11 May 2012

A Vintage from the 70s

Thrillers Alistair Maclean

I've recently read a bunch of Alistair Macleans. I picked up six in a bookshop a few weeks ago and have read four of them, two of them for the first time. That last is strange, considering how popular AM was in the 1970s. Anyway, I'm still waiting for them to reissue The Golden Rendezvous, still one of my faves, and see if it stands up to my memories.

Onward! Partisans is the weakest of the bunch. You have Maclean's trademark cryptic hero, with his faithful sidekicks, mysterious (and almost always innocent) women who somehow always manage to be less competent than they are pretty (exception: The Satan Bug) but it never goes anywhere. Too predictable to be fun. Read The Guns of Navarone instead.

Circus manages surprises till the very last page, even the very last line (damn, I think that might be a spoiler). I smiled to read that the hero was to infiltrate the Iron Curtain to bring back the 'formula' for antimatter, but in the year it was written, that was cutting edge stuff. I still feel there is something wrong with the antimatter to energy conversion ratios in the book, but haven't sat down with my calculator. This one was more fun, if a bit slower than many thrillers of today, and even than of AM himself. And I'd completely forgotten the end, so it was good to re-read and get surprised all over again.

San Andreas is another one I hadn't read before. A bit over the top, but enjoyable nonetheless, despite severe reservations about whether a German Luftwaffe pilot would really do what it said in the book (not a spoiler).  I learned something interesting about submarines and ships. Archie the hero triumphs over all. Interesting twists, but not too many of them. Flannelfoot is a good name for a villain, though!

The Lonely Sea was the other re-read. It's a collection of AM's short stories, including the prizewinning story that set him on his writing career, becoming an international bestseller, only overtaken I think by Terry Pratchett and JK Rowling. These are all excellent stories, some of them based on facts, and some purely fiction. My favourite in these is probably St George and the Dragon. It's interesting to note that AM wrote such stories decades before Jeffery Archer did.

Here's a quote from an essay on writing, which will resonate with many writers:

The main benefits of being a full-time writer are that they confer on one a remarkable degree of independence and freedom, but that freedom must never be misinterpreted as irresponsibility.
I don't have to start work and 9 a.m., and I don't: I usually start between six and seven in the morning.

:) Read and enjoy.

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