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Alistair MacLean Books

Alistair MacLean Books
The Books of Alistair MacLean
Darren Harrison, Fleming and MacLean enthusiast
03 March 2018
As one might guess from the movie sections of this site, I am an admirer of the character of James Bond and the author Alistair MacLean.

MacLean was quite a prolific writer of his time. Immensely popular he excelled at turning action into prose and became known in his time as the Master of the thriller. Not surprising then that it was only after his second novel that Hollywood came calling in what would become two decades of his work being converted into thrilling adventures. Indeed, I cover these adaptations here and they were my first introduction to the works of MacLean. However as I progressed in age and became more well-read I began to read the source novels.

I believe the first MacLean I read was “Where Eagles Dare”. The cover featured Richard Burton and included a publicity still from the fight atop the cable-car in the background. I believe the novel belonged to an uncle who, seeing me thrill to the movie version, lent me his copy of the tie-in book (the tie-in was a practice that when a book was adapted into a movie a new edition of the book would be published featuring material from the movie on the cover). After devouring this book I sought out more at the annual village fete and amassed quite a collection of paperbacks, some tie-ins and some that were not. Villagers could rent a table at the fete and sell whatever they felt like and I was always guaranteed at least one used books table which to a preteen like myself was a veritable gold mine of Alistair MacLean novels and Ian Fleming Pan paperbacks. I’d come home laden down with as many books as my funds would allow.

At the time the Fontana paperbacks were the format for all MacLean books and I always thought the artwork on the covers for titles such as “Bear Island” (pictured above) were exciting and conveyed the adventurous spirit inherent in the books well. Although often considered one of his lesser books I’ve always had a soft spot for “Bear Island” but perhaps that’s a mix of nostalgia and an admiration for the movie which I saw at about this time on British television.

Being a fan of the 1978 “Force 10 From Navarone” starring Robert Shaw, Harrison Ford and Barbara Bach I was little taken aback by the source novel that veered widely in a different direction. It was only later after research that I discovered the tortured path that Force 10 had taken to the screen and led MacLean to publish his never realized movie script into the 1968 book. He would eventually include one of the movie’s subplots in his 1982 novel “Partisans”

“I wrote each book in thirty five days flat – just to get the darned thing finished”


It would be awhile before I could track down MacLean’s first novel “HMS Ulysses” though this was not for a lack of trying. I eventually succeeded by purchasing the Kindle edition on Amazon. I also purchased several of the audio books produced by Harper Collins in 2016 and 2017 which were released on Amazon’s audible service and included titles such as “HMS Ulysses”, “The Guns of Navarone”, “Where Eagles Dare”, “Force 10 From Navarone”, “When Eight Bells Toll”, “Puppet on a Chain”,  “Night Without End”, “Golden Gate” and “Fear is the Key”. These digital downloads make MacLean accessible once more and I am making my way through them as I commute back and forward to work.

My advice for someone starting out unfamiliar with MacLean is to start at the beginning with HMS Ulysses and work your way forward. Much of MacLean’s best work is in those early books and you will have a wealth of good reading ahead.

My plan for this site is to review books, I will naturally start by reviewing the Bond novels and then move onto the Alistair MacLean works. But it is also possible that I might post my thoughts from time to time on other authors (e.g. I am halfweay through a Bill Bryson book right now). I invite you to take this journey with me.

About The Author


Born on the English-Scottish border I emigrated to the US after graduating college in 1995 and became a U.S. citizen in 2007. I have served in the U.S. military and my past positions include as an Assistant Managing Editor of The Washington Post Company, a technical writer working on technical documentation for both a construction company and a large government contractor, a graphic designer creating graphics in support of government contract proposals, and as a public affairs officer for the U.S. Navy. which included being assigned as the official writer for the Navy and DoD on the assumption ceremony of a new Secretary of the Navy. I am currently a Web Services Writer for a large government contractor in the Washington, D.C. metro area.

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