FORGOTTEN BOOKS: SKYLARK MISSION BY IAN MACALISTER!
Back in the day, before bloated thrillers dominated the bookstore shelves, there was a genre that was truly thrilling – high adventure. Practiced by the likes of Desmond Bagley, Alistair MacLean, Hammond Innes, and others, the high adventure genre was the pulp adventure story on steroids. These tales featured exotic locations, staunch heroes, and complicated their main plot lines with the threats provided by Mother Nature – mountains, deserts, jungles, icebergs, oceans, hurricanes, blizzards, storms, earthquakes, and anything else the weather or ecology could produce.
In the late ‘70s, four books in this genre were written by Ian MacAlister – all of which I enjoyed, especially Skylark Mission featuring the very tough Sam Flood.
I long suspected Ian MacAlister – an apparent blending of Ian Fleming and Alistair MacLean – was a pen name. Just recently I found out by reading a post from blog buddy Bill Crider that Ian MacAlister was in reality Marvin Albert, a journeyman writer whose other work (especially his Stone Angel P.I. novels set in Paris) I have long enjoyed.
Albert was clearly able to turn his talents to any genre and produce a readable story. But in the four high adventure books he wrote as Ian MacAlister (Skylark Mission, Driscoll’s Diamonds, Strike Force 7, and Valley of the Assassins), he produced some of his best work.
Some said Sam Flood wasn’t his real name; that his papers bearing that name were either forged or stolen. According to stories, he was wanted by the law under his real name. The stories varied, but it all remained conjecture. No one really knew.
All they ever knew about Sam Flood was he’d been sailing merchant ships on Pacific runs for the past five years. That he was a good man to have with you on a job, and a bad man to have against you in a fight. And that he was the second mate on the Fleming on the night the torpedo sank it.
Sam Flood was a survivor. Which was why he managed to stay alive after the ship sank. There were others on his raft, but Flood took charge. He was that kind of man. And he led them straight into a trap – A Japanese torpedo-boat base on the Island of New Britain.
The Japanese turned their base into a prison camp. But Flood was determined to escape. Determined to return with help, free the prisoners, and blow up the base.
From the moment Flood did escape, the whole island was caught up in the aftermath.
Now with only a handful of men, a battered old plane, and a few grenades, Flood made his desperate move. To the others it was a suicide mission. Only Sam Flood had faith. But he needed a lot more than faith.
Skylark Mission is a fine example of the high adventure genre, and displays all of Albert//Macalister’s writing chops. Published under the venable Gold Medal imprint, the four MacAlister titles hold up well in the modern era, can still be found through used book services, and should be read with high anticipation.