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Full Name: Charles Russell
Nationality: British
Organization: Security Executive
Occupation Spymaster

Creator: William Haggard
Time Span: 1958 - 1990


Charles Russell is a spymaster with the British Security Executive.

There is remarkably little known about Russell, especially astonishing since so many books have been written about his adventures. Considering the style of writing and the low-key approach to most things that the Colonel takes, however, it probably shouldn't come as that much of a surprise.

It is known that he was in the British army for a considerable amount of time, rising as he had to the rank of Colonel. He had seen duty in India during his career as well as other unspecified hotspots. His regiment, unspecified, was, according to comments made, routinely given the hardest of assignments which they routinely accomplished, though not without considerable loss. It was recorded that he was one of the few who survived but his pride in his service showed clearly in the long brisk steps he took and the stiff posture he routinely carried.

In "The Arena", it is written that he has had twenty years of experience in the kinds of troubles the Executive handles, although it does not say that all of those years were in the Executive. Nevertheless, in "Venetian Blind", it is stated that Russell was 'six months' away from retirement which supports the theory of a long bout of service.

Working on the basis of an early entry into the military, say around age 18, serving at least 20 years in the Army and another 20 years in the Executive, Charles Russell is at least 58 years of age at the start of the chronicling. This is confirmed in the later adventure, "Too Many Enemies", with the statement that Russell, now in retirement, was 60 years old.

Colonel Russell heads up a small branch in the British Intelligence community known as the Security Executive. It is the task of this highly efficient and well-thought-of group of people to monitor the state of the country and take care of matters that are likely to cause her harm. As Russell has many times noted to himself, practically nothing falls under the purview of his department and practically everything could.

It is Russell's job to predict danger areas and to send his people into them. Whether it is a highly-secret research facility or a much-publicized financial institution, his group is responsible for making sure things don't get too far out of the norm.

The ability of Charles Russell to do his job as well as he had is best summed up by the words of the Home Secretary when he said that nine-tenths of the job of running the Executive was working the 'files, the dossiers, the interminable cross-checking' but that the other tenth was what counted in the pinches. He stated that 'Russell had a flair. A nose. He smelt things.' It was meant as the highest praise.

As the series progresses, Russell changes. This is done in two different ways. The first is that he soon does retire as head of the Security Executive, spends some time as a retired man who gets involved nevertheless, and finally returns to service as a 'Co-Chairman' of the organization. The second is that Russell, in the beginning, was very much a behind-the-scenes man who seldom mixed it up himself. As time passes, however, he becomes far more a man of action than just a planner. The changes are gradual but steady.

Russell stands 6'1 and weighs 161 pounds. He enjoys golf and fishing.


Number of Books:25
First Appearance:1958
Last Appearance:1990

1 Slow Burner Slow Burner
Written by William Haggard
Copyright: 1958

The nuclear technique, highly innovative and secret, known as Slow Burner is one of Britain's greatest feats. A relatively low-impact source of energy, it has put that nation several valuable years ahead of the competition. Now it appears that someone may have stolen the information and it falls on the Security Executive to find the truth.

2 Venetian Blind Venetian Blind
Written by William Haggard
Copyright: 1959

Negative Gravity is the desired goal of a concerted effort by the British government and a noted private sector corporation. The facts of a significant leak in security has Colonel Russell employing a noted lawyer as the means to determining who is betraying the country and to whom.

3 The Arena The Arena
Written by William Haggard
Copyright: 1961

The declining bank known as Bonavias was not looking for a buy-out but out of the blue, one from an upstart competitor comes with an amount significantly over the market value. Colonel Russell gets interested when it is learned that also part of the deal is a little known research firm called Radarmic.

4 The Unquiet Sleep The Unquiet Sleep
Written by William Haggard
Copyright: 1962

The drug was not illegal so there was nothing considered wrong with its possession or usage. Nevertheless, the increasingly popular relaxation pill known as Mecron was becoming the concern of the Security Executive as more and more people in positions of power were taking it and that made Charles Russell interested.

5 The High Wire The High Wire
Written by William Haggard
Copyright: 1963

It seems everyone wanted a piece of Project A. That mysteriously named experiment, currently worked on and funded by the British government is proving very expensive but with the sudden interest by the American and Soviet governments, it is proving even costlier.

