Norman and I first met each other in New York in 1949. We have both traveled between New York and England many times in the last fifty years. I still remember the summer of ’74 or ’75, when Norman came up to our summer house thirty miles north of New York City. We were on our terrace, and he turned the conversation to an idea he was tinkering with: writing a novel in the genre of C. S. Forester. Norman had read most of the Hornblower novels, great successes in England as well as in the United States. He had a strong imagination— he was fascinated by Napoleon and sailing ships—so he provided a brief account of the story and his leading man: John Valcourt Justice, naval officer, gentleman, and secret agent.
I heard from Norman in three or four weeks. He had talked at length about collaborating on the book and a series based on it with Antony Brown, Norman’s friend of many years, whom I met on my next trip to England. Norman and Tony chose a pseudonym: Anthony Forrest. Hill and Wang offered them contracts for three volumes, the first of which was published in 1980. Captain Justice was followed by Pandora’s Box (1982) and A Balance of Dangers (1984). We sold the three novels to Penguin in London, who were enthusiastic. Alas, our books did well, but they couldn’t match Hornblower or Patrick O’Brian in sales.
Norman MacKenzie was born in London in 1921. Educated at the London School of Economics, he became assistant editor of the liberal weekly New Statesman & Nation. Moving into academic life, with appointments as visiting professor at Sarah Lawrence College, Williams College, and Dartmouth College, he became professor of social history and education at the University of Sussex. His major works (in collaboration with his late wife, Jeanne MacKenzie) were biographies of Charles Dickens, H. G. Wells, and the early Fabians. He also edited the multivolume correspondence of Sidney and Beatrice Webb and the lifelong diary of Beatrice Webb.
Antony Brown—newscaster, playwright, and journalist— was born in London in 1922. Educated at King’s College, Cambridge, he started his career as a producer-scriptwriter at the BBC.
When television news was launched, he became one of its first newscasters. Tony also wrote children’s books and plays.