Wednesday, December 13, 2006

5-00 Introduction to the Fifth Series

The Fifth, or Continental, Series of Hank Janson novels broke with tradition by moving the locations from the USA to Europe. By 1953, however, the noose of censorship was tightening firmly around the necks of Frances and his compatriots in the publishing business (Holland, 1991). Only two novels eventually appeared under the Fifth Series, being Silken Menace and Nyloned Avenger. The first took place in an Amsterdam location, while for the second Janson travelled to Bonn, Germany.

In terms of the narratives, both books were pretty much standard fare, involving respectively a smuggling gang and the by now familiar tale of an inheritance predicated on the continued life of the primary beneficiary. Silken Menace did however make good use of its European location. This was achieved firstly by constructing the smuggling tale around goods being shipped across the Iron Curtain, and secondly by employing an evocative chase scene through the canals of Amsterdam. Frances here used his descriptive skills to full effect, juxtaposing the bright lights and noisy tourist revelry aboard the canal tour boat with the brooding threat contained beyond the dank, dark walls of the canal itself. Other than that, there is little more to be learned from the two Fifth Series books.

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