6 The Antagonists The Antagonists
Written by William Haggard
Copyright: 1964

The shy, unassuming scientist, a refugee from the communist nation of Yugoslavia, wanted nothing more than to continue his research in peace and quiet of Britain. Unfortunately, the Americans would like to have him and the Soviets wouldn't mind seeing him dead. Russell unenviable job was keeping him safe and alive.

7 The Hard Sell The Hard Sell
Written by William Haggard
Copyright: 1965

Russell was in Italy investigating sabotage at a British plant in that country only because of a favor. Industrial espionage was not something he enjoyed combating but the continued existence of a major British corporation depended on his finding out who wanted to destroy the plant and the company's reputation.

8 The Powder Barrel The Powder Barrel
Written by William Haggard
Copyright: 1965

The tiny sheikdom had only oil going for it but there was plenty of that, certainly enough to cause trouble. Charles Russell had no interest until there was a murder and it seemed the wrong man was killed. Now the entire region is ready to blow until the Security Executive can find the right victim and catch the right killer.

9 The Power House The Power House
Written by William Haggard
Copyright: 1966

The word came to Charles Russell from an unusual source, his nephew, that a prominent member of Parliament, noted for extreme left-wing views, was ready to defect. Charles Russell learns that gambling and extortion play a big role but who was doing the extorting?

10 The Conspirators The Conspirators
Written by William Haggard
Copyright: 1967

An exploding American military plane spread its debris over the Devon countryside. It would have just been an unfortunate accident except that its cargo consisted of a hydrogen bomb. Quickly the authorities rushed to collect it and secure the area but then rumors came that there might have been a second bomb onboard.

11 A Cool Day For Killing A Cool Day For Killing
Written by William Haggard
Copyright: 1968

The daughter of the Sultan of Shahbaddin, a small Malaysian kingdom, preferred her home in England. When her father is killed in a coup, she hoped the violence wouldn't touch her. Unfortunately, the tiara she possessed was desired by a great many people and suddenly she and Colonel Russell are in the thick of the rebellion.

12 The Doubtful Disciple The Doubtful Disciple
Written by William Haggard
Copyright: 1969

Colonel Russell has decided that it was time for him to retire, or at least become more of an eminence grise. Richard Laver is offered the position and reluctantly accepts. His first case concerns a way for scientists to target their victims, giving germs the ability to actually distinguish nationalities. Someone was out to steal the formula.

13 The Hardliners The Hardliners
Written by William Haggard
Copyright: 1970

A highly respected journalist is worried when a set of diaries written by her father over the years are stolen and publication is imminent. She asks Charles Russell to help, who learns of the worry about sensitive information in them. He must find out who has stolen them and see them returned or destroyed.

14 Too Many Enemies Too Many Enemies
aka The Bitter Harvest
Written by William Haggard
Copyright: 1971

Brought out of retirement, Charles Russell is asked by the Prime Minister to diffuse a delicate matter. The Middle East was again heating up and an MP might hold a key to keeping the lid from blowing off. Someone, however, is trying hard to manipulate the MP and Russell must find a way to stop it.

15 Notch On The Knife Notch On The Knife
aka The Old Masters
Written by William Haggard
Copyright: 1973

Milo was an old friend from when Charles Russell parachuted into the mountainous Balkan country Milo called home and helped fight the fascists. Now Milo was the Premier of that land trying desparately to hold the fragile union together. Russell is drawn into the fight Milo comes to visit and a bomb is left in Russell's house.

16 The Scorpion's Tail The Scorpion's Tail
Written by William Haggard
Copyright: 1975

On his first real vacation, certainly his first 'package tour', to the Spanish resort, Russell was intrigued with a beautiful small island visible from the view of his room. When he decided to investigate it, however, he landed in a secret mess that would task him to the fullest to stay alive for someone was using it for more than just vacationers.

17 Yesterday's Enemy Yesterday's Enemy
Written by William Haggard
Copyright: 1976

He didn't want to come out of retirement but the situation seemed dire enough when it was explained to him by an old nemesis, the head of a Soviet KGB directorate. A noted nuclear physicist with strange leanings had disappeared and suddenly the danger of a war between America and Russia seemed almost certain.

