The Novels (written by others)

[01] 1980 Hostage Tower [by John Denis | UNACO-01]

[02] 1981 Air Force One is Down [by John Denis | UNACO-02]

[03] 1989 Death Train [by Alastair MacNeill | UNACO-03]

[04] 1989 Night Watch [by Alastair MacNeill | UNACO-04]

[05] 1990 Red Alert [by Alastair MacNeill | UNACO-05]

[06] 1991 Time of the Assassins [by Alastair MacNeill | UNACO-06]

[07] 1992 Golden Girl [by Simon Gandolfi | Golden Girl-01]

[08] 1992 Dead Halt [by Alastair MacNeill | UNACO-07]

[09] 1993 Golden Web [by Simon Gandolfi | Golden Girl-02]

[10] 1993 Code Breaker [by Alastair MacNeill | UNACO-08]

[11] 1994 Golden Vengeance [Simon Gandolfi | Golden Girl-03]

[12] 1995 Rendezvous [by Alastair MacNeill]

[13] 1997 Prime Target [by Hugh Miller | UNACO-09]

[14] 1997 Storm Force Navarone [by Sam Llewellyn]

[15] 1998 Borrowed Time [by Hugh Miller | UNACO-10]

[16] 1999 Thunderbolt from Navarone [Sam Llewellyn]

The Novels

[00] 1954 The Cruise of the Golden Girl

[01] 1955 HMS Ulysses

[02] 1957 The Guns of Navarone

[03] 1957 South by Java Head

[04] 1959 The Secret Ways – The Last Frontier

[05] 1959 Night Without End

[06] 1961 Fear is the Key

[07] 1961 The Black Shrike – The Dark Crusader

[08] 1962 The Golden Rendezvous

[09] 1962 The Satan Bug

[10] 1963 Ice Station Zebra

[11] 1966 When Eight Bells Toll

[12] 1967 Where Eagles Dare

[13] 1968 Force 10 From Navarone

[14] 1969 Puppet on a Chain

[15] 1970 Caravan to Vaccares

[16] 1971 Bear Island

[17] 1973 The Way to Dusty Death

[18] 1974 Breakheart Pass

[19] 1975 Circus

[20] 1976 The Golden Gate

[21] 1977 Seawitch

[22] 1978 Goodbye California

[23] 1980 Athabasca

[24] 1981 River of Death

[25] 1982 Partisans

[26] 1983 Floodgate

[27] 1984 San Andreas

[28] 1985 The Lonely Sea

• The Dileas

• St George and the Dragon

• The Arandora Star

• Rawalpindi

• The Sinking of the Bismarck

• The Meknes

• MacHinery and the Cauliflowers

• Lancastria

• McCrimmon and the Blue Moonstones

• They Sweep the Seas

• City of Benares

• The Gold Watch

• Rendezvous

• The Jervis Bay

• The Good Samaritan

• The Black Storm

[29] 1986 Santorini

Shona MacLean: Alistair MacLean’s Niece

Shona MacLean (1966) is one of the five children of Alistair MacLean’s brother Gillespie MacLean and his wife Margaret. Her progress through life was closely followed by her uncle Alistair MacLean and he even encouraged her to become a writer.

While at university, Shona studied in France for a while and Alistair MacLean – not wanting his niece to waste time and effort on menial jobs to earn a bit of money – simply suggested to deposit the then considerable sum of ₤3,000 for her. He told Shona that she could “pay him back when I’m old and decrepit and bankrupt”.

[Image: Shona MacLean,Source: Quercus]

By the time she started working on her first novel, in her early twenties, her uncle had died. She didn’t finish that first effort and only recently returned to writing. Shona MacLean, currently lives in Conon Bridge (Scotland) with her husband, Dr James Vance, the rector at Golspie High School, and their four children.

At the moment Shona MacLean has published a total of four novels and they all feature Alexander Seaton, a disgraced minister turned teacher who is caught up in the political and religious turmoil of Scotland in the early 17th century.

Her first novel is called The Redemption of Alexander Seaton and her publishers have called it “a compelling thriller and brilliant historical novel”. That she has all the historical facts correct is no wonder: Shona MacLean completed a PhD in 17th century history at Aberdeen University.

