The Mysterious Case of Carter Brown, or, Who Really Killed the Australian Author

THE persona 'Carter Brown' started modestly enough in the Sydney offices of Horwitz Publications in 1951. The company published locally written fiction, specifically comics and soft-covered genre novels - in common parlance, 'pulp fiction.'' In 1939 the Australian government had established tariffs on American imports that effectively banned American pulps, and local publishers and writers stepped in to fill the fiction void. This produced Australia's richest publishing decades, 1939-1959; when the prohibitions were lifted in 1959, the local industry died overnight. In its heyday, Horwitz Publications printed up to forty-eight comics and around twenty-four fiction titles - with print-runs of up to 250,000 - each month (Flanagan 8). After the phenomenal successes of the pulp fiction writers James Hadley Chase and Mickey Spillane in the United States, the editorial team at Horwitz decided to exploit Australian readers' appetite for faux American 'gangster' fiction and approached Alan Geoffrey Yates (1923-1985), who had been writing mysteries for Horwitz's Scientific Thriller series. Yates, who worked for Qantas at the time, was asked if he would be interested in writing a mystery series as 'Peter Carter Brown'; he signed a thirty-year contract which required him to produce two novelettes and one full-length novel a month, and for which he was to receive a guaranteed weekly advance o f £30.

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Published 1 October 2004 in Volume 21 No. 4. Subjects: Australian literature - Marketing & promotion - Overseas, Australian literature - Overseas publishing, Australian publishers, Australian publishing - Economics, Pseudonyms, Pulp fiction.

Cite as: Johnson-Woods, Toni. ‘The Mysterious Case of Carter Brown, or, Who Really Killed the Australian Author.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 21, no. 4, 2004.