Hank Janson was born Stephen Daniel Frances in London in 1917. Although he had never been in Chicago or even America, he was one of the earliest exponents of the British pseudo-American gangster books that were all the rage in Britain in the 40s and 50s. He was a prolific writer, producing a book a week and also wrote under the pseudonyms of Ace Capelli, Johnny Grecco, Steve Markham, Tex Ryland, Duke Linton, Link Shelton, Max Clinton, Astron Del Martia and probably more. He soon ran into the censors and was tried several times on obscenity charges, had many books seized and destroyed and eventually moved to Spain. He wrote nearly 300 books some of which were eventually reprinted in America by Gold Star Books (1960s). The British Jansons are quite scarce and highly collectible with some great covers, particularly those done by Reginald Heade.
For more information on Janson see Steve Holland's book The Trials of Hank Janson published in 1991 by BAE in Richmond Kentucky. It includes many nice color reproductions and an extensive checklist.
Click on Any Image to see full size cover reproduction, then your Browser's BACK function to return to this page.
|Janson had several publishers. Those from Alexander Moring Ltd (with the red and yellow top stripes) tended to have a single pretty girl, like the one above, or showing some kind of emotion, like this one. The art work was very good. Moring covers seldom had complete images like the next cover.|
|Books published by Roberts and Vintor tended to have more sleazy titles like this one or Slaves of Seduction shown below. The covers were also more violent and imitative of American crime covers. Holland used the cover from Quiet Waits the Grave for his book and is also shown below.|
|British faux-American Gangster books never made it big in America. There was only one Hank Janson title published in America before 1963, and that came from Checkerbooks in 1949. In 1963 Gold Star Books launched its imprint with 8 re-titled Janson books and went on to publish a total of 17 in paperback. They have cover art by Robert Maguire, Paul Rader and Harry Barton. And according to Holland, all had "a number of spicy scenes added". Ironic that books deemed obscene in the 1950s were not spicy enough by 1963.|
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