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John Lawton books in order

John Lawton is a British television producer, director and award-winning author of historical mystery, historical  thriller and espionage novels.

His books are primarily set in Britain during The Second World War and the Cold War.

Lawton had a brief spell in London publishing before becoming a documentary television producer at Channel 4, which was new at the time.

He made his debut as a novelist in 1995 with Black Out, the first installment of the Frederick Troy thrillers. The novel was received well and even won the WH Smith Fresh Talent Award, while Riptide, the fourth Troy novel, was bought by Columbia Pictures in 2006.

Lawton—who has lived in England, Italy and visited or worked in more than half the US states—has worked with notable names in the industry like Gore Vidal, Neil Simon, Scott Turow, Noam Chomsky, Fay Weldon, Harold Pinter and Kathy Acker.

Named by The Daily Telegraph as among the “50 Crime Writers to Read before You Die”, Lawton is committed to the work of Franz Schubert, Cormac McCarthy, Art Tatum, and Barbara Gowdy.

More about John Lawton

Genres: Historical Mystery, Historical Thriller, Mystery, Thriller

United Kingdom

Non Series

  • Sweet Sunday (2002)

Frederick Troy

  1. Black Out (1995)
  2. Old Flames (1996)
  3. A Little White Death (1998)
  4. Bluffing Mr. Churchill (2001)
  5. Flesh Wounds (2005)
  6. Second Violin (2007)
  7. A Lily of the Field (2010)
  8. Friends and Traitors (2017)

Joe Wilderness

  1. Then We Take Berlin (2013)
  2. The Unfortunate Englishman (2016)
  3. Hammer to Fall (2020)
  4. Moscow Exile (2023)


  1. Unholy Joy: 50 Years On - A Short History of the Profumo Affair: Including an extract from A Little White Death (2013)


  1. Bentinck's Agent (2013)
  2. An Italian Job (2016)
Non Series

Detailed book overview

Non Series

Sweet Sunday

Turner Raines isn’t a typical New York private eye. He’s a has-been—among the things he has been are a broken Civil Rights worker, a second-rate lawyer, and a tenth-rate journalist. 

But in 1969, as the USA is about to land a man on the moon, and the Vietnam War is set to continue to rip the country to pieces, Raines is working as a private detective helping draft-dodgers make it to Canada. As Norman Mailer finalizes his campaign for Mayor of New York, Raines leaves for Toronto, and by the time Raines gets back, his oldest friend is dead, the city has changed forever, and with it, his life. 

As Raines follows the trail of his friend's death, he finds himself blasted back to the Texas of his childhood, confronted anew with his divided family, and blown into the path of certain people who know about secret goings-on in Vietnam, stories they may now be willing to tell.

Author: John Lawton
First Release: 2002
ISBN: 978-0802124234
Publisher: Grove Press

Frederick Troy

Black Out

London, 1944. 

While the Luftwaffe makes its final assault on the already battered British capital, Londoners rush through the streets, seeking underground shelter in the midst of the city’s black out. When the panic subsides, other things begin to surface along with London’s war-worn citizens. A severed arm is discovered by a group of children playing at an East End bomb site, and when Scotland Yard’s Dective Sergeant Frederick Troy arrives at the scene, it becomes apparent that the dismembered body is not the work of a V-1 rocket. 

After Troy manages to link the severed arm to the disappearance of a refugee scientist form Nazi Germany, America’s newest intelligence agency, the OSS, decides to get involved. The son of a titled Russian émigré, Troy is forced to leave the London he knows and enter a corrupt world of bloody consequences, stateless refugees, and mysterious women as he unearths a chain of secrets leading straight to the Allied high command.

Author: John Lawton
First Release: 1995
ISBN: 978-0802145567
Publisher: Grove Press
Old Flames

In April 1956, at the height of the Cold War, Khrushchev and Bulganin, leaders of the Soviet Union, are in Britain on an official visit. Chief Inspector Troy of Scotland Yard is assigned to be Khrushchev's bodyguard and to spy on him. 

Soon after, a Royal Navy diver is found dead and mutilated beyond recognition in Portsmouth Harbor. Troy embarks on an investigation that takes him to the rotten heart of MI6, to the distant days of his childhood, and into the dangerous arms of an old flame.

