Toucan Novels

Hurst & Blackett Ltd. (London, UK)
Stanley Paul & Co. (London, UK)
John Long Ltd. (London, UK)
Skeffington & Son (London, UK)
Rich & Cowan Ltd. (London, UK)
Series dates: 1937-1950
Size: 4.25″ x 7″

Revised 6/1/2023

If a bird worked for Penguin Books, another might work for other publishers’ paperback reprint series. Hot on the heels of Penguin’s very popular paperback reprints (1935) came a flock of imitators, in name (Toucan Novels, Jackdaw Library) and design. The paperback Toucan Novels series comprised at least 72 titles published by five publishers, all of which seemed to be part of the Hutchinson Group of publishers in the 1930s and 1940s. The publishers took turns issuing titles in the series, one of the joint publishing ventures that were not uncommon in this era. Hurst & Blackett published at least 30 titles in the series, Stanley Paul published at least 33 titles, John Long at least six titles, Skeffington & Son four titles, and Rich & Cowan one title.

The first 62 titles are numbered, and after that, ten titles are issued (the late 1930s and 1940s) with the series name but no serial number. Some (and maybe all) of these later titles were issued as “service editions” for distribution to soldiers during WW2. A few reprints appeared with the series’ name until 1950.

A review of the titles suggests most were popular, throw-away fiction, including romances, mysteries, and thrillers. Among the titles are a significant number of women authors, and numerous pseudonyms. It’s curious that the series where women authors were well represented tended to be those with low-grade fiction. All Toucan Novels titles seem to be drawn from the five publisher’s back catalogs.

An entry in the spring 1937 Hurst & Blackett catalog (included in the back of Khyber Calling! By ‘Rajput.’ lists the first 28 titles in the series:

A full list of titles is below, compiled starting with the list at Vintage Paperbacks and some background information from Paperback Revolution. I added the first names of authors and specific publishers and fixed some errors. The later titles (after the series numbers) are a bit difficult to document, and I’m missing the publisher of the two Thorndyke titles (and any direct evidence that they exist, besides inclusion in lists of series titles [source, source]). Few of these Toucan Novels survive in libraries, and compiling the publishers of each required assuming the original UK publisher was the publisher of the Toucan titles. Errors and omissions probably remain on this list.

1. Sidney Fairway, The Doctor’s Defence: The Story of a Lost Reputation (Hurst & Blackett)
2. Joan Butler, Trouble Brewing (Hurst & Blackett)
3. Mona Messer, Wife Of Richard (Hurst & Blackett)
4. Angus MacVicar, The Purple Rock (Hurst & Blackett)
5. Oliver Sandys, Mops (Hurst & Blackett)
6. The Countess Barcynska, Tesha: A Plaything of Destiny (Hurst & Blackett)
7. H.M.E. Clamp, The Sheik Of Montmartre (Hurst & Blackett)
8. Ethel Winifred Savi, The Unattainable (Hurst & Blackett)
9. H.M.E. Clamp, The Golden Rod (Hurst & Blackett)
10. Ethel Winifred Savi, The Tree Of Knowledge (Hurst & Blackett)
11. Margaret Peterson, Butterfly Wings (Hurst & Blackett)
12. Oliver Sandys, Vista The Dancer (Hurst & Blackett)
13. Sidney Fairway, A Cuckoo In Harley Street (Stanley Paul)
14. Nora K. Strange, Courtship In Kenya (Stanley Paul)
15. Angus MacVicar, The Screaming Gull (Stanley Paul)
16. Joan Butler, High Pressure (Stanley Paul)
17. Edgar Wallace, The Avenger (John Long)
18. Sydney Horler, The Formula: A Novel of Harley Street (John Long)
19. Maysie Greig, Ragamuffin (John Long)
20. Oliver Sandys, Chicane (John Long)
21. Sidney Fairway, Reluctant Sinners (Stanley Paul)
22. Florence Bone, Clacking Shuttles (Stanley Paul)
23. T.C.H. Jacobs, The Terror Of Torlands (Stanley Paul)
24. Joan Butler, Mixed Pickle (Stanley Paul)
25. E. Keble Chatterton, Below The Surface (Hurst & Blackett)
26. Geoffrey Coffin, Murder In The Senate (Hurst & Blackett)
27. Arthur Applin, Sweeter Than Honey (Hurst & Blackett)
28. Charles Barry, A Case Dead and Buried (Hurst & Blackett)
25. Rachel Swete MacNamara, Green Shoes Of April (Hurst & Blackett)
26. Anne S. Swan, The Broad Road (Hurst & Blackett)
27. Margery Lawrence, Silken Sarah (Hurst & Blackett)
28. T.W. Broadhurst, Blow The Man Down (Hurst & Blackett)
29. Angus MacVicar, Flowering Death (Stanley Paul)
30. Angus. MacVicar, The Crooked Finger: A Romantic Thriller (Hurst & Blackett)
31. Charles Barry, Death In Darkness (Hurst & Blackett)
32. Lee Thayer, Red-Handed (Hurst & Blackett)
33. Alan Melville, Death Of Anton (Skeffington & Son)
34. Edmund Snell, And Then… One Dark Night (Skeffington & Son)
35. Thomas Arthur Plummer, The Ace Of Death (Stanley Paul)
36. Thomas Arthur Plummer, The Man They Feared (Stanley Paul)
37. Sidney Fairway, The Yellow Viper (Stanley Paul)
38. Angus MacVicar, Crime’s Masquerader (Stanley Paul)
39. Thomas Arthur Plummer, The Death Symbol (Stanley Paul)
40. Thomas Arthur Plummer, Five Were Murdered (Stanley Paul)
41. Joan Butler, Lost Property (Stanley Paul)
42. Florence Bone, Flash Of Scarlet (Stanley Paul)
43. Sidney Fairway, Thanks To Dr. Molly (Stanley Paul)
44. Angus MacVicar, The Singing Spider (Stanley Paul)
45. T.C.H. Jacobs, Identity Unknown (Stanley Paul)
46. Joan Butler, Team Work (Stanley Paul; also a Services Edition)
47. Georges Simenon, Introducing Inspector Maigret (Hurst & Blackett)
48. Georges Simenon, Inspector Maigret Investigates (Hurst & Blackett)
49. Edmund Snell, Crooks Limited (Skeffington & Son)
50. Grove Wilson, The Monster Of Snowdon Hall (Skeffington & Son)
51. Robert Mason, The Slaying Squad (Hurst & Blackett)
52. Emma Redington Lee Thayer, This Man’s Doom (Hurst & Blackett)
53. Charles Barry, The Wrong Murder Mystery (Hurst & Blackett)
54. Peter Meriton, After Darvray Died (Hurst & Blackett)
55. Joan Butler, Bed And Breakfast (Stanley Paul)
56. Thomas Arthur Plummer, Two Men From The East (Stanley Paul)
57. Angus MacVicar, Eleven For Danger (Stanley Paul)
58. T.C.H. Jacobs, Traitor Spy (Stanley Paul)
59. Joan Butler, Half Holiday (Stanley Paul)
60. Sidney Fairway, Quack’s Paradise (Stanley Paul)
61. Angus Macvicar, The Ten Green Brothers (Stanley Paul)
62. T.C.H. Jacobs, The 13th Chime (Stanley Paul)

