Monday, July 18, 2011

Force 10 From Navarone - Alastair MacLean

 Force 10 From Navarone is the only sequel Alastair MacLean wrote in his long and distinguished writing career. He wrote it due to the success of the film adaption of The Guns of Navarone and yet he wrote this novel eight years after the movie was released. For me after I read this last night I was very surprised by the fact I remembered more from this novel than from its predecessor.

 I'm not sure why as I read this, like Navarone, thirty years. But when I think back I re-call enjoying this novel more even then. I actually still do! Opinions differ as to whether Force 10 is a worthy successor to Navarone but for me I think it is. If anything by this stage MacLean had been writing for over ten years and I think his experience and confidence is apparent in this novel. Why? Because MacLean was a master of intrigue and deviousness, and Force 10 sees him at his very best with double cross followed by triple cross!

 The novel follows immediately on from Navarone, in fact the very same night! Why I think this is the better novel is that MacLean deceives the reader with Mallory and his teams mission into Yugoslavia. His plot twists and turns are devious and very cunning but the masterful thing is that they are only half of the story. Once the cover of the initial 'supposed' mission is exposed by Maclean the real one begins, and the novel turns from a craftily written thriller, where nothing is what it seemed, into an action novel extraordinaire!

 The remarkable thing about this novel is its brevity. It is only 200 pages long and I read it in six hours or so reading time. It is amazing and a true testament to MacLean's writing skills that so much is packed into such a relatively short novel. The whole thing bristles with pace and suspense, not to mention a great non-stop action sequence, which takes up the last third of the novel.

 I think most of the criticism of this novel is somewhat unwarranted because a poor novel does not spend five months on the New York Times Best Seller List! Unfortunately the film adaptation wasn't as well received! In fact it failed to re-coup its budget. It was made in 1978 and was directed by Guy Hamilton who had made several James Bond films previously. None of the original stars returned as they would have been too old for the roles, but still it had a stellar cast with Robert Shaw, a young Harrison Ford, Edward fox, Barbara Bach, and Richard Kiel, ( more famous as 'Jaws' from the Bond movies).

 The movie adaptation had very little in common with the novel. It was a flop and I can't even remember if I have seen it! I probably have but if it was so poor it may explain why I can't picture it in my mind. Interestingly MacLean chose to follow on the start of this novel from how the film  adaptation ended and not that of the Navarone novel. He includes several characters in this novel who were from the film and not the novel, like Maria, who is about to marry Andrea. He probably done it so he could sell the novel's film rights, ( after all writing was his career and he had to make a living doing it). It is just a shame that the Navarone film wasn't followed up by a worthy successor.

The military aspect of the novel is complete fabrication and total historical nonsense! But this is fiction and MacLean has taken  the actual Battle of Neretva and embellished it a bit. I won't go into the inaccuracies as they are pointless. MacLean though was always at pains in his novels to clearly state his intentional inaccuracies in the pursuit of an exciting fictional narrative. More modern readers will recognise though the distrust of Yugoslavian politics from the 1990's war. The Chetniks and their collaboration with the Germans was real and Maclean uses that in the novel.

 Certainly a fine novel and an example of Alastair MacLean at his best. I think this is a better novel than The Guns of Navarone and highlights Maclean's fantastic use of cunning twists and turns. He packs so much into his novels which is a surprise when it is considered how short they are. Force 10 From Navarone is almost like two novels in one as Maclean leads the reader, and his characters, on a cleverly disguised red herring, which culminates in a very exciting war novel.

 A very good Alastair MacLean novel which shows him at his very best. Recommended.

 Click here for a look at the actual Battle of Neretva which is the backdrop to the novel:

 I must admit to having read very little on the Yugoslav Partisans and their war against the Germans. A lot of that has to do with unavailability of reading material. I'm not sure that much has been printed in English either which isn't a help. But if you wish to read a bit on this subject then Fitzroy Maclean's famous book, Eastern Approaches, is a good starting point as he goes into the internecine politics of the various Yugoslav groups and the communist distrust rampant against the outside world. Amongst that he does state they did fight Germans when not squabbling amongst themselves.

 New Zealander Lindsey Rodgers was a surgeon and he went into Yugoslavia to pass on surgical techniques to partisan doctors. He wrote of his experiences in Guerrilla Surgeon. It is a very common book here in NZ but may be less common worldwide. If you can find a copy  it makes for harrowing reading, and like MacLean he shows the communist distrust of outsiders and also the brutal war the Yugoslavs were engaged in against the Germans.

 Also one of the German units involved in the anti-partisan duties was the 7th SS Mountain Division "Prinz Eugen". It was made of of 'Volks Deutsch', mainly from south-eastern Europe. As a division it never really shaped up even after numerous battles with the partisans due to its cosmopolitan make-up. It is written by Otto Kumm ( who has written other works on the various SS divisions ), but being a divisional history is rather dry.


  1. It is agreat book and I really enjoyed it. Just can't remember seeing the movie. Might be one to forever avoid!