John Ball (American author)
John Dudley Ball writing as John Ball, was an American writer best known for mystery novels involving the African-American police
The police is a personification of the state designated to put in practice the enforced law, protect property and reduce civil disorder in civilian matters. Their powers include the legitimized use of force...

A detective is an investigator, either a member of a police agency or a private person. The latter may be known as private investigators or "private eyes"...

 Virgil Tibbs
Virgil Tibbs
Virgil Tibbs is a fictional character who is one of the two leading male characters in John Ball's 1965 novel In the Heat of the Night. He is also the protagonist in six sequels to that novel, the Oscar-winning 1967 film of the same name based on the original novel, the sequel films They Call Me...

. He was introduced in the 1965 In the Heat of the Night
In the Heat of the Night (novel)
In the Heat of the Night is a 1965 novel by John Ball set in the fictional community of Wells, North Carolina. The main character is a black police detective named Virgil Tibbs passing through the small town during a time of bigotry and the civil rights movement.The novel is the basis of the 1967...

where he solves a murder in a racist Southern small town. It won the Edgar Award
Edgar Award
The Edgar Allan Poe Awards , named after Edgar Allan Poe, are presented every year by the Mystery Writers of America...

 for Best First Novel from the Mystery Writers of America
Mystery Writers of America
Mystery Writers of America is an organization for mystery writers, based in New York.The organization was founded in 1945 by Clayton Rawson, Anthony Boucher, Lawrence Treat, and Brett Halliday....

 and was made into an Oscar-winning film of the same name starring Sidney Poitier
Sidney Poitier
Sir Sidney Poitier, KBE is a Bahamian American actor, film director, author, and diplomat.In 1963, Poitier became the first black person to win an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Lilies of the Field...

; the film had two sequels, and spawned a television series several decades later, none of which were based on Ball's later Tibbs stories.

Ball was born in Schenectady, New York
Schenectady, New York
Schenectady is a city in Schenectady County, New York, United States, of which it is the county seat. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 66,135...

, grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Milwaukee is the largest city in the U.S. state of Wisconsin, the 28th most populous city in the United States and 39th most populous region in the United States. It is the county seat of Milwaukee County and is located on the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan. According to 2010 census data, the...

, and attended Carroll College
Carroll College (Wisconsin)
Carroll University is a private liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian church located in Waukesha in the U.S. state of Wisconsin. Carroll opened in 1846, two years before Wisconsin became a state...

 in Waukesha, Wisconsin
Waukesha, Wisconsin
Waukesha is a city in and the county seat of Waukesha County, Wisconsin, in the Upper Midwest region of the United States. The population was 70,718 at the 2010 census, making it the largest community in the county and 7th largest in the state. The city is located adjacent to the Town of Waukesha...

. He wrote for a number of magazines and newspapers, including the Brooklyn Eagle
Brooklyn Eagle
The Brooklyn Daily Bulletin began publishing when the original Eagle folded in 1955. In 1996 it merged with a newly revived Brooklyn Daily Eagle, and now publishes a morning paper five days a week under the Brooklyn Daily Eagle name...

. For a time he worked part-time as a Los Angeles County sheriff
A sheriff is in principle a legal official with responsibility for a county. In practice, the specific combination of legal, political, and ceremonial duties of a sheriff varies greatly from country to country....

's deputy, was trained in martial arts, and was a nudist. In the mid 1980s, he was the book review columnist for Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine. Ball lived in Encino, California, and died there in 1988.

Ball's Last Plane Out
Last Plane Out
Last Plane Out is a 1983 film directed by David Nelson, son of Ozzie and Harriet. It was based on journalist Jack Cox's experience in Nicaragua when it was ruled by dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle and his battle against insurgents.-Plot:American journalist Jack Cox covers the civil war in...

consists of two stories which share characters and then meld together. The first involves a group of travelers in a troubled Third World
Third World
The term Third World arose during the Cold War to define countries that remained non-aligned with either capitalism and NATO , or communism and the Soviet Union...

 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 what-if? political thriller
Political thriller
A political thriller is a thriller that is set against the backdrop of a political power struggle. They usually involve various extra-legal plots, designed to give political power to someone, while his opponents try to stop him. They can involve national or international political scenarios....

 The First Team
The First Team (novel)
The First Team is a 1971 thriller by John Ball. The book is set in a future history of a United States living under a brutal Soviet occupation, at a date which is not specified but seems to be the late 1970's, and can retroactively be considered a kind of alternate history.Ball is best known for...

, published in September 1971. In the 1960s and 1970s, the genre of political thrillers born of the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 included writers such as Allen Drury
Allen Drury
Allen Stuart Drury was a U.S. novelist. He wrote the 1959 novel Advise and Consent, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1960.- Early life & ancestry :...

 (who wrote Advise and Consent in 1959), Fletcher Knebel
Fletcher Knebel
Fletcher Knebel was an American author of several popular works of political fiction.Knebel was born in Dayton, Ohio, but moved a number of times during his youth. He graduated from high school in Yonkers, New York, spent a year studying at the Sorbonne and graduated from Miami University in...

 (Seven Days in May
Seven Days in May
Seven Days in May is an American political thriller novel written by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II and published in 1962. It was made into a motion picture and released in February 1964, with a screenplay by Rod Serling, directed by John Frankenheimer, and starring Burt Lancaster, Kirk...

