I guess Jack Higgins might be one of my guilty reading pleasures. He is one of the authors whom I have purchased the hardback books when they first come out (although not so much so for the last ten years) even though, as thrillers I rarely have gone back and re-read them. I know he replaced Alistair MacLean for me as the thriller author that I devoured.
Higgins wiki intro:
Jack Higgins (born 27 July 1929) is the principal pseudonym of UK novelist Harry Patterson. Patterson is the author of more than 60 novels. As Higgins, most have been thrillers of various types and, since his breakthrough novel The Eagle Has Landed in 1975, nearly all have been bestsellers. The Eagle Has Landed sold over fifty million copies.
As is often the case, I can’t remember exactly which of Higgins’ books I first read. I do know it was a paperback that it looks like was first published under another pseudonym and was one of a small series:
Patterson’s early novels, written under his own name as well as under the pseudonyms James Graham, Martin Fallon, and Hugh Marlowe, are brisk, competent, but essentially forgettable thrillers that typically feature hardened, cynical heroes, ruthless villains, and dangerous locales. Patterson published thirty-five such novels (sometimes three or four a year) between 1959 and 1974, learning his craft. East of Desolation (1968), A Game for Heroes (1970) and The Savage Day (1972) stand out among his early work for their vividly drawn settings (Greenland, the Channel Islands, and Belfast, respectively) and offbeat plots.
For a long time, Higgins seemed to alternate, with a World War II action/adventure book followed by a more contemporary action then back to WWII but around 1992 or so he pretty much abandoned the WWII genre and stayed more current. The WWII books tended to be of the “commandos dropped behind enemy lines” although the commandos were as likely to be German behind Allied lines as US or British behind German lines.
Most of his books from the last twenty years have had a former IRA terrorist/assassin named Sean Dillon as the lead character. Dillon morphed from the bad guy to the good guy fairly quickly and was quickly “recruited” to be a member of “the Prime Minister’s Army” which is a small group lead by a Brigadier that is supposedly outside of the normal intelligence services. As wiki notes:
Cast as the central character over the next series of novels, it is apparent that Dillon is in many ways an amalgamation of Patterson’s previous heroes — Chavasse with his flair for languages, Nick Miller’s familiarity with martial arts and jazz keyboard skills, Simon Vaughan’s Irish roots, facility with firearms and the cynicism that comes with assuming the responsibility of administering a justice unavailable through a civilized legal system.
Higgins has mined the IRA for both good and bad for many of his books including the Sean Dillon books and the Liam Devlin books (beginning with The Eagle Has Landed.)
Besides The Eagle Has Landed Higgins’ IMDB shows a couple of other commercial release movies with The Wrath of God starring Robert Mitchum and based on the book of the same name (by another pseudonym – James Graham) and A Prayer for the Dying starring Mickey Rourke, Liam Neeson, and Bob Hoskins. Through the 1980s and 1990s, there were seven different TV movies based on Higgins books, five of which starred Rob Lowe or Kyle Maclachlan as Sean Dillon.
Higgins is not a tough read and probably is not everyone’s favorite although most of his books do seem to hit the NY Times bestseller list. But they are fun, action, well written, and provide a few interesting “what-ifs” and “may-have-beens” that you can read without having to have great philosophical discussions.