Friday, August 05, 2011

Forgotten Books: The Satan Bug -- Ian Stuart (Alistair MacLean)

Kerrie Smith talked about this one acouple of years ago, but I figure it never hurts to mention a good book again. Besides, I'm a big fan of Alistair MacLean when he's writing as Ian Stuart, and I wanted to reread the book. Even having read it a couple of times and knowing all MacLean's tricks, I still thoroughly enjoyed it. Not everyone will feel the same, I'm sure. The writing will seem old-fashioned to some and corny to others. ("The fiends," the General murmured. "The ruthless fiends.") None of this bothers me in the least. It just adds to the fun.

MacLean was at his best in early books like this one. There's deception after deception, with both the reader and the protagonist being fooled, though the reader's more in the dark than the protagonist. Pierre Clavell is the narrator, apparently recently kicked out of his job as head of security at Britain's top-secret biological warfare lab and now a private-investigator. There's a security breach at the lab, and toxins are missing, including one that can wipe out all life on earth within a short time and for which there's no antidote. It's up to Clavell to find the toxins and save the world.

When it comes to writing about men driven to extremes, it's hard to top MacLean. Clavell is sliced and diced and beaten and choked and so on. He doesn't sleep in the course of the novel, which spans a couple of days. I don't recall that he eats, either. MacLean throws curve after curve into the story as the plot not only thickens but gets goofier and goofier. And, yes, I still loved every page of it.

I read somewhere the MacLean was out of print in the U. S. What a sad state of affairs. My other comments about MacLean's books can be found here, here, here, and here. Did I mention that I was a fan?


Scott Cupp said...

I also like this book and have a fond spot for the movie

pattinase (abbott) said...

I was a big fan too but don't think I realized this was him and never read it. Those darn pen names.

Anonymous said...

I read it and saw the movie but I can't remember much about it at this late date. But look at that cast: George Maharis — Lee Barrett
Richard Basehart — Dr. Gregor Hoffman / Charles Reynolds Ainsley
Anne Francis — Ann Williams
Dana Andrews — General Williams
John Larkin — Dr. Leonard Michaelson
Richard Bull — Eric Cavanaugh
Frank Sutton — Donald
Edward Asner — Veretti
Simon Oakland — Tasserly (deputy administrator)
John Anderson — Reagan
Hari Rhodes — Johnson
Martin Blane — Martin
Henry Beckman — Dr. Baxter
Harry Lauter — Fake SDI agent
James Hong — Dr. Yang
James Doohan, Harold Gould

They don't make them like that anymore.

And get off my lawn!


Anonymous said...

Looking at that list I couldn't help but wonder how many are still active (or still alive, for that matter). The one that jumps out is Ed Asner. The other one still active is James Hong (who is 82.)

Anne Francis and Harold Gould died recently. I see Richard Bull just turned 87 and was acting as recently as 2008.


George said...

It's sad that Alistair MacLean is out-of-print in the U.S. He could write High Adventure!

J F Norris said...

I've only read BEAR ISLAND, GOLDEN GATE, CIRCUS and BREAKHEART PASS. His books make pretty good movies. Ice Station Zebra was one of my favorites when I was growing up. (saw it on TV for the first time) I also remember the speed boat chase in Puppet on a Chain as one of the most thrilling in any movie from the 1970s.

Unknown said...

ICE STATION ZEBRA is a great book.