Drake_Earl11 Drake_Earl3 Drake_Earl6 Drake_Earl2 Drake_Earl8 Drake_Earl5 Drake_Earl12 Drake_Earl9 Drake_Earl7 Drake_Earl1 Drake_Earl10 Drake_Earl4
Full Name: Earl Drake
Nationality: American
Organization: Unnamed Secret Agency
Occupation Agent

Creator: Dan J. Marlowe
Time Span: 1962 - 1976


Earl Drake is a thief working for an unnamed U.S. agency.

His real name isn't Earl Drake. It is just one of several aliases he has used over the fifteen years spent in a life of crime. During the first book, his name was Chet Arnold. He uses the name Earl Drake throughout the majority of the adventures chronicled in the books since that was the best one under which he was not wanted for any crime.

Drake's life of violence started at the young age of 12 when an altercation with another kid over Drake's cat escalated into a vendetta. Drake showed no amount of beating by his father would stop his sense of justice. Years late, at 18, he had another spell of trouble when two cops, seeking to get a confession for stealing hubcaps, for which he was innocent, resulted in his being severely beaten. Rather than press charges, he opted to take vengeance into his own hand and soon both police officers were 'paid back'.

His life of crime started, according to him, when he watched a friend, a poor black man named Oily Barnes, arrested and convicted of a crime on trumped up evidence. At that point, when he was 19, he decided that playing fair was not the way to go. From then on he earned his living through armed robbery. This life of larceny would continue for the next 15 years.

Then he met Hazel Andrews, the luscious, 6' tall redhead lover who helped change Drake from a confirmed criminal to an erstwhile agent of the government. She would help in several missions and provide the incentive to join in several more.

The exact agency for which Drake worked is not known. He worked actually for a government agent named Karl Erikson who probably was assigned to the Treasury Department. Erikson is often transferred on a temporary basis to other agencies.


Number of Books:12
First Appearance:1962
Last Appearance:1976

1 The Name Of The Game Is Death The Name Of The Game Is Death
aka Operation Overkill
Written by Dan J. Marlowe
Copyright: 1962

The first book in the series is a harsh, brutal crime novel in the 'film noir' style. Earl Drake, then known as Arnold, is a bank robber angered because someone has the audacity of stealing from him what he had just stolen from others. He is determined to get even.

2 One Endless Hour One Endless Hour
aka Operation Endless Hour
Written by Dan J. Marlowe
Copyright: 1969

This book starts with the lengthy retelling of the end of the previous book, expanding on certain matters to better explain the motives. After spending months as a horribly disfigured prisoner, Drake/Arnold engineers a scheme to get a new face as well as freedom. And then his revenge.

3 Operation Fireball Operation Fireball
Written by Dan J. Marlowe
Copyright: 1969

Now with a new home and a special woman in his life and a relatively clean record as Earl Drake, he has started again. He is also bored. Then comes a job to heist $2 million buried in Cuba. His only concern was the new member of the team, the stiff-necked Karl Erikson.
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4 Operation Flashpoint Operation Flashpoint
aka Flashpoint
Written by Dan J. Marlowe
Copyright: 1970

When he is robbed along with others on a private junket to Vegas, Earl Drake is out for blood. Agent Erikson offers to help and Drake is suddenly in New York battling terrorists determined to get their hands on radioactive material. This novel won an Edgar award for Best Paperback Original.

5 Operation Breakthrough Operation Breakthrough
Written by Dan J. Marlowe
Copyright: 1971

Erikson's plan was for he and Earl Drake to fly to Nassau in the Bahamas, break into a bank vault, and steal a set of records from a safety deposit box. Drake pulls off the caper but Erikson is caught. Hazel insists that Drake return to Nassau to get his accomplice out!

6 Operation Drumfire Operation Drumfire
Written by Dan J. Marlowe
Copyright: 1972

The precision with which the gang robbed the racetrack had even Earl Drake admiring their skill. Then Erikson shows up and needs help tracking down the gang, believed to be black militants plotting terrorism, and he wants Drake's involvement. However, he wants Hazel's help even more.

