Fictional CIA agent Sam Durell is the protagonist for all of the stories in this series and so while the publisher listed this as the “Assignment series” it is well known as the “Sam Durell series.” In later editions the publisher also used “Sam Durell” in the blurb immediately after the front cover - For example Assignment Ceylon has “This is number thirty-six of the famed Sam Durell novels—one of the bestselling suspense series in the history of publishing.” One consistent element is that all of the story titles started with the word “Assignment.”
The stories were written over a span of 28 years from 1955 to 1983 with each more or less being set in present time at the time it was written.
When initially issued the stories were not numbered and the publisher showed the list of available stories in the “Assignment” series in alphabetical order though often the alphabetical list did not include all of the previous stories. Later re-prints numbered the stories based the order in which they were first published though the list of stories just before the title page was still in alphabetical order. The list is shown in numbered/published order here. Each story is a standalone work and while they can be read in any order reading them in the order given here will provide some continuity as there are occasional references to people or incidents from previous assignments.
The publications were inconsistent in their formatting of the title with many editions using five dots as in Assignment . . . . . Angelina on the title page though some used a dash, others used a colon, and a few break the title on two lines with no punctuation. The formatting on the front covers was also mixed with most editions breaking the title onto two lines though a few had two lines with the Assignment followed by a dash or colon. The spines tended to use a dash though a few use a colon and Assignment Ceylon had no punctuation. For consistency, all of the titles are listed here with a dash.
This listing has notes on speculative fiction elements with the goal being to identify which volumes should be included in ISFDB. It appears the intent was not to write science fiction or fantasy works but several stories involve cutting-edge military technology and/or projects by the “bad guys” that at times bordered on specfict.
- Assignment to Disaster (1955) - specfict content is unknown but this story was reviewed by several specfict magazines.
- Assignment—Treason (1956)
- Assignment—Suicide (1956)
- Assignment—Stella Marni (1957)
- Assignment—Budapest (1957)
- Assignment—Angelina (1958) - Action thriller with a barely specfict element in that during WW II the Germans developed an odorless and colorless anesthetic gas that would knock out people within seconds and they’d wake up in 10 to 30 minutes (depending on the concentration of gas) with amnesia of events immediately prior to delivery of the gas. While the gas is a significant plot element for the story it's likely it could exist and thus the story would not qualify as speculative fiction.
- Assignment—Madeleine (1958)
- Assignment—Carlotta Cortez (1959)
- Assignment—Helene (1959) - Action thriller with no specfict elements. The U.S. Consul General posted to the Indochinese island country of Sangulap is murdered. Sam Durell is sent to investigate and also to solve the issue that an unknown American was interfering with the country’s internal affairs by smuggling arms. To add to the challenge, Durell arrives and discovers that his cover has already been blown and that everyone he runs into knows about both of his assignments for the island.
- Assignment—Lili Lamaris (1959)
- Assignment—Zoraya (1960)
- Assignment—Mara Tirana (1960)
- Assignment—Lowlands (1961) - Action thriller with the only item that could be "specfict" is that during WW II the Germans had developed a penicillin based culture that would cause illness and then death within 24 hours. While the story premise is that there's enough material in an underground lab to kill 1/2 of humanity it's never explained how this could be done as it seemed the culture was only effective if it came in contact with someone's skin.
- Assignment—Burma Girl (1961)
- Assignment—Ankara (1961) - Next to zero spectfict. A radar or radar-listening post in Northern Turkey picks up information about what seems like a neutron bomb test in the USSR. Tape recordings are made with the description of the tapes making them seem like high density paper tape though recorded on plastic. Sam Durell is assigned to help courier the tapes back to Washinton. One moderately odd aspect is a "KT-4" aircraft. Propeller driven, long glider like wings, a single pilot, seating for at least seven. No engines are visible in the picture on the front cover implying it's a single engine craft as the nose is not visible in the picture. In the sense that this particular aircraft does not seem to exist it's "speculative fiction."
- Assignment—Karachi (1962)
- Assignment—Sorrento Siren (1963)
- Assignment—Manchurian Doll (1963)
- Assignment—The Girl in the Gondola (1964)
- Assignment—Sulu Sea (1964)
- Assignment—The Cairo Dancers (1965) - Spectfict element in that an Arab terrorist group kidnaps scientists from around the world and using them constructs a mountain-top laser that’s supposed to be able to vaporize cities from hundreds of miles away.
