Novels that weren’t written by Alistair MacLean

In the olden days, when internet wasn’t invented yet and amazon.co.uk nor its sister site imdb.com weren’t there to help, it could be very problematic to check who wrote a book or who played in a movie. Thus, in my first edition of the truly massive Twentieth Century Crime and Mystery Writers (1568 pages) from 1980, some novels were erroneously attributed to Alistair MacLean.

The problem arose with Alistair MacLean’s choice of his pseudonym Ian Stuart when he decided to show his publishers that he could sell a huge amount of books even when his own name wasn’t on the cover. Alistair MacLean was proven wrong and both The Dark Crusader (called the The Black Shrike in the US) and The Satan Bug only really started to sell when the name of Ian Stuart was replaced by that of Alistair MacLean.

What Alistair MacLean clearly did not know was that there already was a novelist that bore the name of Ian Stuart. This real Ian Stuart (1927-1993) wrote some 19 thrillers and among them were The Snow on the Ben (1961), Death from Disclosure (1976), Flood Tide (1977), Sand Trap (1977), Fatal Switch (1978) and Weekend to Kill (1978).

These six thrillers were therefore not written by Alistair MacLean but were erroneously attributed to him in the first edition of Twentieth Century Crime and Mystery Writers.

The sad ending of this story is that Ian Stuart didn’t even get his own section in the Twentieth Century Crime and Mystery Writers and these days his novels – although quite entertaining – are simply forgotten. I think that Ian Stuart’s novels should deserve a second lease of life.

His publishers, Robert Hale Ltd, responded to my mail asking for a reappraisal of Ian Stuart and a possible re-issue of his novels with ‘We do not in fact have any plans to republish any of the Ian Stuart books, but thank you for contacting us’.

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