View Full Version : At the risk of being trashed......
One of my favourite maritime yarns is HMS Ulysses by Alistair Maclean.
I haven't read it for many, many years so it may have grown in stature in my mind but I remember being totally gripped by it. Its basically the story of escort ship on the Altlantic Convoys during WW2.
I think Maclean is poo-pooed somewhat in literary circles but his war adventures are imho good holiday type "Boys Own" reading, I agree some of his other stuff is rubbish, but Where Eagles Dare, Guns of Navarrone and HMS Ulysees are well worth a read, even if everyone knows the plot of the first two due to the countless running of the films on TV.
Completely agree with you. HMS Ulysses is just about my favourite war at sea book. Its absolutely gripping and authentic. Highly recommended!
First few books were quite gripping, then he started turning out film scripts
Always preferred Hammond Innes - and he wrote some cracking stories, many of them with a maritime flavour:
Air Disaster (1937)
Sabotage Broadcast (1938)
All Roads Lead to Friday (1939)
Wreckers Must Breathe (1940)
The Trojan Horse (1940)
Attack Alarm (1941)
Dead and Alive (1946)
Killer Mine (1947)
The Lonely Skier (1947)
The Blue Ice (1948)
Maddon’s Rock (1948)
The White South (1949)
The Angry Mountain (1950)
Air Bridge (1951)
Campbell’s Kingdom (1952)
The Strange Land (1954)
The Wreck of the Mary Deare (1956)
The Land God Gave to Cain (1958)
The Doomed Oasis (1960)
Atlantic Fury (1962)
The Strode Venturer (1965)
Levkas Man (1971)
Golden Soak (1973)
North Star (1975)
The Big Footprints (1977)
Solomons Seal (1980)
The Black Tide (1982)
High Stand (1985)
Target Antarctica (1993)
Delta Connection (1996)
The Last Voyage: Captain Cook’s Lost Diary (fictional diary) (1978)
I used to love Alistair Maclean when I was younger and I agree that HMS Ulysses is one of his best. I also have fond memories of Ice Station Zebra and Fear is the Key, both vaguely marine if not exactly boaty.
Also When Eight Bells Toll, set in the Western Isles.
I think HMS Ulysses was on a Russian convoy, rather than N. Atlantic. I assume you have read The Cruel Sea, as well?
Maclean developed depression and a drink problem (not sure which came first) which is the main reason why his later books were rubbish.
Ohh yes, 'Where Eight Bells toll', had forgotten about that one. Another good read, I must try and find a copy for my library.
Agree about Hammond Innes as well. My favourites are 'The wreck of the Mary Deare' and 'Maddons Rock'.
In a similar genre I also enjoyed Brian Callisons books. A little more light hearted, leastways the 'Trapps War' series. (F'r Crissakes.......)
Yes I'd forgotten about When Eight Bells Toll
You could well be right about the Russian Convoys, it is a long time since I read it. I think I'll check on Amazon to see if it is still in print.
Its a convoy to Murmansk acting as bait for the Bismark or something along those lines. Defo Russion. Not sure whether its still in print. Last year I picked up a 1950something copy in a secondhand bookshop here in Newfoundland would you believe.
I'd have thought all his books are still in print. HarperCollins publish him in the UK.
IMHO HMS Ulysses is one of the seminal pieces of WW2 naval fiction, along with the Cruel Sea. Some of Maclean's incidental details (the playing of a jaunty tune over the ship's tannoy on setting sail for Murmansk - "We're off to see the Wizard") have the ring of improbable truth about them. Critics may say the book is a bit too melodramatic, but for me it brings home the horror of the events.
I admit a vested interest, as my Dad served on an escort carrier on the Murmansk run...
Shame to hear that..but I agree that all the early books were terrific the later ones really petered out. I grew up on Hammond Innes... a bit formulaic...did he ever write anything that wasn't in the first person, and had a hero having a mid-life crisis ?? but a superb read. The later books were embarrassing though especially when he tried writing about sex...should have left that to Harold Robbins and Jacqueline Susann.
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