Channel Incident History

Harry Jones began writing Channel Incident either at the tail end of 1980 or early in 1981. It must have been obvious by this time that there was a dwindling market for westerns and, with Pit Prop, his first non–western, now published, it must have been tempting to write another book where he could draw on his own experiences. What must also have been tempting was that WW2 books generally received a higher fee than westerns.

Jones submitted the manuscript for Channel Incident to his publisher, John Hale, on 28 June 1981. As with Pit Prop, Jones decided that, if accepted for publication, it should be published under the Harry Graham non de plume.

Hale offered £150 on 20 August to publish not more than 1,000 copies of Channel Incident. This amounted to double the fee as offered for westerns for less than half the word count again, which sounds like a good deal – or, at least, a better deal than for the westerns. Jones signed the contract on 4 September.

This was the first book to be structured into sections, each containing one or more chapters, and Hale asked Jones to provide section titles as well the more usual marketing blurb. To provide some idea of the speed at which things happen in publishing (unless rush–preparing a title by a top–selling author for the Christmas market or a film release tie–in, that is), the blurb was ready in November, but it was March 1982 before Hale sent Jones the marked proofs for correction.

From Hale’s point of view disaster struck in May, when the company lost the camera-ready copy in the post. On 13 May 1982 Hale advised Jones that this would delay publication and cost the company hundreds of pounds into the bargain. The company tried to make it sound as if the loss was somehow Jones’ fault – which I suppose it was; if he’d never written the book, they’d never have had camera-ready copy ready! Channel Incident was eventually published 25 November 1982.

On reading Channel Incident, it is obvious that this was to be the first of many with the Redford/Hoskins partnership. The book reads very much like the pilot movie for a long–running TV series, introducing the characters that you will get to know and love. Sadly, there would be no further books starring this partnership or supporting cast, including, as number four son described the main narrator, “the randy, Welsh Sergeant”.

We’re moving slightly ahead, though. Having had nothing published outside of the UK, Jones was clearly delighted to be advised, out of the blue around a month before publication in the UK, that the Scandinavian publisher, Winthers Forlag, had offered £150 to issue a paperback edition of not more than 10,000 copies of Channel Incident in Denmark. Jones’ letter of acceptance was by return of post! The Danish version was translated by P. Arends and published as Jaget af Gestapo in 1983, exact date unknown.

Sadly, Jones never saw his first non–UK publication. He died during the afternoon of 9 February 1983 with his wife and youngest son in attendance. At this point there were still two more westerns in the throes of publication and Jones’ wife, Alice, fulfilled the remaining tasks.

Channel Incident, meanwhile, posthumously became Jones’ most financially– rewarding book, this consolidated by Hale advising of an offer from Wennerbergs Fürlag for Swedish paperback rights. Alice accepted a £150 fee for Swedish volume rights in April 1984, by which time Cheyenne Medicine and Guns at Chinooga Peak had also been published. The Swedish version of Channel Incident was translated by Martin Olsson and published as Det Tysta Kriget later in 1984, again, exact date unknown.

That wasn’t the end of the matter as regards overseas publications. In April 1988, Jones’ widow was offered $500 for the Norwegian paperback rights to Channel Incident. The $500 fee translated into £161.15 once 25% tax had been deducted. This time, translation was by Paul Bård Srorvik and the book was issued as Spesialoppdraget later in 1988, yet again, exact date unknown. This time, there was a certain amount of comedy involved. The blurb on the rear of the jacket is for a completely different book, one based on the Russian Front. Not only this, but the small-print stating translator is written in Danish, not Norwegian (“Oversat af” instead of “Oversatt av”). Perhaps it was cheaper to get Norwegian translation done in Denmark!

For the Burnham Priory publications, Jones’ number four son provided chapter titles (as he did for most of the other republications), whilst number five son undertook digitisation duties. The only alteration was based on the fact that there was some confusion as to the name of Redford’s boat – it changed name from the ‘Sea Bitch’ to the ‘Sea Bird’ in the original book. It looks as though ‘Sea Bird’ was the original name, but it was outnumbered by the number of mentions of the other name, so the ‘Sea Bitch’ it became!