No serial numbering (10 titles):

Joan Butler, Rapid Fire (Stanley Paul) (Services Edition)
Joan Butler, Unnatural Hazards (Stanley Paul)
Colin Curzon, The Body in the Barrage Balloon (Hurst & Blackett)
Noël Godber, Keep it dark! (John Long) (Services Edition)
Noël Godber, Amazing Spectacles! (John Long) (Services Edition)
Lewis Golding, Mr. Emmanuel (Rich & Cowan) (Services Edition)
Richard Goyne, Murder at the Inn (Stanley Paul)
T. Arthur Plummer, Crime At Crooked Gables (Stanley Paul)
Russell Thorndike, Dr. Syn Returns (?) (Services Edition)
Russell Thorndike, Dr. Syn on the High Seas (?) (Services Edition)

Oliver Sandys’ Vista the Dancer is undated but at #12 among the first batch of the series published in 1937. Sandys was the pseudonym of Marguerite Florence Laura Jarvis, a Burmese-born citizen of the U.K. who wrote novels, and screenplays, and was also an actor. She also wrote under the pseudonym Countess Barcynska (Tesha: A Plaything of Destiny, is #6 in the Toucan Novels series).

The general design of the series jackets seems to remain relatively consistent except for color changes over time. Later Services Editions sometimes have significantly different jacket and cover designs. This early title, in two colors to highlight the toucan honker, represents the general design of the series jackets (and book covers). The spine includes the author, title, price (6d), serial number, and series name (“Toucan”). The series name leads on the cover, with a statement of the number of copies sold of this title (“69th Thousand). This could potentially differentiate different editions of a book if different amounts are found on different jackets. The series number, title, author, a quick quote from a review, and price, as well as “complete and unabridged,” fill out the front jacket cover. The front jacket flap blurbs the book and includes a short review quote.

The back of the jacket lists the initial 24 tiles in the series, which are published by Hurst & Blackett, Stanley Paul, and John Long. The rear of the jacket is headed by the series name (and “With attractive coloured jackets.”). The price, series name and publisher of this particular Toucan Novels title (Hurst & Blackett) follow. The rear jacket flap contains an advertisement for Hurst & Blackett’s Paternoster Library series.

The book covers replicate the jacket but without, as is common, the price.

The rear of the book cover includes the first 24 titles in the series.

The half-title page includes a blurb about the book, an oddity among series books.

A list of titles by the author faces the title page. The title page includes the author, title, printing (69th Thousand), Hurst and Blackett colophon and imprint.

The copyright page indicates “Made and Printed in Great Britain for Hurst & Blackett, Ltd., Paternoster House, London, EC4 at the Anchor Press, Tiptree, Essex.”