations with Spain and Spain's desire to reclaim Gibraltar.

3 King's Messenger King's Messenger
Written by J. M. Walsh
Copyright: 1933

On a train between Alexandria and Cairo, a female passenger hears a commotion in the compartment next to her and goes to investigate. She discovers fleeing the room an Arab who, after an attempt to silence her, flees leaving a murdered man in the room. He also, in his haste, dropped a small packet and it is that item which will send Ormiston and Kent on a wild adventure.

4 Spies In Pursuit Spies In Pursuit
Written by J. M. Walsh
Copyright: 1934

"By the Jaffa Gate of Jerusalem sits Abdul Salam, hawking his wares and gathering information of revolutionary activities. In particular he learns the meeting place of The Silent Ones, a mysterious and elusive society in whose activities Colonel Ormiston of the British Secret Service is particularly interested. So Colonel Ormiston tracks them to El Hamed, the desert of stones."

5 The Man From Whitehall The Man From Whitehall
Written by J. M. Walsh
Copyright: 1934

"David Garth, the man from Whitehall, finds a young English girl in Egypt who seems to be in dire distress. He befriends her and finds that this encounter puts him on the track of a much-wanted individual about whose activities the Secret Service are very anxious to obtain information. The girl and he are caught up in a tangle of exciting events."

6 Spies Never Return Spies Never Return
Written by J. M. Walsh
Copyright: 1935

"Foreign spies are at work on the East Anglian coast trying to discover the secret of a new device of great importance to Britain's air defences. They have already brought about the death of one of our Secret Service men. Ormiston takes up the challenge, pitting his brains against a gang of international scoundrels, with hard-won success."

7 Tiger Of The Night Tiger Of The Night
Written by J. M. Walsh
Copyright: 1935

"Colonel Ormiston is detailed off by the Intelligence Department to investigate the suspicious though apparently blameless circumstances in which an Arab has opened a new night club in London"

8 The Silent Man The Silent Man
Written by J. M. Walsh
Copyright: 1935

"Here is another splendid Colonel Ormiston story. This time that intrepid Secret Service agent and the delightful Rosalie become involved in adventures with a gang of spies who work under the so-called Silent Man. The complete action of the story takes place in under fourth-eight hours - forty-eight hours of sheer, hold-your-breath excitement."

9 The Half Ace The Half Ace
Written by J. M. Walsh
Copyright: 1936

Young John Dain was at the end of his rope and about to blow his brains out when a young woman stopped him. In saving his life, she gave him a purpose to live as she is also in peril. In her purse she has found half of a playing card, the Ace of Spades, a sign from a very nasty gang of spies letting her know they are coming after her.

10 Spies' Vendetta Spies' Vendetta
Written by J. M. Walsh
Copyright: 1936

In the previous adventure, Colonel Ormiston had acquired a powerful sworn enemy and vice versa. He wanted Karakalla put away for good to end the feud and that man wants Ormiston dead forever. The showdown has to happen.

11 Spies In Spain Spies In Spain
Written by J. M. Walsh
Copyright: 1937

Sent to the southeast of Spain, Colonel Ormiston is asked to check into a reported tunnel built under the Straits of Gibraltar to the Spanish enclave of Cueta.


Number of Stories:1
First Appearance:1938
Last Appearance:1938

1 Live Bait Live Bait
short story
Written by J. M. Walsh
Copyright: 1938

16th of 19 stories in the anthology My Best Spy Story, 1938. 
[plot unknown]


In my opinion this series, now 90 years after it first saw print, remains an excellent set of adventures. Not only are the characters interesting, especially Rosalie, and the plots interesting and varied, but the historical nature of them cannot be understated. As much as historical fiction often does a superb job of creating a feel and understand of a time, there is no substitute for fiction written at the time.

Some of the books are a bit pricey but others are reasonable and I recommend getting one or two and enjoying life back them. To those who say life was much simpler then really need to read some of these adventures. They had wars and troubles and intrigue and duplicity and murder and mayhem aplenty - and no Internet to look things up with. No television, either. And hardly any radio.


My Grade: A-


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