Sunday, April 29, 2007

Mystery Solved, Thanks to Ennis Willie

So I get up this morning and check my email, and there's a message from none other than Ennis Willie, the author of the Sand novels and many other great hardboiled crime novels from the Sixties. Once I calmed down my Inner Fanboy ("I got an email from Ennis Willie? How cool is that?"), I realized that he had given me the answer to a question I asked the other day in my post about the first novel in the Butcher series. Here are Ennis Willie's comments, posted here with his kind permission.

As a faithful follower of your Blog my interest was especially captured by your discussion about who wrote the first Butcher novel "Kill Quick or Die".

The author was an old friend of mine named James "Doc" Dockery, who had been writing novels for Lancer Books under the name Stuart Jason. I don't know how many books he wrote in the Butcher series or how Stuart Jason became a house name, but I can verify the first book. I recall sitting in his apartment here in Atlanta while he discussed his plot for a spy novel. The novel was going to start with his spy landing in Cairo, Egypt and taking a cab to the Shepherd Hotel. I said a name like the Shepherd Hotel didn't sound much like Egypt to me, and he explained that the hotel was real, that he had spent a lot of time in the area and had stayed at the hotel and was familiar with it and other local landmarks. I will add that the character at the time owed more allegiance to James Bond and Matt Helm than to Sand.

I've been out of touch with Doc for a long time, but a more likable guy would be hard to find. He used to spend long stretches of time in Mexico, then rush back to the U.S. to catch up on what was going on. He was always trying to drag me down there with him, and looking back on it now I'm surprised I never found time for at least one trip. With this in mind, I just tackled my filing system (old stuff on bottom / new stuff on top) looking for something on paper from the period. What I found was a letter he wrote me from Mexico about a year before the first Butcher Novel. The first paragraph gives a good picture of him I think.

"Dear Ennis:I just finished another masterpiece for posterity and am spending the day writing letters, and since your name is at the top of the list, you're one of the first to be afflicted by my devastating wit and sagacious pearls of wisdom. Seriously, I just want to talk to a friend who can answer me in English. Here in Tuxpan I am one lone gringo amongst sixty-five thousand Mexicans and it gets real hairy sometimes for lack of a familiar word."

I'm not familiar with James Dockery and haven't been able to find anything about him on the Internet, but the books Ennis mentions that Dockery was writing for Lancer as Stuart Jason must be a series of plantation novels that came out in 1969 and 1970: BLACK LORD, BLACK MASTER, BLACK HERCULES, and BLACK REBEL. They were reprinted by Manor Books about ten years later, still under the Stuart Jason name but with some of the titles changed. I have only one of them, the Manor edition DELTA STUD, which was originally BLACK HERCULES, and I've never read it.

Flipping through the Butcher novels I have, the style in most (but not all) of them seems to match Dockery's style in the first book, KILL QUICK OR DIE. I'm confident that he was the main author on the series until Mike Avallone took it over with #27. But I plan to read some of the others just to make sure.

In the meantime, if any of you know anything else about James Dockery, speak up. And many, many thanks to Ennis Willie for the information he's provided.


Juri said...

Sounds great! Thanks, James (and send my regards to Ennis Willie, too)! I seem to think that Hawk's Pseudonyms has something on the Black titles as by Stuart Jason, but my CD drive on this portable I'm writing at isn't working properly, so can't check.

You probably covered that already, but there's nothing in Abebooks with "James Dockery", but under "Doc Dockery" there's this:

One Turn Of Seasons (ISBN: 0960404600)
Elizabeth Whittle & "Doc" Dockery
Bookseller: A Life Full of Books
(Chatham, ON, Canada) Price: US$ 13.85

Book Description: Cleveland, Tennessee: Published By The Authors, 1980, Cleveland, Tennessee, 1980. Book Condition: Very Good. No Jacket. No Jacket. Paperback. Somewhat soiled exterior. Minor edgewear. Some sunning to spine. 58 pages. This book is in very good condition. Paperback. Bookseller Inventory # 002229

Juri said...

It may be a different Dockery, though. I found this:

Whittle, Elizabeth and Doc Dockery / poetry / b.KS / Vista worker at Coker Creek / Dockery, a native of Coker Creek, lives Cleveland

One turn of seasons, 1980

Unknown said...

Great stuff, James, and it's indeed cool to know that Ennis Willie reads your blog. I love the Internet.