HYDERABAD: I’d have been a lot more of a discerning reader had I not discovered Alistair MacLean; and gobbled up the whole lot of those short, squat, 250-odd page Rupa reprints of his books. Between classes six and nine, I had fi nished off the 30-odd books that he had written, and whatever else within the general framework of thrillers that I could get my hands on - Desmond Bagley, Frederick Forsyth, Sidney Sheldon, Jeffrey Archer and the likes. So dear college literary society senior who thought a snooty ‘reads too many thrillers’ was a putdown of any kind, it isn’t quite so.
Scenes from the movie Where Eagles Dare You could encounter Alistair MacLean (pronounced ma-CLAIN, and not MACK-lin as we would pronounce it then) in the sixth standard school libraries, even in our prim-and-propah countryside Catholic Missionary schools, because MacLean’s books would hardly have a kiss, leave alone lovemaking. But they would have lots and lots (and lots more) of action. MacLean’s books contained, now that I think of it, a very typically British kind of virile, muscular abstinence. But for us hormonallycharged eleven and twelve-year-olds, this move from the Hardy Boys and the Famous Fives of the world to this actual, serious, violent action was very much welcome.
The other writers We gladly welcomed Sidney Sheldon, and the other kind of hormonal stimulation in about the seventh standard, but that’s for another day. And we read. We would normally pick up a book from the library, fi nish a book up in 3 days, and then exchange with a friend’s book, and fi nish that too. MacLean was not a master of the written word by any stretch of the imagination. Different characters You would not fi nd well-defi ned lead characters. Woman characters were extremely unremarkable and superfi cial, serving no purpose except for as plot devices. But MacLean wrote excellent action scenes. He wrote innovative plots. And he could tell a story. He has been in the Navy and had a taste of the World War II, so he knew what he was talking about. Basically, within the framework that he operated in, he worked very well.