Don Smith (author)

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Don Smith
Born Donald Taylor Smith
(1909-08-02)August 2, 1909
Port Colborne, Ontario, Canada
Died DOD unknown
Occupation journalist, author
Nationality Canadian
Genre detective fiction, spy fiction

Don Smith (born August 2, 1909) was a Canadian author of detective and spy fiction. He is best remembered for his Secret Mission series of novels, starring the businessman-turned-spy Phil Sherman.

Early life[edit]

Smith was born Donald Taylor Smith in Port Colborne, Ontario. In 1934-1939 he was a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star in Beijing and he piloted a fighter in the Royal Air Force during WWII. He was condecorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross for his participation in the Dieppe Raid in 1942.[1] After the war he lived in Morocco and Majorca, manning different businesses before becoming a full-time writer in his 50s.[2]


Smith's first novel, Out of the Sea, an action/romance paperback original was published in 1952 by Gold Medal Books. It was banned by the Irish Censorship Board for being "indecent or obscene."[3]

Two 1953 snippet reviews by Anthony Boucher in The New York Times called his following book, Perilous Holiday, "a thorough lesson in Yugoslav geography but a marked failure as an Amblerian suspense novel," and dismissed his third, China Coaster, as "much duller... (with a plot that) would stop dead if the participants acted sensibly."[4] However, brief reviews of the same two novels in the New York Herald Tribune called Perilous Holiday "considerably fresher" than China Coaster.[5]

In 1966 he created for Gold Medal a series of novels starring Tim Parnell, a former CIA agent employed in Amsterdam as a private investigator specialized in cases involving aircraft.[6][7] At least one of them, The Padrone, got a positive snippet review in the Chicago Tribune.[8]

Some of Smith's novels have been translated to French, Italian, Dutch, and Swedish.[9]

Secret Mission series[edit]

In 1968 Smith created a second, more popular series for Award Books, which was already well established as a publisher of spy fiction with its Nick Carter-Killmaster series.[10] It starred Phil Sherman, an American businessman living in Paris who is regularly recruited by spy agencies to infiltrate gangs of counterfeiters, drug smugglers or arms dealers, and who goes on to become a CIA agent in the span of over twenty adventures.[2][11] Most of the titles in this series begin with the words Secret Mission. The character of Phil Sherman, however, first appeared in a 1959 novel by a Duncan Tyler; it is unclear whether this was another of Smith's pen names.[10]

Along the lines of Ian Fleming's Bond series, to which the Phil Sherman novels have been positively compared, each book features exotic locations, sophisticated venues, and no few sexual encounters.[11][12] Resurging nazis are frequently the antagonists. Some reviewers praise Phil Sherman's adventures for the relative plausibility, presenting a thoughtful, careful investigator in contrast with more rash, bombastic heroes of the genre.[10][13] A brief review in The New York Times described 1975's The Kremlin Plot as including "the required porno passages and sadism" in a "well-plotted action story".[14]

In her book, The Middle East in Crime Fiction, Reeva S. Simon of the Columbia University Middle East Institute describes Smith's Phil Sherman character as "a tough-talking, independent operator who resembles a sort of Mike Hammer working international."[15] In The Cold War File, Andy East identifies Smith as "one of the first espionage novelists to perceive (the) change in world attitudes... from the Cold War to détente."[16]


Stand-alone novels[edit]

  • Out of the Sea (1952)
  • Perilous Holiday (1953)
  • China Coaster (1954)

Tim Parnell series[edit]

  • The Man Who Played Thief (1969)
  • The Padrone (1971)
  • The Payoff (1973)
  • Corsican Takeover (1974)

Secret Mission series (starring Phil Sherman)[edit]

  • Red Curtain (1959, as Duncan Tyler) (unverified, see above)
  • Secret Mission: Peking (1968)
  • Secret Mission: Prague (1968)
  • Secret Mission: Corsica (1968)
  • Secret Mission: Morocco (1968)
  • Secret Mission: Istanbul (1969)
  • Secret Mission: Tibet (1969)
  • Secret Mission: Cairo (1969)
  • Secret Mission: North Korea (1969)
  • Secret Mission: Angola (1969)
  • Secret Mission: Munich (1969)
  • Secret Mission: The Kremlin Plot (1971)
  • Secret Mission: Athens (1971)
  • The Marseilles Enforcer (1972)
  • Death Stalk In Spain (1972)
  • Haitian Vendetta (1973)
  • Night Of The Assassin (1973)
  • The Libyan Contract (1974)
  • The Peking Connection (1975)
  • The Kremlin Plot (1975)
  • The Dalmatian Tapes (1976)
  • The Bavarian Connection (1978)
  • The Strausser Transfer (1978)


  1. ^ "No. 35709". The London Gazette (Supplement). 18 September 1942. p. 4060. 
  2. ^ a b Mesplède, Claude; Schleret, Jean-Jacques T. (1982). SN. Voyage au bout de la Noire : inventaire de 732 auteurs et de leurs œuvres publiés en séries Noire et Blème (in French). Paris: Futuropolis. p. 337. ISBN 0879723297. 
  3. ^ "More Books Banned by Censorship Board". The Irish Times. 22 December 1952. Retrieved 7 May 2018. 
  4. ^ Boucher, Anthony (27 September 1953). "Criminals at Large". New York Times. Retrieved 7 May 2018. 
  5. ^ Sandoe, James (4 October 1953). "Mystery and Suspense". New York Herald Tribune. Retrieved 7 May 2018. 
  6. ^ Baker, Robert A.; Nietzel, Michael T. (1985). Private Eyes: 101 Knights. A Survey of American Detective Fiction 1922-1984. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press. p. 378. ISBN 0879723297. 
  7. ^ Dale Stoyer. "Tim Parnell". Thrilling Detective. Retrieved 14 Apr 2018. 
  8. ^ Petersen, Clarence (12 August 1973). "Your car, it says here, reveals the secret you: Paperbacks". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 7 May 2018. 
  9. ^ "La Timbale". Gallimard. Retrieved 14 Apr 2018. 
  10. ^ a b c Randall Masteller. "Secret Mission". Spy Guys and Gals. Retrieved 14 Apr 2018. 
  11. ^ a b Di Marino, Stefano (7 Jun 2005). "Poker d'assi" [Poker of aces]. Thriller Magazine (in Italian). Retrieved 30 Apr 2018. 
  12. ^ "The Man Who Played Thief". Pornokitsch. 5 Jun 2012. Retrieved 14 Apr 2018. 
  13. ^ August West (5 Mar 2008). "Death Stalk in Spain by Don Smith". Vintage Hardboiled Reads. Retrieved 14 Apr 2018. 
  14. ^ Callendar, Newgate (30 March 1975). "Criminals at Large". New York Times. Retrieved 7 May 2018. 
  15. ^ Simon, Reeva (1989). The Middle East in crime fiction: mysteries, spy novels,and thrillers from 1916 to the 1980s. L. Barber Press. ISBN 0936508248. 
  16. ^ East, Andy (1983). The Cold War File. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0810816415.