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Creator / Alistair MacLean

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Alistair Stuart MacLean (21 April 1922 – 2 February 1987) was a Scottish writer of adventure/thriller/war fiction. The son of a clergyman, English was his second language (after Gaelic Scots). During WWII he served on the cruiser HMS Royalist and saw action in the Atlantic, the Arctic, the Mediterranean and the Pacific.

His novels focused on adventure exploits in far-flung reaches of the world (poles, jungles, and the Golden Gate Bridge.) Frequently he made use of naval themes and military characters. His first novel, HMS Ulysses, is considered a classic in naval literature. Among the novels that have been adapted into movies are The Guns of Navarone and Where Eagles Dare.

His work came in two major periods, with a three year hiatus spent running a hotel in England. Many feel the novels published after the hiatus were significantly inferior to his earlier work. Most of his “classic” novels were published before 1963.

More information on MacLean and his work can be found at

Works by Alistair MacLean (or their film adaptations) with their own trope page include:

Works by Alistair MacLean provide examples of:

  • Coffin Contraband: In The Golden Rendezvous, the ship is searched for a stolen nuclear mini-missile. Later the protagonist looks in the one place they didn't search, the coffins they're conveying to the occupant's home country for burial. Later the scientist who invented the missile gets smuggled in the coffins in its place — he's not happy about it.
  • Creator Thumbprint: Women named Mary (or near equivalent) are common in his novels.
    • Bear Island has an actress with the stage name Mary Stuart.
    • Breakheart Pass has Marica.
    • The Guns of Navarone: one of the resistance fighters is Maria.
    • The Satan Bug: the protagonist's wife is called Mary.
    • The Way to Dusty Death: the protagonist's girlfriend is called Mary.
    • Where Eagles Dare: Allied special agent Mary.
  • Extruded Book Product: Some of MacLean’s 1980s novels were reportedly ghostwritten. After his death, further novels from his outlines were published under the pen name Alistair MacNeal.
  • Plot Hole: MacLean’s late-period books contain some howlers. Floodgate has an undercover detective, known to the villains, go through minor plastic surgery to conceal his face under fake scars that won’t wash off. Not long afterward he meets the villains again — in his official police persona. The villains don’t notice.
  • Rated M for Manly: MacLean described his work as “adventure stories.” One critic called the stories “romance novels for boys, which means very little romance and lots of danger, complicated weaponry and battle-forged camaraderie.”
  • World War II: MacLean served in the Royal Navy during WWII. Many of his best-loved stories were set during the war.
  • Write What You Know: HMS Ulysses is about a Royal Navy warship escorting a convoy in the Arctic. MacLean had served on the Arctic convoys himself, including the ill-fated PQ17.