Author: John Lawton
First Release: 1996
ISBN: 978-0802145543
Publisher: Grove Press
A Little White Death

England in 1963 is a country set to explode. The old guard, shocked by the habits of the war baby youth, sets out to fight back. The battle reaches uncomfortably close to Troy. While he is on medical leave, the Yard brings charges against an acquaintance of his, a hedonistic doctor with a penchant for voyeurism and young women, two of whom just happen to be sleeping with a senior man at the Foreign Office as well as a KGB agent.

But on the eve of the verdict a curious double case of suicide drags Troy back into active duty. Beyond bedroom acrobatics, the secret affairs now stretch to double crosses and deals in the halls of power, not to mention murder. It’s all Troy can do to stay afloat in a country immersed in drugs, up to its neck in scandal.

Author: John Lawton
First Release: 1998
ISBN: 978-0802142900
Publisher: Grove Press
Bluffing Mr. Churchill

It is 1941. Wolfgang Stahl, an American spy operating undercover as an SS officer, has just fled Germany with Hitler’s henchmen on his trail. He is carrying valuable cargo—the blueprint of the Führer’s secret plan to invade Russia. 

Stahl’s man in the American embassy, the shy and sheltered Calvin M. Cormack, is teamed with a boisterous MI5 officer, Walter Stilton, to find the spy and bring him to safety. Their investigation takes them across war-torn London, from the shelled-out blocks to the ubiquitous pubs to the underground counterfeiting shops; and in Cormack’s case, into the arms of Kitty, his partner’s rambunctious daughter. 

As Cormack and Stilton close in on Stahl, bodies begin turning up—and the duo realize they may not be the only ones in pursuit of the spy. Someone, it seems, wants the German dead. When his partner is suddenly murdered in the line of duty, Cormack must turn to the ingenious devices of his lover Kitty’s old flame—Sergeant Troy of Scotland Yard. Together, they investigate the trail of murders and are forced to ask themselves a horrifying question—are Cormack and his spy being played by one of their own in the American embassy?

NB: This book is also known as Riptide.

Author: John Lawton
First Release: 2001
ISBN: 978-0802145550
Publisher: Grove Press
Flesh Wounds

An old flame has returned to Troy's life: Kitty Stilton, wife of an American presidential hopeful.

Private eye Joey Rork has been hired to make sure Kitty's amorous liaisons with a rat pack crooner don't ruin her husband's political career. But he also wants to know why Kitty has been spotted with Danny Ryan, whose twin brothers, in addition to owning one of London's hottest jazz clubs, are said to have inherited the crime empire of fallen mobster Alf Marx. 

Before Rork can find out, he meets a gruesome end. And he isn't the only one: bodies have started turning up around London, dismembered in the same bizarre and horrifying way. Is it possible that the blood trail leads back to Troy's own police force and into Troy's own forgotten past?

NB: This book is also known as Blue Rondo.

Author: John Lawton
First Release: 2005
ISBN: 978-0802142306
Publisher: Grove Press
Second Violin

It's1938 and Europe is on the brink of war.

In London, Frederick Troy, newly promoted to the prestigious murder squad at Scotland Yard, is put in charge of rounding up a list of German and Italian “enemy aliens” that also includes Frederick’s brother, Rod, who learns upon receiving an internment letter that he was born in Austria despite having grown up in England. 

Hundreds of men are herded by train to a neglected camp on the Isle of Man. And as the bombs start falling on London, a murdered rabbi is found, then another, and another.  Amid great war, murder is what matters.

Author: John Lawton
First Release: 2007
ISBN: 978-0802144317
Publisher: Grove Press
A Lily of the Field

Vienna 1934. Ten-year-old Meret Voytek becomes a pupil of esteemed musician professor Viktor Rosen, a Jew in exile from Germany. Three years later, aware that the Nazis are advancing, Rosen tells his promising pupil that he must leave Vienna for London. 

When Vienna quietly comes under Nazi rule, Meret witnesses the repercussions for the city's Jews, but when her orchestra becomes a division of the Hitler Youth, she complies and wears the uniform. Meanwhile, across Europe, Dr. Karel Szabo, a Hungarian physicist, has been interned in a camp on the Isle of Man. 