7 Operation Checkmate Operation Checkmate
Written by Dan J. Marlowe
Copyright: 1972

Chen Yi has, according to her lawyers, inherited from her paternal grandfather. They insist she journey to Hong Kong to take part in the reading of the will. Her nervousness prompts Hazel to accompany her. A possible assassination attempt on them get Earl Drake involved, too.

8 Operation Whiplash Operation Whiplash
Written by Dan J. Marlowe
Copyright: 1973

Hazel disappeared. After receiving word from her financial manager in Florida, where she and Earl Drake first met, she traveled to their old haunts and then vanished. Drake knows he must go back to the scene of his old crime but the memories and enemies are still strong.

9 Operation Hammerlock Operation Hammerlock
Written by Dan J. Marlowe
Copyright: 1974

Hazel and Earl Drake are on a picnic in Mexico when they rescue a young pregnant woman from rape and probable death. Now they find themselves between a rich Mexican gangster and a equally fearful lieutenant in the federales. There isn't going to be an easy solution.

10 Operation Stranglehold Operation Stranglehold
Written by Dan J. Marlowe
Copyright: 1973

Strong arm tactics by a powerful Senator to get Earl Drake to help rescue a Presidential hopeful's son from internment in northern Spain didn't work. When Drake learns that Erikson was captured trying it, he agrees to get them both out.

11 Operation Deathmaker Operation Deathmaker
Written by Dan J. Marlowe
Copyright: 1974

Melissa, niece of Hazel's first husband, comes asking for financial help for her boyfriend. When Hazel refuses, Melissa is apparently kidnapped and Earl Drake almost killed. When Hazel is hurt, though, Drake gets really involved.

12 Operation Counterpunch Operation Counterpunch
Written by Dan J. Marlowe
Copyright: 1976

The Mexican gangster that Earl Drake tangled with in Operation Hammerlock has been tracking down Drake through Hazel. He hasn't caught up with them yet but he is getting closer. Drake knows he has to take to war to the enemy.


You are flat-out not likely to find a spy series that had such a bizarre start. Certainly, there have been other spies who got their start in crime: Spider Scott and Evan Tanner to name two. But each of these was a crook who, upon being caught, was forced into helping the authorities. With Earl Drake, the twist is significant.

The first two books in the series are harsh, brutal crime novels in the noir style. Drake, then known as Arnold, was a bank robber who is angered by the fact that it would seem someone has the audacity of stealing from him what he had just stolen from others. There is a lot of criminal activity, fighting and mayhem, and not a trace of international intrigue.

The first book, the grittier of the two, was published by as a PBO by Fawcett in 1962, around the same time that Donald E. Westlake, under the penname of Richard Stark, was putting out the first of the Parker novels. The Drake/Arnold character was harsh, tough, non-nonsense, and full of anger. He is also heading swiftly towards a violent end, which indeed happens.

Seven years later, apparently at the urging of the publisher to create a series, Marlowe brought his violent character back. It was less angry but still action-packed. It also did well enough to prompt continuing.

But a few changes were made to the character. The idea of working for the government was introduced. The desire to stay on the right side of the law came into play. And Hazel becomes the focal point of Drake's life. These changes moved the series from a crime novel to the spy category with a domestic twist. The change was a successful one for the books continued to sell well for several years.

You'll like Drake. He starts out as hard as nails and ends that way. But he does change, mellowing with the time he has spent with Hazel. You still wouldn't want to mess with Drake but the calmer one at the end of the series might not have messed with you first. Either way, however, you lose.


My Grade: B+

Your Average Grade:   A+


Dave618 A+ 3/21/2014 2:27:04 PM

Earl Drake is awesome. Dan J. Marlowe is one of my all-time favorite writers and his creation of Drake (aided by real life bank robber Al Nussbaum) is his greatest achievement. The first book The Name of the Game is Death is superb, a true classic of hardboiled noir. Many think the quality lessened when Drake started working for an unnamed Government agency, and I have to admit I'd rather Drake remained planning and executing criminal scores but I still think he works works wonderfully as a reluctant agent. I love how Drake's mind works. He brings his meticulous planning from being a bank robber to his "operations". Along with Richard Stark's Parker, John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee, and Ross Thomas' Wu and Durant Drake is at the top of my list of incredible characters whose adventures I will reread again and again.

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