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Bill Barclay – Nick Allard, Printer’s DevilOnce in a while it happens… you pick up an old book from someone’s discard pile, just because it looks unusual, for its title, or because is appears to be especially pulpy pulp. And, after poking about a bit, you find that you’re holding a trouvaille, a honest-to-God rarity from the early days of one of the Greats. In this case here, it’s Nick Allard, Printer’s Devil, the third ‘Dossier’ in the Nick Allard series by Bill Barclay - which is the name Michael Moorcock wrote under (his real name?) before he started writing as Michael Moorcock.

And so it happened that I decided to give the book a quick look (and you a review) before selling it on the Internet (any offers? ;-)


Nick Allard is the top agent in Cell Six of British Security. Or, at least, that’s how his boss, and the ‘enemy’ secret services see him. In reality he is SMASH, the Sick Man’s Antidote to Spy Heroics; i.e. he’s a coward, lazy, prone to skive off and submit made up vague reports, and simply wait for the miscreants to give themselves away. Successful, so far. 

But now he has to take over from Thorpe, one of his co-spies, who’s got ritually murdered. He was on the trail of a mole, a leak, someone who gives secrets to the Russians. When he dies, Thorpe held a copy of ‘Whoomf!’, a comic magazine, with the ‘Devil Rider’ as its main character, and Moody, Allard’s boss, suspects that the comic is part of the mystery.

Queue reluctant spy heroics (of some accidental kind), adultery (that’s where Allard is really good), and mystery, as the Devil Rider comes alive! And never mind the Lady in black…



The general tack of the ‘accidental’ hero has been played out in a lot of variants; this is a very enjoyable, if not very original one. Much more interesting is that the story contains one ‘Inspector Moorcock’, especially given that the blurb claims that Bill Barclay is Moorcock’s real name (I have some doubts, but research for yourself!). The Author’s blurb reads as follows:

WILLIAM EWART BARCLAY, son of W. E. Barclay, the famous missionary, was born in Peking, 1940. In 1958 he won a scholarship to study journalism in New York and San Francisco. In ‘Frisco he found a taste for Rhythm and Blues and returned to London to found Barclay’s Big Blues Band, playing organ and singing. He now writes a regular column for a glossy monthly, still managing some R&B in his spare time – and novel writing of a kind that’s all his own.

It doesn’t mesh with other data known of Moorcock’s life, but who cares, there’s nothing like a good, made up biography – just go read Jon Courtenay-Grimwood’s on Fantastic Fiction!


This is the 3rd instalment, sorry, ‘Dossier’, of the Nick Allard series. The story makes some allusions to earlier happenings, mainly trough earlier ‘successes’ that are mentioned, which made Allard’s name as the most feared British Agent; but the book can absolutely be read without tracking down the first two volumes first (never mind paying an arm and a leg for them…).

The story itself is a Barclay/Moorcock rewrite of someone else’s draft, and was later heavily reworked into a Jerry Cornell (no, not Cornelius!) novel, ‘The Russian Intelligence’.

The book is a short (158 pages!) and quick but entertaining read. It’s thoroughly enjoyable, despite (because of?) not having all that much substance.

Read it if you can get your hands on a copy – any offer for my find? :-D






Title: Nick Allard – The Printer’s Devil

Subtitle: SMASH – The Sick Man’s Antidote to Spy Heroics

Series: Nick Allard Dossiers

Series Number: 3

Author: Bill Barclay (Michael Moorcock)

Reviewer: Markus

Reviewer URL:

Publisher:  Compact Books

Publication Date: 1966

Review Date: 12 November 2006

Price: 3/6 (or UKP40 on Abe…)

Pages: 158

Format: Paperback

Topic: Spy Thriller

Topic: Humor



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