Passage by Night is the fourteenth novel published by Harry Patterson. It was released as a hardcover by Abelard-Schuman in 1964. It is one of three novels Mr Patterson published as by Hugh Marlowe. This may be the earliest Harry Patterson title published in the United States; a paperback original issued by Avon in 1966.
Harry Manning lost a profitable salvage operation when the fidelistas finished the Bautista regime in Cuba. He escaped Havana with his boat Grace Abounding, and nothing else. Now, between drinks, he makes a meager living as a charter captain. His bitter world is turned over when an airplane—his Cuban exile girlfriend a passenger—crashes into the sea with no survivors. It appears a bomb in the baggage compartment grounded the plane, and when Harry discovers a suspicious name on the passenger list—a man whose luggage was loaded, but who never boarded—he begins a manhunt.
Passage by Night—be patient with the cliché—is vintage Jack Higgins. The plot is everything. It is smoothly executed with a tide of heavy action, and a hard undertow of surprise. The climax is satisfyingly shocking, but wonderfully simple. The Caribbean setting is both exotic and familiar. The Cuban baddies are larger than life, the good guys are heroic, and there is want for a wasted word.
The narrative is less elegant than many of Mr Patterson’s early novels, but it is suitable; not quite utilitarian. There still are examples of his surreal eloquence—
“He checked his pressure gauge again at two hundred feet and stretched out a hand as if to call to her, but he was wasting his time. The darkness moved in on him as the slim white figure disappeared down into the indigo dusk.”
Passage by Night is a wonderful example of its era. The bad guys are communist, but there is something more than a hint of Nazis, and even better, war criminals. There is a humorous moment when Harry Manning makes a bet regarding Fidel Castro’s longevity—
“‘A hundred dollars American. A year from today, Castro will no longer rule Cuba?’”
A bet Harry lost, and lost badly. There is also the fun of spotting Mr Patterson’s repeats. He has a habit, and not one that bothers me in the least, of repeating himself. The name “Fallon”—a pseudonym used by Mr Patterson, and the name of two unique protagonists—is worn by a less than minor character, and “The Cretan Lover”—the original U. K. title of his novel Solo—is a chapter title.
Passage by Night is pure entertainment, and damn fun.