The Mysteries of the MacLones

Several writers continued to write in the wake of the success of Alistair MacLean. Depending on your definition, a total of 16 or 18 novels were written by five different authors. But almost every one of these ‘ghost writers’ constitutes a bit of a mystery. Who were they and what became of them after they finished writing these so-called MacLones.

[1] John Denis
John Denis was a pseudonym of John Edwards and Denis Frost. John Edwards (1938-2012) worked at the BBC and was during the course of his career there a broadcaster, deputy editor of Today, editor of That’s LifeTonight and Checkpoint. Denis Frost (1925), who as a journalist worked for the British newspaper The Guardian, completed the duo.

They were chosen for the task of turning Alistair MacLean’s first two storylines featuring UNACO into proper novels because they had published a now almost forgotten thriller called The Moscow Horse in 1978.

Under the pseudonym John Denis, Edwards and Frost managed to publish Hostage Tower (1980) and Air Force One is Down (1981).

John Denis subsequently published another two thrillers: Zero Plus One (1985) and Goliath (1987).

Then they stopped writing.

[2] Alastair MacNeill
Alastair MacNeill (1960) wrote a total of seven thrillers, based on six storylines and one short story that were left by Alistair MacLean. The novels that were based on these outlines were Death Train (1989), Night Watch (1989), Red Alert (1990), Time of the Assassins (1991), Dead Halt (1992) and Code Breaker (1993). Rendezvous (1995) was an expanded version of the short story of the same name that was published in his collection of short stories The Lonely Sea.

According to the blurb of the first novel and the current author page on the website of HarperCollinsPublishers, ‘MacNeill… having nurtured a keen interest in writing since his teens, [..] returned to the United Kingdom in 1985 hoping to pursue a career as a writer. He submitted a manuscript to HarperCollins Publishers and, on the strength of it, was offered the chance to write a novel based on an outline by the late Alistair MacLean. He eventually wrote seven novels based on MacLean synopses and has also written five novels under his own name’.

The entire author profile smells fishy, the submitted manuscript that started his career was never published and I’m wondering why Alastair MacNeill hasn’t written a novel since 2000 when one reads that he came to Britain to ‘pursue a career in writing’.

His agent at Christopher Little claims (personal communication, June 7, 2013) that ‘Alastair MacNeill has not permanently retired from writing, but he does not have any work that is due to be published in the near future either’ and – rather cryptically – that ‘He has not written anything under a pseudonym’. Which is technically true if Alastair MacNeill is itself a pseudonym.

Curiously, shorty after I had contact with his agents, MacNeill’s profile on their website changed. It now claims that Alastair MacNeill ‘has now moved back to live in South Africa’.

[3] Simon Gandolfi
Simon Gandolfi (1933) wrote his first novel, Even With the Shutters Closed, as far back as 1965. He did write some thriller-like novels and on that basis was contracted to write three novels about an ex-British intelligence agent Trent and his catamaran Golden Girl that were once to be the basis of a movie or television series in the 1970s. When Alistair MacLean divorced his second wife, she had been granted the rights to the script as part of the settlement but had failed to make any progress with it. The rights were eventually bought back by MacLean’s estate in 1989.

In the end, Simon Gandolfi wrote five novels featuring Trent but only the first three are considered true MacLones: Golden Girl (1992), Golden Web (1993) and Golden Vengeance (1994). Hardly anybody knows that the sequels, White Sands (1995) and Aftermath (2000), also have Trent as their main character. These thrillers can be considered rogue MacLones.
Simon Gandolfi now writes about his travels around the world on his motorbike.

Any mention about his five books about Trent has been carefully removed from both his site and weblog, though his website retains some small images of the covers.

[4] Hugh Miller
The website of HarperCollins mentions that ‘Hugh Miller was born in Scotland. He is the author of the best seller Ambulance, as well as the highly acclaimed Mike Fletcher crime novels. He is an acknowledged expert on forensic medicine and has numerous TV credits’.

Hugh Miller (1937) wrote more than a dozen tie-ins for popular television series such as Eastenders and Ballykissangel. His crime novels about DI Mike Fletcher, Skin Deep (1991) and An Echo of Justice (1992), earned him the honour of writing the two final books based on Alistair MacLean’s UNACO: Prime Target (1997) and Borrowed Time (1998).

Hugh Miller has no known website and, since then, veered away from thrillers and after that only wrote books about forensic medicine.

[5] Sam Llewellyn
The next author to tackle the stories of Alistair MacLean was Sam Llewellyn (1948). Llewellyn is an avid sailor whose interest in the sea and sailing is reflected not only in his thrillers but also in his books for children. No wonder then that he was asked to write two sequels to The Guns of Navarone and Force 10 from NavaroneStorm Force Navarone (1997) and Thunderbolt from Navarone (1999).

What is a bit of a mystery is why these novels do not feature on Llewellyn’s website. He does seem justly proud of all other books and articles he has ever written.

[6] X is for Unknown
As there is renewed interest in the stories of Alistair MacLean, the publishers HarperCollinsPublishers may be considering contracting an author to write a new novel.

Maybe HarperCollinsPublishers or David Brawn, publishing director for estates at HarperCollinsPublishers, should contact me because I should be able to write the next MacLone.

Keep visiting this website to be informed of the latest developments.

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