Shortly thereafter, Szabo is transported to Canada and rescued by the Americans, who recruit him to join the team in New Mexico building an atomic bomb. In his ninth book, Lawton moves seamlessly from Vienna and Auschwitz to the deserts of New Mexico to London, illustrating the fascinating parallels of the enemy alien, Szabo and gentile Voytek, as fate carries each across the distinct and untraditional battlefields of the destructive war to an unexpected intersection at the novel's close.

Author: John Lawton
First Release: 2010
ISBN: 978-0802145468
Publisher: Grove Press
Friends and Traitors

London, 1958. Chief Superintendent Frederick Troy of Scotland Yard―newly promoted after good service during Nikita Khrushchev’s visit to Britain―is not looking forward to a European trip with his older brother, Rod. 

Rod has decided to take his entire family on “the Grand Tour” for his fifty-first birthday: a whirlwind of restaurants, galleries, and concert halls from Paris to Florence to Vienna to Amsterdam. But in Vienna, Frederick Troy crosses paths with an old acquaintance: British-spy-turned-Soviet-agent Guy Burgess, who makes an extraordinary confession: “I want to come home.” 

Troy knows this news will cause a ruckus in London, but he doesn’t expect that an MI5 man will be gunned down as a result―and Troy himself suspected of the crime. As he fights to prove his innocence, Troy finds that Burgess is not the only ghost who has returned to haunt him.

Author: John Lawton
First Release: 2017
ISBN: 978-0802128621
Publisher: Grove Press

Joe Wilderness

Then We Take Berlin

Joe Wilderness is a World War II orphan, a condition that he thinks excuses him from common morality. Cat burglar, card sharp, and Cockney wide boy, the last thing he wants is to get drafted. But in 1946 he finds himself in the Royal Air Force, facing a stretch in military prison...when along comes Lt Colonel Burne-Jones to tell him MI6 has better use for his talents.

Posted to occupied Berlin, interrogating ex-Nazis, and burgling the odd apartment for MI6, Wilderness finds himself with time on his hands and the devil making work. He falls in with Frank, a US Army captain, with Eddie, a British artilleryman and with Yuri, a major in the NKVD and together they lift the black market scam to a new level. Coffee never tasted so sweet. And he falls for Nell Breakheart, a German girl who has witnessed the worst that Germany could do and is driven by all the scruples that Wilderness lacks.

Fifteen years later, June 1963. Wilderness is free-lance and down on his luck. A gumshoe scraping by on divorce cases. Frank is a big shot on Madison Avenue, cooking up one last Berlin scam . . . for which he needs Wilderness once more. Only now they're not smuggling coffee, they're smuggling people. And Nell? Nell is on the staff of West Berlin's mayor Willy Brandt, planning for the state visit of the most powerful man in the world: "Ich bin ein Berliner!"

Author: John Lawton
First Release: 2013
ISBN: 978-0802122766
Publisher: Grove Press
The Unfortunate Englishman

Berlin, 1963. East End-Londoner turned spy Joe Wilderness has had better days. He is sitting in a West Berlin jail, arrested for shooting someone he thought was about to kill him. His old boss, Lieutenant Burne-Jones of MI6, comes to Berlin to free him, but only under the condition that he rejoin British Intelligence. 

The knowledge that Wilderness gained of Berlin’s underworld while working the black market just after World War II will prove useful to Queen and country now that the city has become the epicenter of the Cold War, dividing the world in two with its wall.

On the other side of the Iron Curtain, another MI6 man, Geoffrey Masefield, is ruing the day he first agreed to be a spy. In the beginning, it had all seemed so simple, so glamorous: the international travel, the top secret files, the vodka, the women. ...But now Masefield is stuck in Lubyanka, the KGB’s Moscow prison, waiting for a lifeline from his former employer. 

Meanwhile, over in England, a Russian spy is pining for his homeland. Having lived as Bernard Forbes Campbell Alleyn for years and taken a wife and had two daughters under that alias, he’s now been exposed as KGB Captain Leonid Liubimov. Arrested for treason and then for espionage, he is in prison at Wormwood Scrubs, London. The only ticket out for these two men is a spy exchange.

Posted back to Berlin, Wilderness is to oversee the exchange of Masefield and Liubimov, but his black market nous hasn’t diminished. There’s money to be made and ten thousand bottles of fine Bordeaux that Wilderness hasn’t forgotten about.

