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gnat (29)

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Journal of gnat (29)

Friday April 25, 2003
08:44 PM


[ #11852 ]
I tried to collect Biggles books, as a memento of my childhood reading habits. I discovered to my dismay that Biggles has become trendy to collect, and the days of picking up tattered paperbacks for 25c in secondhand shops are long gone. I grumbled then as I grumble now.

So I've reluctantly turned my attention to another childhood fascination: adventure thrillers. The authors I'm gunning for are Alistair MacLean, Hammond Innes, and Desmond Bagley. They're all 1950s and 1960s cheesy action stories, with square-jawed heroes who take a licking and keep on ticking. MacLean's stories, in particular, feature common elements of betrayal and convoluted intrigue (mission A is a cover for mission B, but at the end it's revealed that C has been the objective all along). I suppose the common thread is the sea--Innes wrote a lot about the sea, MacLean started with several books based on his time in the navy, and Bagley began with The Golden Keel involving a plot to smuggle gold in a boat's keel.

There's a trick to collecting books of this era (I'm not fussy about first editions, I just want a complete set of the author's work). If you go to the regular snooty kind of second hand bookshop, you're likely to pay $5 a piece for the damn things. If you go to Goodwill and junk shops, where the focus isn't so much on books as other cruft, they can be as low as 10c per. I learned this the hard way, of course, visiting two stores in the wrong order so that I found in the second store a selection of books I'd already paid an order of magnitude more for.


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  • I found an excellent summary of the Alistair MacLean formula on a Scottish writers website:

    A hero, a band of men, hostile climate, a ruthless enemy and, as often as not, a Judas figure who almost upsets the mission.

    Read a couple and you'll see how accurate it is :-) MacLean, by the way, wrote The Guns of Navarone, which was a popular movie. (Many of his other books were turned into successful movies, though none with so much success as Guns).


  • The authors I'm gunning for are Alistair MacLean, Hammond Innes, and Desmond Bagley.

    Next time you're over here in the UK, look out for the Charity Shops (Cancer Reasearch, Oxfam, British Heart Foundation and many, many others). Invariable you'll find a plethora of books by those authors. In fact I defy to find a charity shop that does have at least one!