), and Edwin Corley
Edwin Corley
Edwin Raymond Corley was a United States novelist most famous for his thrillers Sargasso and Air Force One. He used the pseudonyms "David Harper", "William Judson" and worked with novelist Jack Murphy, using the pseudonym "Patrick Buchanan" .As "Patrick Buchanan", Corley and Murphy wrote a series of...

 (The Jesus Factor
The Jesus Factor (novel)
The Jesus Factor is a 1970 conspiracy theory thriller novel by Edwin Corley based on the Manhattan Project of World War 2 and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki...

). 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
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 (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
Military-industrial complex
Military–industrial complex , or Military–industrial-congressional complex is a concept commonly used to refer to policy and monetary relationships between legislators, national armed forces, and the industrial sector that supports them...

 producers providing faulty fighter planes, weak-willed politicians, and the Communist propaganda machine (not to mention the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

'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
White House
The White House is the official residence and principal workplace of the president of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., the house was designed by Irish-born James Hoban, and built between 1792 and 1800 of white-painted Aquia sandstone in the Neoclassical...

 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
Tom Clancy
Thomas Leo "Tom" Clancy, Jr. is an American author, best known for his technically detailed espionage, military science, and techno thriller storylines set during and in the aftermath of the Cold War, along with video games on which he did not work, but which bear his name for licensing and...

's The Hunt for Red October
The Hunt for Red October
The Hunt for Red October is a 1984 novel by Tom Clancy. The story follows the intertwined adventures of Soviet submarine captain Marko Aleksandrovich Ramius and CIA analyst Jack Ryan.The novel was originally published by the U.S...

, The First Team contains details about the US nuclear submarine
Nuclear submarine
A nuclear submarine is a submarine powered by a nuclear reactor . The performance advantages of nuclear submarines over "conventional" submarines are considerable: nuclear propulsion, being completely independent of air, frees the submarine from the need to surface frequently, as is necessary for...

s, 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
New Mexico
New Mexico is a state located in the southwest and western regions of the United States. New Mexico is also usually considered one of the Mountain States. With a population density of 16 per square mile, New Mexico is the sixth-most sparsely inhabited U.S...

. Both are part of the genre of Invasion literature
Invasion literature
Invasion literature was a historical literary genre most notable between 1871 and the First World War . The genre first became recognizable starting in Britain in 1871 with The Battle of Dorking, a fictional account of an invasion of England by Germany...

, like The Battle of Dorking in 19th century Britain.


While in college he performed as a semi-professional magician under the name "Jacques Morintell" and "Howduzi". He was listed in the "Who's Who in Magic" in the May 1933 issue of The Sphinx (An Independent Magazine for Magicians published from March 1902 through March 1953) and contributed an article called "Further Ideas" to The Sphinx in 1937.

Virgil Tibbs series

  • In the Heat of the Night
    In the Heat of the Night (novel)
    In the Heat of the Night is a 1965 novel by John Ball set in the fictional community of Wells, North Carolina. The main character is a black police detective named Virgil Tibbs passing through the small town during a time of bigotry and the civil rights movement.The novel is the basis of the 1967...

    , Harper & Row Publishers, 1965
  • Cool Cottontail, Harper & Row Publishers, 1966
  • Johnny Get Your Gun, Little, Brown, 1969 [ISBN 0316079456]
    • Republished as Death of a Playmate, Bantam 1972.
  • Five Pieces of Jade, 1972
  • Eyes of the Buddha, Little, Brown, 1976.
  • Then Came Violence, Doubleday, 1980. [ISBN 0385157266]
  • Singapore, Dodd, Mead, 1986, [ISBN 0396087639]
    • short stories published in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine
      Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine
      Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine is an American monthly digest size fiction magazine specializing in crime fiction, particularly detective fiction...

  • "One for Virgil Tibbs" Feb 1976
  • "Virgil Tibbs and the Cocktail Napkin" Apr 1977
  • "Virgil Tibbs and the Fallen Body" Sep 1978


  • Operation Springboard, Duell, Sloan and Pearce
    Duell, Sloan and Pearce
    Duell, Sloan and Pearce was a publishing company located in New York City. It was founded in 1939 by C. Halliwell Duell, Samuel Sloan and Charles A. Pearce. It initially published general fiction and non-fiction, but not westerns, light romances or children's books...

    , 1958.
  • Rescue Mission, Harper & Row, 1966.
  • Miss One Thousand Spring Blossoms, 1968.
  • The First Team
    The First Team (novel)
    The First Team is a 1971 thriller by John Ball. The book is set in a future history of a United States living under a brutal Soviet occupation, at a date which is not specified but seems to be the late 1970's, and can retroactively be considered a kind of alternate history.Ball is best known for...

    , Little, Brown and Company
    Little, Brown and Company
    Little, Brown and Company is a publishing house established by Charles Coffin Little and his partner, James Brown. Since 2006 it has been a constituent unit of Hachette Book Group USA.-19th century:...

    , [ISBN 0-316-07947-2], 1971.
  • Phase Three Alert, Little, Brown and Company, [ISBN 0316079375], 1977.
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