Peter O'Donnell began to write professionally prior to World War II at the age of 16. From 1938 and during the war he served as a NCO in mobile radio detachment (3 Corps) of Royal Signals Corps in 9th army in Persia in 1942. Afterwards his unit was moved to Syria, Egypt, the Western Desert, Italy, and Greece in October 1944.
After the war O'Donnell began to script comic strips, including the Daily Express adaptation of the James Bond novel, Dr. No. From 1953-1966 he wrote for Garth, and from 1956-1962 Romeo Brown (with Jim Holdaway as an artist). He also wrote for women's magazines, children's papers and an occasional novel.
His most famous creation, Modesty Blaise, was first published in 1963 in comic strip form. For the first seven years, the strip was illustrated by Holdaway until his death in 1970. Enrique Badia Romero then became the artist, and except for a seven-year period (1979-1986) he drew the strip until it ended in 2001.
In 1965, O'Donnell novelized his screenplay for a motion picture version (the final release of which in 1966 used virtually nothing of O'Donnell's original material), which was published as Modesty Blaise. This book was a huge success and O'Donnell would publish a dozen more novels and short story collections until 1996. In 2001, O'Donnell retired from writing the Modesty Blaise comic strip and is said to have retired from full-time writing. Since 2003 he has been writing the introductions for a series of Modesty Blaise comic strip reprint volumes published by Titan Books.
He was also interviewed by director Quentin Tarantino for a special feature included on the DVD release of the 2002 film My Name Is Modesty, which was based on his creation. O'Donnell is on record as stating it is his wish that no one else write any future Modesty Blaise stories, but it remains to be seen whether this will hold true.
Bibliography The Modesty Blaise book series consists of: Modesty Blaise (1965) Sabre-Tooth (1966) I, Lucifer (1967) A Taste for Death (1969) (not to be confused with the novel of the same name by P. D. James) The Impossible Virgin (1971) Pieces of Modesty (1972) (short stories) The Silver Mistress (1973) Last Day in Limbo (1976) Dragon's Claw (1978) The Xanadu Talisman (1981) The Night of Morningstar (1982) Dead Man's Handle (1985) Cobra Trap (1996) (short stories)
O'Donnell has also written romance books and television (Take a Pair of Private Eyes) and movie (Revenge of She) scripts. His other famous books are historical romances written under the pseudonym Madeleine Brent. The fact that Brent was O'Donnell was not made public until after the publication of the last of the Brent books.
Books written under the name Madeleine Brent: Tregaron's Daughter (1971) Moonraker's Bride (1973) Kirkby's Changeling (1975) (also as Stranger at Wildings) Merlin's Keep (1977) Capricorn Stone (1979) The Long Masquerade (1981) A Heritage of Shadows (1983) Stormswift (1984) Golden Urchin (1986)