But you could run into problems if you should want to search for books that bear her name because her publishers, Quercus, have decided to re-brand her books under the name of S.G. MacLean. “The thinking was that my name was too soft and feminine and men wouldn’t buy my books,” she explained. It is however an obvious attempt to emulate the success of Joanne Rowling, better known as J.K. Rowling.

All of this is really unnecessary because the books should speak for themselves. They are simply brilliantly written historical novels. They also show that Shona MacLean is a worthy successor to her uncle.

A novel ‘With the impact of Alistair MacLean’

Group Captain Eugene Emile Vielle (E.E. Vielle) was born in London in 1913, the son of a naval officer. His career in the Royal Air Force ranged from being a fighter pilot to world-wide duties during Word War II. He ended the war commanding one of the largest RAF bases in England and in 1949 he was appointed Deputy Director of Operational Requirements at the Air Ministry in London. Quite an impressive career. Vielle celebrates his 100th birthday this year.

Vielle wrote two novels that were marketed as ‘With the Impact of Alistair MacLean’. While No Subway is now a somewhat dated – and justly forgotten – story about problems that could possibly occur during the construction of the Channel Tunnel, his The Shadow of Kuril is a still harrowing story that features HMS Thunderer, the latest of the navy’s nuclear submarines that disappears.

Does The Shadow of Kuril even now has the impact of Alistair MacLean? I dare you to buy and read the novel and I can assure you that it still delivers the same punch as it once did in 1971.

The Shadow of Kuril casts a long shadow. Read it and understand why the publisher thought this novel had (and still has) the impact of Alistair MacLean. The Master Storyteller himself would agree.

Novels that weren’t written by Alistair MacLean

In the olden days, when internet wasn’t invented yet and nor its sister site 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’.

Four Sea Thrillers Re-Issued

HarperCollinsPublishers have decided to re-issue four classic tales of adventure at sea from Alistair Maclean, the master of action and suspense, and make them available for the first time in an e-bundle.

Discover why Alistair MacLean was the most popular thriller writer of his generation in these four classic stories of the sea, from the treacherous frozen seas of the north Atlantic, to the warmer but no less deadly waters of the Caribbean and Mediterranean.

This publication features San AndreasThe Golden RendezvousSea Witch and Santorini. The publication date is expected to be August 15, 2013.

The Mysteries of the Arctic Convoys

As described in my previous article here, Alistair MacLean served on HMS Royalist, a light cruiser of the Dido-Class of the Royal Navy. HMS Royalist was launched on May 30, 1942 and was commissioned after rigorous trials and tests in September of 1943. Following her commissioning, HMS Royalist spent several months of extra trials, during which time she underwent repairs for trial defects and for alterations and additions. In March 1944 HMS Royalist finally joined the Home Fleet and served for a short period in the Arctic theatre.


On the Naval History website it is mentioned that HMS Royalist protected only a single convoy. Although the dates do conflict with the official reports, the convoy, designated HX 276, departed from Halifax, Canada on or around January 22, 1944. HMS Royalist joined the convoy on February 2, 1944 and left the convoy after a rather uneventful journey on February 5, 1944. Weather conditions were described as average for the time of the year in the North Atlantic: throughout January 28 and 29 a moderate gale blew from the south, veering to the southwest, making it impossible to oil the escorts. Most of the escorts were occupied in rounding up stragglers.

Jack Webster in his book, Alistair MacLean, A Life, wrote that ‘MacLean’s ship took part in only two full runs to the outskirts of Murmansk…’ Sadly, this statement cannot be verified at this moment.

On March 30th HMS Royalist joined the escort for several battleships – HMS Anson, HMS Duke of York – and the aircraft carriers HMS Furious, HMS Victorious and HMS Jamaica in an unsuccessful attack on the German battleship Tirpitz, which was hiding in the Norwegian Altafjord (Operation Tungsten).

On her return from that sortie, HMS Royalist was ordered back to the Tyne shipyard for an extensive refit that lasted until August 1944. HMS Royalist was then ordered to steam to the Mediterranean to support the allied landings in the south of France (Operation Dragoon).