- Assignment—School for Spies (1966)
- Assignment—Cong Hai Kill (1966)
- Assignment—Palermo (1966)
- Assignment—Black Viking (1967) - Action thriller with one science fiction and one fantasy element. The SF element is a main plot feature in that someone has figured out how to do weather modification on a massive scale and apparently is drumming up tornados and snow-blizzards from a submarine. The science is explained as a combination of cloud seeding combined with sound waves, and “catalytic mechanisms.” The story also has a mild fantasy element in that one character, the “Black Viking” seems indestructible in that he gets washed overboard from a ship in a raging and freezing storm but is able to swim miles to shore, can easily defeat trained fighters, and survives getting shot without seeming to get scratched. There was no explanation of how a human with a seeming normal upbringing was able to pull this off other than perhaps his belief that he was the Black Viking of Norse mythology.
- Assignment—Moon Girl (1967) - Non-specfict action-thriller though it may seem like specfict as the story is about a women who was reported to have lived on the moon and returned to tell about it.
- Assignment—Nuclear Nude (1968)
- Assignment—Peking (1969)
- Assignment—White Rajah (1970)
- Assignment—Star Stealers (1970)
- Assignment—Tokyo (1971) - Page 53 references Ian Fleming's James Bond with a Russian bad guy saying "I'm not a ridiculous superman, like your fictional James Bond. When I'm hit I ache with pain, eh?" Marginal specfict with the story being about a biological warfare container being opened in a small Japanese fishing village. Death occurs within 48 hours and it's very contagious. One person survives and there is a race among intelligence agencies to get her with the thinking being that she was infected with a mutated strain that she survived and that her body contains antibodies that can be cultured and turned into a anti-virus. The viral warfare agent and methods used to combat it seem plausible but it's hard to tell if they were "specfict" for 1971.
- Assignment—Golden Girl (1971) - Action-thriller with no specfict elements. Bibliographic note - Immediately after the front cover is a page that says "#31 There have been thirty novels in this famous Sam Durell suspense series—and now a brand-new adventure." This does not seem correct. The story makes several clear references to Assignment—Tokyo which is the 31st novel in the series. It's possible someone decided to not count Assignment to Disaster as the 1st book which then would make Assignment—Golden Girl #31.
- Assignment—Bangkok (1972)
- Assignment—Maltese Maiden (1972)
- Assignment—Silver Scorpion (1973) - Action-thriller with no specfict elements.
- Assignment—Ceylon (1973) - Action-thriller with no specfict elements.
- Assignment—Amazon Queen (1974)
- Assignment—Sumatra (1974)
- Assignment—Quayle Question (1975)
- Assignment—Black Gold (1975) - Action-thriller with no specfict elements.
- Assignment—Unicorn (1976)
- Assignment—Afghan Dragon (1976)
After Edward S. Aarons' death in 1975 his brother, William B. Aarons (1914-2002), continued to publish the series as executor of the Edward S. Aarons' estate. Volumes 43 to 48 state Will B. Aarons as the author but were ghost written by Lawrence Hall. See www.mysteryfile.com/Aarons/Durell.html#Note for more detail on this.
- Assignment—Sheba (1976)
- Assignment—Tiger Devil (1977)
- Assignment—13th Princess (1977)
- Assignment—Mermaid (1979)
- Assignment—Tyrant's Bride (1980)
- Assignment—Death Ship (1983) - The specfict premise is a device that "fits in the palm" and yet contains a timer, a bottle fit with a spray nozzle, and CO2 gas cartridge. The bottle contained X. coli which is a generically engineered variant of E. coli with X. coli being toxic to the degree that the palm size delivery system able to kill over 1,000 people within minutes and to continue killing people that arrived at the scene. Other than this premise the book is a straight action thriller.
Possibly specfict works from the series
A full list of the stories with descriptions is available at http://spyguysandgals.com/sgShowChar.asp?ScanName=Durell_Sam though the story numbering used on that page is not accurate. In reviewing the descriptions on that list the following stories may be specfict.
- 26. Assignment—Palermo (1966)
- 30. Assignment—Star Stealers (1970)
- 37. Assignment—Amazon Queen (1974)
- 41. Assignment—Unicorn (1976)
- 44. Assignment—Tiger Devil (1977) (It's not clear from the description if the Warakabra Tiger is specfict)