Sunday, 17 October 2010

Thrills and Adventure - Alistair MacLean

At one time, he was my favourite author, churning out adventures and war stories that I loved. I could always count on an entertaining page turner when I picked up an Alistair MacLean story and it was sort of comforting in a predictable way. He was a prolific writer and I tended to prefer his earlier writings.

For information, these are the novels he wrote during his life -

HMS Ulysses (1955), The Guns of Navarone (57), South by Java Head (57), The Last Frontier (59), Night Without End (59), Fear is the Key and The Dark Crusader (61), The Golden Rendezvous and The Satan Bug (62), Ice Station Zebra (63), When Eight Bells Toll (67), Where Eagles Dare (68), Puppet on a Chain (69), Caravan to Vacares (70), Bear Island (71), The Way to Dusty Death (73), Breakheart Pass (74), Circus (75), The Golden Gate (76), Seawitch (77), Good-bye California (77), Athabasca (80), River of Death (81), Partisans (82), Floodgate (83), San Andreas (84) and Santorini 86).

I'm not sure why I originally picked up an Alistair MacLean book, but I think it was from the movie posters at the Base Theater in Chatham, New Brunswick. A number of his books have been made into movies. I remember seeing the movie poster for The Satan Bug and it looked so interesting. I was probably too young to be able to go see it at the time, but when I realized it was also a book, well, that got me started.

I so enjoyed his stories. I guess they could be classified as pulp fiction nowadays, but even now, I'm finding that I'm enjoying reliving these stories. As a youngster, I read almost all of his books, from HMS Ulysses  through to Circus. I remember my friends in Chatham buying me Caravan to Vacares as a going away present when my parents moved to Germany.  I bought many at the Book Store at the Base Exchange in Lahr, Germany. I even read Force Ten from Navarone as a weekly installment in the Stars and Stripes newspaper in Germany.

What did I enjoy about his books? Well, I think it was the battle of good against evil. His stories had a character, often working on his own, or maybe with a small team, relying on their own wits to resolve an evil; The Satan Bug, with its stolen virus with the potential to destroy the world, or Puppet on a Chain, with its Dutch drug dealers. The hero had to rely on his own wits and strengths, in enemy territory and still win in the end. It didn't matter how much of a beating he took, and he did, he just bandaged himself up and went on with his business.

There were so many good and varied stories, in so many varied settings; battling the German Army in the Mediteranean, escaping the Japanese invasion in Singapore, on a nuclear submarine in the Arctic. Fascinating locales, interesting story lines, adventure at its best.

Many of his books have been made into movies; the most successful being Guns of Navarone and Where Eagles Dare, probably. But others provide an entertaining escape; such as Ice Station Zebra, Puppet on a Chain, Breakheart Pass, Force Ten from Navarone. Others aren't quite so successful, such as The Satan Bug and Golden Rendezvous and could be classified as B Movies, but still, if you enjoy the books, it's worth checking them out.

Recently, as I've wandered around my local used book stores, I've found myself drawn back to the books again and have found myself buying them slowly. I like the covers and I'm enjoying reliving those early thrills and chills.

Alistair MacLean died in 1987. If you want to see what he's all about search through your local used book store and try the experience. I'm glad that I had the chance to enjoy his writings. He provided me with much enjoyment and still is.


  1. I'm sure I read somewhere that AM is enjoying a resurgence in popularity, and that finding his books second hand is becoming increasingly difficult.
    What I don't know is if this is because he's being discovered by a new generation? [Does anyone under 30 even read books anymore ?] or if it's old stalwarts like you revisiting the 'Boys Own' adventures of their youth... maybe some research student will figure it out.
    Not sure I agree that the movie of the Satan Bug should be relegated to B Movie status.. more like a cult classic.

  2. You may be right. I'll accept B Movie status. :0)


Related Posts with Thumbnails