The copyright to the entire life’s work of an internationally bestselling Staffordshire author is expected to fetch up to £50,000 when it goes up for auction.
The 18 books written by Lichfield teacher turned author Craig Thomas include the 1977 novel Firefox – which was turned into a film starring Clint Eastwood.
The copyright to the entire back catalogue is going up for auction as a job lot on April 12 at Lichfield’s Richard Winterton Auctioneers, and is expected to reach anywhere between £20,000 and £50,000.
Auctioneer Richard Winterton said: “We expect this sale to cause quite a stir in the literary world.
“Not only is it a rather unique auction prospect, this is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the legacy of a bestselling author whose way with words, attention to detail and audacious plots spearheaded an entire genre.
“We are especially pleased to be carrying out the sale on the instructions of the estate of Craig’s wife Jill as they lived for many years in Whittington, just a couple of miles from us here at The Lichfield Auction Centre.”
Craig Thomas, who died in 2011 after a battle with acute myeloid leukaemia, is credited by fans as the true creator of the techno-thriller.
His 1977 novel Firefox – which was made into a 1982 blockbuster film – is included in the auction. The film was directed by and starred Clint Eastwood and Craig and his wife were photographed on the set with the star.
Craig and his wife Jill lived in Whittington for many years. He taught English at Lichfield’s King Edward VI School and Shire Oak School in Walsall Wood before becoming a full-time novelist.
Copyright to the novels – including two published under the pseudonym David Grant – will be sold together as one collection. A notice of copyright assignment will be provided to the new owner.
The sale will be hosted online with live international bidding through the internet.
Richard Winterton added: “As an ex-teacher held in high regard by pupils and staff alike, he was a popular man locally as well as an author highly esteemed by fans all over the world.
“What a wonderful opportunity to carry on Craig’s literary legacy to a new generation as the tenth anniversary of his death approaches.”
Arguably Craig Thomas’s most famous work, Firefox featured the fictional MiG-31 – a Russian stealth aircraft so advanced British spymasters felt duty-bound to implement a secret mission to steal one of the prototypes.
Such trademark technical details such as the aircraft’s Mach 5 speed, invisibility to radar and guided missile system controlled by the pilot’s thoughts helped propel the novel to bestseller status with a first paperback edition of 250,000 copies. The book took just four-and-a half-months to complete.
Yet over the next 17 years it was reprinted 33 times – a supply and demand feat no doubt aided by the popular Clint Eastwood movie.
In the film, Eastwood portrayed USAF pilot Mitchell Gant, who would become a recurring character in four of Craig Thomas’ books.
The sale includes his 1976 debut Rat Trap as well as Firefox Down, a sequel to the blockbuster which begins seconds after the conclusion to the original book. The follow-up novel was dedicated to Clint Eastwood “who flew the Firefox”.
By the time of the Gant character’s fourth and final appearance in 1997’s A Different War, Craig Thomas’ international sales had exceeded 20 million books.
The following year saw the publication of his final techno-thriller, Slipping Into Shadow.
As well as the cutting-edge technology, Mr Thomas’ series of espionage novels was interconnected by recurring characters such as Gant, MI6 stalwart Sir Kenneth Aubrey and Australian ex-SAS officer Patrick Hyde as well as their foes including Gant’s Russian nemesis Dmitri Priabin and KGB agent Alexei Vorontsyev, weaving a broader universe.
Mr Thomas wrote two further novels as David Grant – 1979’s Moscow 5000, which has not been reprinted since it was published in paperback the following year, and Emerald Decision (1980), which was revised and reprinted in 1987.
His non-fiction work – which is not included in the auction – was There to Here: Ideas of Political Society (1991) and a two-volume commentary on the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, completed shortly before his death.
Born and educated in Cardiff, Craig Thomas was the son of well-known Western Mail rugby journalist JBG Thomas.
After university in the Welsh capital city, he moved to the Midlands to begin a career teaching English.
He taught at Lichfield’s King Edward VI School and Shire Oak School, Walsall Wood, where he wrote and directed several plays for pupils to perform and was also captain of the staff cricket team.
But he was able to move to writing novels full-time following the publication of his debut Rat Trap. Firefox, and international plaudits, were just months away.
He married his wife Jill in 1967. She was also his editor and the couple lived for many years in Whittington on the outskirts of Lichfield, Staffordshire. They moved to Somerset in 2010, the year before Mr Thomas’ death.