18 Poison People Poison People
Written by William Haggard
Copyright: 1977

When an old friend of Russell, a Member of Parliament, starts to get involved in the drug trafficking business, it wasn't to help. Hating the disgusting business and blaming it for the death of his son, the MP is using his vast wealth to put a dent in the activity and asks Russell to take part. Despite his concerns, he knows he has to help.

19 Visa To Limbo Visa To Limbo
Written by William Haggard
Copyright: 1978

As a vacationer in Israel, Russell is annoyed that that government decides that his presence is not desired any more. It was certainly due to his interest in the half-Jewish former mistress of an Arab sheik but what did he or she have to do with a plane hijacking or bombings in Tel Aviv?

20 The Median Line The Median Line
Written by William Haggard
Copyright: 1979

When he saved the life of the President of a small oil-producing country, Russell naturally thought it a singular event. Weeks later, traveling abroad on vacation to visit his former assistant, Richard Mortimer, Russell finds that the previous event was still ongoing and his help was needed to keep the Middle East from exploding yet again.

21 The Money Men The Money Men
Written by William Haggard
Copyright: 1981

An old lover from year past approaches Russell with a request for help. In seeking to sell an apartment in Italy to return to Britain, she had run afoul of con artists who cheated her of a considerable amount of money. Determined more for revenge than retrieval, she wants the scheme stopped.

22 The Mischief Makers The Mischief Makers
Written by William Haggard
Copyright: 1982

The aged ruler of a small oil-rich country has decided the time is right to revenge an atrocity on his family decades before. The intended victim is not the man who performed the deed but the country of his birth, Great Britain. Now Russell must come out of retirement to stop a shipment of explosives destined to kill thousands. William Wilberforce Smith costars.

23 The Heirloom The Heirloom
Written by William Haggard
Copyright: 1983

An old friend of Charles Russell was retiring. Wishing to return from the States to his beloved Venice, he needed the advice from Russell on a good bank to use. Russell needed something from him in return but getting it would land both in a conspiracy to take over an island and risk a Greece-Turkey war.

24 The Need To Know The Need To Know
Written by William Haggard
Copyright: 1984

An aging member of French politics dies while visiting with Charles Russell. Normally this would have been seen as a heart attack but soon curiousity arises in some circles whether Russell might have helped the old man to his grave. Willy Wilberforce Smith is called to investigate.

25 The Meritocrats The Meritocrats
Written by William Haggard
Copyright: 1985

The weapon known as ANNE was the most powerful non-nuclear explosive device created, so powerful it could turn any tank into slag. The British government had the secret. Other governments wanted it. The biggest security risk, however, seemed to be coming from within the British government itself.

26 The Vendettists The Vendettists
Written by William Haggard
Copyright: 1990

He started out wanting to find out who was dumping toxic waste off the coast of his seaside home, the place Russell has gone to continue his retirement. Before he knew it, the former head of the Security Executive was involved in local politics, personal squabbles, and the threat of an organized crime group.


My hat is most definitely off to William Haggard for creating a series that has a remarkable breadth to it. True to his own casting of the books not as spy novels but as political adventures, Haggard makes sure that the action and the adventure is the result of the characters instead of the characters being just the dressing for action.

Although his style is considerably different from Le Carre, he does share one highly admirable trait. He makes his stories novels. The reader learns about the people involved in the problem being depicted. Their backgrounds, feelings, thoughts, and actions are all made known to the reader in a very enjoyable and readable manner.

For someone craving 'grown-up' writing in the spy-fi genre, tackling Haggard's Colonel Russell is an excellent idea.


My Grade: A-

Your Average Grade:   A+


David A+ 4/19/2014 9:58:48 PM

I love this series and the non Russell books. Haggard is something of a throwback to Buchan in many ways, but his books are modern straight from the headlines with a frank but never pornographic sexuality and more than enough action for any fan. The High Wire features an exciting finale, Slow Burner veers into near science fiction, Powder Barrell teams Russell with an Italian communist as an ally, and Visa to Limbo a likeable but none to bright assassin and one of the sexiest ladies in the genre in the shiek's sister. Re the Buchan connection The Power House is the name of the 1910 thriller in which most give Buchan credit for inventing the modern spy novel.

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