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Friday, 8 May 2015

FFB - Night Without End

In 1959, when Alistair Maclean published Night Without End, his fifth novel, he was on the crest of a wave of popularity. Surprisingly, perhaps, he switched from third-person narrative to first, and continued using this point of view for the next five novels.


It begins sedately enough, a long paragraph that introduces us to the almost superhuman Jackstraw, Nils Nielsen, an Inuit, while also imparting a slice of knowledge about faking fossils for collectors. Then all hell is let loose, as a BOAC airliner crashes near the scientific research base in the arctic wastes of Greenland.

The narrator is Dr Peter Mason.  

Mason is your typical Maclean hero, laconic, brave, and possessing a dry sense of humour. He and a fellow researcher set out to determine if there are any survivors from the crash.
 
They manage to bring back six men and four women: Reverend Joseph Smallwood, retired actress Marie LeGarde, Nick Corazzini, a businessman, Solly Levin, boxing coach, Johnny Zagero, boxer, Helene Fleming, the personal maid of London socialite, Mrs Dansby-Gregg, Theodore Mahler, Senator Hoffman Brewster, and Margaret Ross, air-stewardess. Classic Maclean, throwing together an assortment of individuals, each with some submerged history.

Not everyone is who they appear, of course.
 
Add the usual ingredients, murder, sabotage, suspicions, and imminent threat, combined with the unforgiving cold of the arctic, and you have a good page-turning yarn that still stands up very well even after fifty-six years.

2 comments:

Bill Crider said...

This is one of my favorites by MacLean. Nobody writes cold-weather thrillers any better. I find a lot of his early books hold up very well. I reread them now and then because the plots still trick me.

Nik Morton said...

I agree, Bill, he handled cold well. I think his later clunkers included Puppet on a Chain, Way to Dusty Death and Circus. I quite liked Breakheart Pass (book and film!)