Brian Callison (born 1934) is a UK novelist known for his best-selling thrillers and sea stories. Born in Manchester, England in 1934, he was educated at the High School of Dundee, and went to sea at the age of 16 as a midshipman with the Blue Funnel Line, sailing aboard cargo ships between ports in Europe and East Asia. Callison subsequently left the sea, studied at Dundee College of Art in Scotland, and went into business. His first published novel, A Flock of Ships, appeared in 1970 to widespread critical and popular acclaim. It became an international bestseller, and established Callison's reputation as a leading writer of sea stories. In 2008 he completed a three-year appointment as a Fellow of The Royal Literary Fund at the University of Dundee, mentoring staff and students in all aspects of practical writing.
Virtually all of Callison's novels are set on or near the sea, but they vary widely in plot, character, and tone. The following categorization, though hardly definitive, illustrates the diversity of his work.
A Plague of Sailors and its sequel A Frenzy of Merchantmen, along with A Web of Salvage and Spearfish, are straightforward present-day thrillers similar to the work of Desmond Bagley and Hammond Innes. They pit a tough, competent hero against more-numerous and better-equipped enemies that only he can stop.
A Flock of Ships, The Sextant, and The Stollenberg Legacy, like several works by Duncan Kyle, are driven by a present-day hero's attempt to make sense of shadowy events that unfolded during World War II. Though characterized by violence, danger, and the uncovering of secrets, they are as much mysteries as thrillers.
The Dawn Attack, The Judas Ship and The Bone Collectors are military adventure stories set entirely in odd corners of World War II, like the work of John Harris and Nicholas Monsarrat. The first is a grimly realistic depiction of a commando raid on occupied Norway, the second an encounter between a British merchant ship and a German Commerce Raider, and the third the story of a rescue ship attached to North Atlantic convoys.
A Ship is Dying, The Auriga Madness, A Thunder of Crude, and Ferry Down are modern sea stories dealing with the last days (or hours) of doomed ships.
The five-book (to date) "Captain Trapp" series, begun by Trapp's War, is broad farce: the adventures of the cheerfully amoral title character, his decrepit tramp steamer, and his colourfully degenerate crew. The series begins in World War II and extends into the 1990s, departing further from reality with every instalment.
Essentially, however, his "heroes" are Merchant Seamen. The lead character in the thrillers, Brevet Cable, is a Merchant Navy Mate, the present day character solving the old mysteries is again a Merchant seamen, with a personal connection to the past mystery, and the heroes of the Trapp series are Trapp himself, a Merchant Seaman and Royal Navy Reserve Officer, and the more morally bound narrator, also a Merchant Navy and Royal Navy Reserve Officer. "The Bone Collector" is a "military adventure" only in that it is set during the Battle of the North Atlantic. It is really about the ordinary people, civilians, caught up in that horrific episode. Finally, all of the others, the "doomed ships" series, reflect the author's feeling about the Merchant Navy in general.
- A Flock of Ships (1970)
- A Plague of Sailors (1971)
- The Dawn Attack (1972)
- A Web of Salvage (1973)
- Trapp's War (1974)
- A Ship is Dying (1976)
- The Judas Ship (1978)
- A Frenzy of Merchantmen [US Title: An Act of War] (1979)
- Trapp's Peace (1979)
- The Auriga Madness (1980)
- The Sextant (1981)
- Spearfish (1983)
- The Bone Collectors (1984)
- A Thunder of Crude (1986)
- Trapp and World War Three (1988)
- Trojan Hearse (1990)
- Crocodile Trapp (1993)
- Ferry Down (1998)
- The Stollenberg Legacy (2000)
- Redcap (2006)
- Trapp's Secret War (2008)