By the miracle of Google (and I can’t for the life of me remember what I was looking for at the time) this morning I discovered this, the personal website of one-time – or, more accurately, four-times – Avengers tie-in writer John Garforth.
Garforth wrote four Avengers novels for Panther Books in 1967. Two years earlier Hodder and Stoughton had put out Deadline and Dead Duck, two rather classy tie-ins written by Peter Leslie but with Patrick Macnee credited as their author… a marketing ploy which seemed as transparent and ludicrous to my eleven-year-old self as it does now.
Both had their virtues. Leslie’s books read like a literary source from which the show might have been adapted; Garforth’s Panthers were shorter, racier, and had a more contemporary feel to them. All were true tie-ins as opposed to novelisations; which is to say, they were original works based on the series’ characters, and not pre-existing scripts adapted into prose form.
I’d had a long-standing curiosity about Garforth, who’d seemed to explode with a flurry of published work relating to stuff I was obsessed with (The Champions, Sexton Blake) and then to disappear. The opening scenes of The Passing of Gloria Munday seemed to suggest a familiarity with my part of the world at a time when anywhere that wasn’t ‘Swinging London’ didn’t get a look-in, unless it was in a booze-and-shagging kitchen-sink drama.
He didn’t disappear, of course. He simply disappeared from my world and got on with his real life. He had a day job in local government, first as a librarian and later as an arts administrator, running the programming for venues that included the King George’s Hall, Blackburn (featured in my novella In Gethsemene). He’s now a Staffordshire County Councillor and Labour Party activist.
Under the heading of Writer he skips lightly over his published work, saying:
“I found an agent and began to receive commissions as a noveliser of television series and as a ghost writer. These included ‘The Avengers’, ‘Champions’, four Paul Temple novels, Sexton Blake and – the silliest of them all – a novel called The Pallisers based on Simon Raven’s television series. But I earned more during this fifteen year period than most reputable novelists and certainly more from writing than local government was paying… I recommend that if anybody comes across any of these works in second hand shops or jumble sales you buy them and destroy them unread and I will reimburse you the 50p or whatever you paid, as a service to literature.”
In my case that’s a bit unlikely, given the trouble that I went to in order to track down presentable replacements for my own lost copies!
Scroll down the site’s news page, and you’ll find a piece titled My Avengers Past Catching Up with Me, in which Garforth discusses the writing of the novels and describes an encounter with Diana Rigg at her Dolphin Square flat.