by Alistair Maclean

   I selected this best seller by Alistair Maclean as a book to investigate in depth, as a guide for understanding what makes a book salable and workable.
   It seems to me that this book isn't a great book, but it is a solid one.
   The plot is simple. Unknown extortion and saboteurs warn, then carry out some dastardly deeds against the Alaskan pipeline and the Athabasca shale operations. The author makes a regular and fairly successful effort to get the reader to see the settings, which form a large bulk of the story's interest. The characters are pretty much stereotypes. This book would stand well as a story line for a movie, something that Mr. Maclean has past successes in.
   I tend to think he spent his effort with this market in mind, because as an adventure novel, it is filled with too many undeveloped and unnecessary characters. E.g. there are two main investigators and their chief. I can't imagine and did not read any scenes that demanded more than one character.



   The three women characters are likewise mere baggage in 'Athabasca'. They do get kidnapped, but because they invest so little integral action, I cared too little about their fate. In a movie, their physical presence in the sets could have developed some empathy with them.
   There were a few mistakes in the book. An argument over 'blizzard' that was wrongheaded - a minus 4 degrees F is not equal to minus 36 degrees C. On page. 155, Mr. Black is head of Alberta operations, should be Alaskan operations. On p.243 a statement that cops don't like to be called 'Mr.', on the next page the cops call their leader 'Mr'.
   But these are piddling flaws, the story was fun. It was an easy read with regular doses of action.
   I couldn't follow some of his description, as of Alberta operations. The climatic scene where Dermott is almost crushed seemed a scene conceived for movies and not as good in print.
   'Athabasca' is 276 text pages, about 100,000 words. Maclean uses sleep and drink to pace the action.
   Characters - how are they distinct and necessary? Order of introduction




Book Notes
Copyright 2005