Thursday, July 12, 2012

YEAR OF THE TIGER by Jack Higgins

Signet Edition
This is the third part of an essay about the six novels Jack Higgins wrote featuring Paul Chavasse titled "Paul Chavasse: An Introduction to the Cold War Spy Story".  The novels were written throughout the 1960s, and owe much to both the James Bond and Matt Helm novels.  The novels were published as by Martin Fallon, and before you read this post, you should read the first two segments of the essay here and here to put this post in context.

Year of the Tiger made its debut in 1963.  It was published by Abelard-Schumann in the U. K., but to my knowledge it is the only novel featuring Paul Chavasse, which was never published in the United States in its original form.  It was released in 1996 by Berkley as a paperback in an updated version—Patterson added chapters, one at the beginning and one at the end, which featured Chavasse as The Bureau Chief in 1995 London and presented the story as a reminisce. 

While I haven’t seen the original edition, the style of the writing and the plotline indicate it unlikely other significant changes were made.  It has a far flung plot that features a new type of energy for space travel, a rescue mission to Tibet, Chinese communists and an alluring Tibetan woman. 

Chavasse, after his participation in the safe passage of the Dalai Lama from Tibet in 1959, is assigned to infiltrate Tibet and escort a British missionary named Dr Karl Hoffner safely out of the country.  Dr Hoffner has developed a mathematical theory, which would allow for “space to be twisted…until it becomes an energy field.”  While the Chinese are unaware of Hoffner’s recent success with his decades old theory, the British Government is alerted by one of Hoffner’s oldest friends, and it wants him, and his theory, back in the West. 

Berkley Edition
Harper Edition

The story moves quickly from London to Tibet; Chavasse is smuggled across the Indian border and assumes the identity of a Soviet journalist writing a story about Hoffner.  The game turns sour, however, and Chavasse finds himself in the local Chinese garrison’s stockade—a predicament he is often in throughout the series.  It takes Chavasse’s usual mixture of wit and muscle, and a little help from friendly locals, to get out of the jam.  Then he is forced to collect Hoffner, with the game blown, and smuggle him across the high mountains of Tibet, with a platoon of Chinese Army regulars on his trail, to freedom.

Year of the Tiger is probably the weakest of the Paul Chavasse novels, but it still has the same presence and entertainment value as the others in the series.  Not to mention it has all the hallmarks of early Jack Higgins—it is quick, spirited, heavy with a stark and meaningful atmosphere, and really, really fun.

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