Tuesday, November 04, 2014

PASSAGE BY NIGHT by Hugh Marlowe (Harry Patterson)

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 clichĂ©—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.


Bill Crider said...

This was the first book I ever read by Patterson, and I had no idea it was by him for many years afterward. I have a little review of it here: http://billcrider.blogspot.com/2012/12/forgotten-books-passage-by-night-hugh.html

I also have another novel published as by Hugh Marlowe, A CANDLE FOR THE DEAD, an Award Books paperback. Here's my review of that one: http://billcrider.blogspot.com/2014/04/ffb-candle-for-dead-hugh-marlowe.html

Ben Boulden said...

Bill. You're right. A CANDLE FOR THE DEAD (aka THE VIOLENT ENEMY) was published as by Hugh Marlowe. I also checked my list of early Patterson novels, and SEVEN PILLARS TO HELL was also published with Marlowe on the cover. My fact checker had the day off.

Ben Boulden said...

Bill. The scan of book cover you have for A CANDLE FOR THE DEAD is terrific. I've never seen it, and I actually didn't know it had been published in the U. S.

Bill Crider said...

I suspect that it didn't get very good distribution here. That's the only copy of it I've ever run across.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

I haven't read any of Harry Patterson's novels under his pseudonyms Hugh Marlowe and James Graham. I have been on the lookout for these paperbacks.

Ben Boulden said...

Prashant. I like everything Jack Higgins, but I especially like his work between 1968 (EAST OF DESOLATION) to 1974 (THE EAGLE HAS LANDED). I think all of the James Graham novels were published during that period, and they are among his best work. A couple of my favorite are NIGHT JUDGMENT AT SINOS, and A GAME FOR HEROES.

But I also really like his Hugh Marlowe titles, too.


Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Ben, Higgins is my favourite writer too and I agree his early work is his best.