Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Jack Higgins

Ed Gorman, on his blog, wrote a terrific review of an old title—The Wrath of God—by Jack Higgins. Higgins is best known for the few dozen bestsellers he has written over the last thirty years, but he also had a pretty terrific (some would say better, so far as quality is concerned) output of novels from the late-1950s to the mid-1970s. His early stuff was comprised of slim adventure thrillers that, word-for-word, are as exciting and well-written as any thriller ever published.

His Paul Chavasse novels, a James Bond-like spy, made the Bond novels look boring and redundant and boring, and his other work was just as good. A few of the better titles are: Savage Day, East of Desolation, In the Hour Before Midnight, A Game for Heroes, The Khufra Run, and a dozen others I’m forgetting. The basic idea is, if it is a Jack Higgins title that was published pre-The Eagle Has Landed it is going to be a treat. And honestly most everything Higgins wrote pre-Sean Dillon days—which comes out to anything published before 1993 (the first Sean Dillon novel was published in 1992, but it wasn’t bad; Dillon was the villain) is pretty good.

I’m getting carried away. I meant this to be a short and simple post about the review Gorman wrote and the small discussion it started over on his blog. To read the review and the discussion thread go Here.

I also found a couple interviews with Higgins—his real name is Harry Patterson—that I thought were quite interesting. There is one on the website of his publisher where he explains why Sean Dillon didn’t die at the conclusion of Eye of the Storm. It was a weak ending and started a series that should never have been. Of course it has probably netted Mr. Higgins a few million dollars…that’s why I’m not in the publishing business. I don’t know what sells or why it sells. Anyway, here is Higgins’ response:

"However, at the end of the book [Eye of the Storm], the good guys pursued him to a French chateau where he was shot dead. When my wife read the final chapter, when I said, "hey, it's finished. What do you think?" she threw it back at me and said, "The readers will hate you because you've created this very unusual character: very strong, very interesting, full of humour and wit and Irishness and so on, and they're going to be angry with you". I said, "Well, what are you suggesting?" She said, "Let him survive and just walk away in the snow in the night".

"So I went and rewrote the final chapter, so when he was shot he was wearing a titanium waistcoat, which, of course, stops rounds going through but knocks you out. He was lying on the floor unconscious, the good guys left him there for French intelligence to do the cleaning up and, of course, Dillon came to. And he walked away through the snow into the night."

And the legacy began. I also stumbled across a few other interviews that were pretty good and you can find the links below. He is a terrific writer and his early work is absolutely awesome. These interviews remind me how much I like his stuff. I might even try another Sean Dillon book.

Shots Magazine
BBC, this one is partially written and partially audio
Times Online

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