Author: John Lawton
First Release: 2016
ISBN: 978-0802126351
Publisher: Grove Press
Hammer to Fall

It's London, the swinging sixties, and by rights MI6 spy Joe Wilderness should be having as good a time as James Bond. But alas, in the wake of an embarrassing disaster for MI6, Wilderness has been posted to remote northern Finland in a cultural exchange program to promote Britain abroad. 

Bored by his work, with nothing to spy on, Wilderness finds another way to make money: smuggling vodka across the border into the USSR. He strikes a deal with old KGB pal Kostya, who explains to him there is a vodka shortage in the Soviet Union - but there is something fishy about Kostya's sudden appearance in Finland and intelligence from London points to a connection to cobalt mining in the region, a critical component in the casing of the atomic bomb. Wilderness's posting is getting more interesting by the minute, but more dangerous too.

Author: John Lawton
First Release: 2020
ISBN: 978-1611854725
Publisher: Grove Press
Moscow Exile

Charlotte is a British expatriate who has recently settled in the nation’s capital with her second husband, a man who looks intriguingly like Clark Gable, but her enviable dinner parties and soirées aren’t the only things she is planning. Meanwhile, Charlie Leigh Hunt has been posted to Washington as a replacement for Guy Burgess, last seen disappearing around the corner and into the Soviet Union. Charlie is soon shocked to cross paths with Charlotte, an old flame of his, who, thanks to all her gossipy parties, has a packed pocketbook full of secrets she is eager to share. 

A decade or so later, in 1969, Joe Wilderness is stuck on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain, held captive by the KGB, a chip in a game way above his pay grade—but his old friends Frank and Eddie are going to try to spring him out of the biggest prison in the world. All roads lead back to Berlin, and to the famous Bridge of Spies…

Author: John Lawton
First Release: 2023
Ebook: B0BKK4DV4K
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press


Unholy Joy: 50 Years On - A Short History of the Profumo Affair: Including an extract from A Little White Death

Named after John Profumo, Secretary of State for War, the Profumo Affair was the biggest British political scandal of 1963. 

His affair with Christine Keeler, the reputed mistress of an alleged Soviet spy, followed by his lying in the House of Commons when he was questioned about it, forced the resignation of Profumo and damaged the reputation of Prime Minister Harold Macmillan's government.

Here, John Lawton explores how the scandal evolved and the effect it had upon the population of an increasingly liberated Britain.

Unholy Joy went on to become the basis for a novel. A Little White Death has its roots in the Profumo affair, the correspondences will be apparent to the reader... but the 'buds and leaves' are Lawton's fiction.

Author: John Lawton
First Release: 2013
Ebook: B00D2PK7TE
Publisher: Grove Press


Bentinck's Agent

Jack Turner is a draft-dodger. Anxious not to be sent to fight in Viet Nam, he has ended up in London instead. By the mid 1980s he is single, approaching middle age, with only failed careers and failed relationships behind him. Then, much to his surprise, he is headhunted by a literary agency.

His first client is Roger Bentinck – a man purporting to be a retired MI6 agent, who wants to write a memoir … a memoir Her Majesty's Government would much rather he didn't write.

Bentinck is an odd combination, part slob, part aesthete, part rebel, part patriot … a combination that makes him both attractive and repellent. But Jack is a literary agent and he has no clients. He has one task ... agent to agent, he has to get the book out of Bentinck, whatever the cost…

Author: John Lawton
First Release: 2013
Ebook: B00EIM56GO
An Italian Job

'Love is deadlier the second time around.'

Ginger and Jack are both former soldiers from the Balkan wars of the 1990s. Time, chance and bloodshed force them apart. Twenty years later chance brings them back together – older, possibly wiser certainly richer. Jack has never married … Ginger has … And the one obstacle in their way is her ex-husband Franco.

The intriguing combination of historical espionage thriller author John Lawton, and action thriller author Zoë Sharp have produced a gripping crime novella about loyalty, betrayal, love and revenge, with action stretching from the Balkan Wars to modern-day Tuscany, from the glaciers of Iceland to the deceptively calm waters of the Mediterranean.

NB: Co-authored with Zoë Sharp.

Author: John Lawton
First Release: 2016
Ebook: B01LDWH60K
Publisher: ZACE Ltd