Alistair MacLean

Biografie şi Bibliografie

Alistair Stuart MacLean (21 April 1922 - 2 February 1987; Scottish Gaelic: Alasdair MacGill-Eain) was a Scottish  novelist  who wrote successful thrillers or adventure stories, the best known of which are perhaps The Guns of Navarone and Where Eagles Dare, both having been made into successful films. He also wrote two novels under the pseudonym Ian Stuart.


MacLean was the son of a minister, and learned English as his second language after his mother tongue, Scottish Gaelic. He was born in Glasgow but spent much of his childhood and youth in Daviot, ten miles south of Inverness. He was the third of four sons and had no sisters.

He joined the Royal Navy in 1941, serving in World War II with the ranks of Ordinary Seaman, Able Seaman, and Leading Torpedo Operator. He was first assigned to PS Bournemouth Queen, a converted excursion ship fitting for anti-aircraft guns, on duty off the coasts of England and Scotland. From 1943, he served on HMS Royalist, a Dido-class light cruiser. On Royalist he saw action in 1943 in the Atlantic theatre, on two Arctic convoys and escorting carrier groups in operations against Tirpitz and other targets off the Norwegian coast; in 1944 in the Mediterranean theatre, as part of the invasion of southern France and in helping to sink blockade runners off Crete and bombard Milos in the Aegean Sea (during this time MacLean may have been injured in a gunnery practice accident); and in 1945, in the Far East theatre, escorting carrier groups in operations against Japanese targets in Burma, Malaya, and Sumatra. (MacLean's late-in-life claims that he was captured by the Japanese and tortured have been dismissed by both his son and his biographer as drunken ravings.) After the Japanese surrender, Royalist helped evacuate liberated POWs from Changi Prison in Singapore.

MacLean was released from the Royal Navy in 1946. He then studied English at the University of Glasgow, graduating in 1953, and then worked as a school teacher in Rutherglen.

While a university student, MacLean began writing short stories for extra income, winning a competition in 1954 with the maritime story "Dileas". The publishing company Collins asked him for a novel and he responded with HMS Ulysses, based on his own war experiences, as well as credited insight from his brother Ian, a Master Mariner. The novel was a great success and MacLean was soon able to devote himself entirely to writing war stories, spy stories and other adventures.

In the early 1960s, MacLean published two novels under the pseudonym "Ian Stuart" in order to prove that the popularity of his books was due to their content rather than his name on the cover. They sold well, but MacLean made no attempt to change his writing style and his fans may easily have recognized him behind the Scottish pseudonym. MacLean's books eventually sold so well that he moved to Switzerland as a tax exile. From 1963–1966, he took a hiatus from writing to run a hotel business in England.

MacLean's later books were not as well received as the earlier ones and, in an attempt to keep his stories in keeping with the time, he sometimes lapsed into overly improbable plots. He also struggled constantly with alcoholism, which eventually brought about his death in Munich in 1987. He is buried a few yards from Richard Burton in Céligny, Switzerland. He was married twice and had three sons with his first wife; the third son was adopted.

MacLean was awarded a Doctor of Letters by the University of Glasgow in 1983.

Style of writing

Compared to other thriller writers of the time, such as Ian Fleming, MacLean's books are exceptional in one way at least: they have an absence of sex and most are short on romance because MacLean thought that such diversions merely serve to slow down the action. Nor do the MacLean books resemble the more recent techno-thriller approach. Instead, he lets little hinder the flow of events in his books, making his heroes fight against seemingly unbeatable odds and often pushing them to the limits of their physical and mental endurance. MacLean's heroes are usually calm, cynical men entirely devoted to their work and often carrying some kind of secret knowledge. A characteristic twist is that one of the hero's closest companions turns out a traitor.

Nature, especially the sea and the Arctic north, plays an important part in MacLean's stories, and he used a variety of exotic parts of the world as settings to his books. Only one of them, When Eight Bells Toll, is set in his native Scotland. MacLean's best books are often those in which he was able to make use of his own direct knowledge of warfare and seafare, such as HMS Ulysses which is now considered a classic of naval fiction.

Certain themes are repeated in virtually all of MacLean's novels. For example, they typically feature a male character who is depicted as physically and morally indestructible (for instance, Carrington in HMS Ulysses; Andrea in The Guns of Navarone); such characters are also often described as having an almost inhuman tolerance for alcohol consumption (for instance, the Count in The Last Frontier; Jablonsky in Fear is the Key). Other minor traits or actions also turn up in every book, such as the cliche of characters shaking their heads in order to come to their senses after receiving a blow to the head. "Mediterranean" or Latin American characters are almost always depicted as criminals (as with Gregori in The Satan Bug, Miguel and Tony Carreras in The Golden Rendezvous, and so forth).

Altogether, MacLean published 28 novels and a collection of short stories, as well as books about T. E. Lawrence and James Cook.

MacLean also wrote screenplays, some of them based on his novels and others later novelized by other writers. Around 1980, he was commissioned by an American movie production company to write a series of story outlines to be subsequently produced as movies. He invented the fictitious United Nations Anti-Crime Organization (UNACO), and the books were later completed by others. Among these are Hostage Tower by John Denis and Death Train by Alastair MacNeill. Some of these works bear little resemblance to MacLean's style, especially in their use of gratuitous sex and violence.

Many of MacLean's novels were made into films, but none completely captured the level of detail and the intensity of his writing style as exemplified in classics such as Fear is the Key; the two most artistically and commercially successful film adaptations were The Guns of Navarone and Where Eagles Dare.

After his death, the popularity of his work saw a decline, and, according to, as of 2006 none of his novels are in print in the U.S. However, most are currently still in print in paperback in the UK.

List of works

1955     HMS Ulysses     
1957     The Guns of Navarone     
1957     South by Java Head     
1959     The Last Frontier, in the USA The Secret Ways
1959     Night Without End     
1961     Fear is the Key     
1961     The Dark Crusader, in the USA The Black Shrike (as Ian Stuart)
1962     The Golden Rendezvous     
1962     The Satan Bug, as Ian Stuart
1962     All about Lawrence of Arabia, Non-fiction
1963     Ice Station Zebra     
1966     When Eight Bells Toll     
1967     Where Eagles Dare     
1968     Force 10 From Navarone     
1969     Puppet on a Chain     
1970     Caravan to Vaccarès     
1971     Bear Island     
1972     Alistair MacLean Introduces Scotland, Non-fiction, edited by Alastair Dunnett
1972     Captain Cook, Non-fiction
1973     The Way to Dusty Death     
1974     Breakheart Pass     
1975     Circus     
1976     The Golden Gate     
1977     Seawitch     
1977     Goodbye California     
1980     Athabasca     
1981     River of Death     
1982     Partisans     
1983     Floodgate     
1984     San Andreas     
1985     The Lonely Sea, Collection of short stories
1986     Santorini    

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