At the height of his renown, back in the late 1960s and early ’70s, Scottish adventure-thriller writer Alistair MacLean rivaled even Agatha Christie as a best-seller. I’ve seen it reported that by 1978, 21 million paperback copies of his books had been published, and by 1983, at least 16 of his works had sold upward of a million copies apiece. The scribblers of promotional blurbs were shameless in linking MacLean’s name to new fiction by other, lesser writers, and Hollywood couldn’t seem to capitalize fast enough on his popularity; more than a dozen motion pictures were adapted from MacLean’s yarns, including The Guns of Navarone (featuring Gregory Peck), Ice Station Zebra (with Rock Hudson), Where Eagles Dare (with Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood) and Breakheart Pass (starring Charles Bronson).You can find the full piece here. It’s a good one, I think, and well worth your time reading. Perhaps it will also stir some new interest in MacLean’s more than two dozen novels.
Not bad for a guy whose debut novel was excoriated as “drivelling melodrama” by one of Scotland’s top-selling newspapers, the Daily Record.
And click here to participate in The Rap Sheet’s poll asking readers to name their favorite works among MacLean’s classic oeuvre. If you have not already made your voice heard in this survey, you have until the beginning of November to do so.
UPDATE: Not being content merely to compose a lengthy column about MacLean’s contributions to contemporary thriller fiction, I’ve now posted dozens of fronts from his 28 novels in my other crime-fiction blog, Killer Covers. Check ’em out!