John Ball (American author)

John Ball (American author)

John Dudley Ball (1911–1988), writing as John Ball, was an American writer best known for mystery novels involving the African-American police detective Virgil Tibbs. He was introduced in the 1965 "In the Heat of the Night" where he solves a murder in a racist Southern small town. It won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel from the Mystery Writers of America and was made into a Oscar-winning film of the same name starring Sidney Poitier.

Ball was born in Schenectady, New York, grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and attended Carroll College in Waukesha, Wisconsin. He wrote for a number of magazines and newspapers, including the "Brooklyn Eagle". For a time he worked part-time as a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy, was trained in martial arts, and was a nudist. Ball lived in Encino, California, and died in 1988.

Ball's "Last Plane Out" consists of two stories which share characters and then meld together. The first involves a group of travelers in a troubled Third World country, waiting for the last plane out, which they hope will carry them to safety. The second story is shared by an aviation buff who is given his chance to increase his flying skills by the airline that has been built by the pilot Captain of the first story. They meet when an important character in the first story by chance recognizes the quality of our buff during a plane crash and introduces him to the original pilot Captain.

"The First Team"

Ball's departure from the mystery genre was a bestselling but quickly forgotten what-if? political thriller "The First Team", published in September 1971. In the 1960s and 1970s, the genre of political thrillers born of the Cold War included writers such as Allen Drury (who wrote "Advise and Consent" in 1959), Fletcher Knebel ("Seven Days in May"), and Edwin Corley ("The Jesus Factor"). They combined politics, paranoia, and traditional hero characterization to thrill mostly male readers and were the staples of airport bookstores.

"The First Team" starts after the USA has surrendered to the Soviet Union (never actually named within the novel) without firing a shot. The takeover is possible because of widespread cultural malaise. Undermined by Hippies and anti-war protestors, corrupt military-industrial complex producers providing faulty fighter planes, weak-willed politicians, and the Communist propaganda machine (not to mention the Vietnam War's hangover), the USA was unable and unwilling to defend itself.

The leader of the occupation forces is an iron-willed bureaucrat, backed up by a vicious secret police Colonel. White House interpreter Raleigh Hewitt, kept at his post due to the invaders' laughably poor command of English, is recruited into an underground resistance organization called "The First Team." It turns out that the fall of the United States was foreseen, and this ultra-secret agency schemes to free the country again. Pre-dating Tom Clancy's "The Hunt for Red October", "The First Team" contains details about the US nuclear submarines, abduction of one of which saves the day.

"The First Team" appeared more or less simulataneously with "Vandenberg" by Oliver Lange, dealing with the same theme of a Soviet-occupied United States, but far more pessimistically - with resistance restricted to a small group of oddballs in a corner of New Mexico. Both are part of the genre of Invasion literature, like "The Battle of Dorking" in 19th century Britain.


Virgil Tibbs series

*"In the Heat of the Night", Harper & Row Publishers, 1965
*"Cool Cottontail", Harper & Row Publishers, 1966
*"Johnny Get Your Gun" [ISBN 0316079456] , Little, Brown, 1969; republished as "Death of a Playmate", Bantam 1972.
*"Eyes of the Buddha", Little, Brown, 1976.
*"Five Pieces of Jade",1972
*"Virgil Tibbs and the Cocktail Napkin" (short story), 1997
*"Then Came Violence", Doubleday, 1980. [ISBN 0385157266]
*"Singapore", Dodd, Mead, 1986, [ISBN 0396087639]


*"Operation Springboard", Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1958.
*"Rescue Mission", Harper & Row, 1966.


*cite book | last=Tuck | first=Donald H. | authorlink=Donald H. Tuck | title=The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy | location=Chicago | publisher=Advent | pages=27 | date=1974|id=ISBN 0-911682-20-1

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