All this seems to suggest that Alistair MacLean might have used more of his imagination and less of his wartime experience in the Artic to write his terrific novels that feature ships, cold, ice and wind, such as HMS UlyssesBear Island and San Andreas. But one should never underestimate the long-lasting effects of intense fear on a person’s psyche. Which means that fear might be the key to unlocking Alistair MacLean.

The Beginning

From 1943 onwards, Alistair MacLean was stationed on HMS Royalist which was part of the Home Fleet with orders to escort convoys on the North Atlantic en route to Murmansk. Too many ships and their crews did not make it safely back from that frozen part of hell.


Like so many others, Alistair MacLean, never talked about his harrowing experiences in the Second World War but it surely must have had a lasting psychological effect on him. Although HMS Royalist was deemed lucky – it got through with nothing more than a hole in the funnel – the combination of horrendous weather conditions and the ever present danger of imminent death would result in what is now known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (or PTSD) in many a survivor.

Later in the war, HMS Royalist was sent to the Mediterranean and the Far East. Alistair MacLean was apparently wounded during his service because his mother once detected a wound in his back. This injury was never satisfactory explained but a clue can possibly be gleaned from HMS Ulysses, where MacLean described a shell exploding in its barrel, hurling two men against a bulkhead, resulting in terrible injuries. A third man was luckily thrown through an open door behind him and sustaining only minor injuries. Because a similar episode happened on HMS Royalist, there’s reason to believe that MacLean was that third man.

After the war, MacLean got an Honours degree in English at Glasgow University, and taught at Gallowfleet Secondary School. He was described as a taciturn, gaunt fellow who often mumbled.

PTSD can be viewed a continuous depression as a result of experiences of intense fear, helplessness or horror. Symptoms for PTSD include nightmares, flashbacks, avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, a general numbing of emotional responsiveness, acute and unpredictable episodes of anger. Heavy use of alcohol is often associated with numbing and forgetting.

It also might explain why Alistair MacLean at first only wrote stories – among them The Cruise of the Golden Girl and The Dileas – about sailing in the Scottish waters. Those settings are far removed from the horrors of the north Atlantic. He would feel safe, secure and at home writing about sailing in these waters.

The success of The Dileas resulted in a request from the publishing company Collins to write a full-length novel for them and he responded six weeks later with HMS Ulysses, based on his own war experiences. The writing must have been both traumatic and a meaningful way of dealing with his emotional problems.

I understand. I’m still fighting my own demons too.

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.


Alistair MacLean wrote 29 thrillers (including the collection of short stories in The Lonely Sea). Other writers, such as John Denis, Alastair MacNeill, Simon Gandolfi, Hugh Miller and Sam Llewellyn, created novels out of story lines, short stories and ideas from Alistair MacLean.

The last novel to reach the bookstores in 1999 was Thunderbolt from Navarone, a story by Sam Llewellyn and a sequel to Alistair MacLean’s The Guns of Navarone and Force 10 from Navarone.

But not everything Alistair MacLean has ever written was put into print or made into a movie.

If we try to collect the rumours that were made public piecemeal in the years after Alistair MacLean passed away we come to some surprising conclusions.

  • [1] Comments made in 2009 by David Brawn, publishing director for estates at HarperCollinsPublishers, reveal that ‘there are around a dozen of MacLean’s unpublished works that could be adapted into new titles by other authors‘. At the moment, these works are simply collecting dust in the offices of that publisher but this renewed interest in Alistair MacLean might be a great opportunity to start hiring a writer.
    BTW: I am able to contact David Brawn and am willing to forward any requests or questions to him!


  • [2] In 1995, Alistair MacLean’s friend and literary executor, David Bishop, made a search of the cellars of MacLean’s mansion on the shores of Lake Geneva and found three short stories that were unknown to anyone but the author. Two of these short stories we know; The Black Stormand The Good Samaritan. Both short stories were added to a new imprint of The Lonely Sea. The title of the third story remains a mystery.


  • [3] The above mentioned search also revealed a complete 153 page long screenplay titled The Swashbuckler, a pirate adventure and it was written in 1968. This manuscript can also be turned into a exiting new novel.


If there was ever a time to publish these stories it is now. These days there is rekindled interest in the novels of Alistair MacLean. It would be a shame and a loss if readers cannot enjoy all that he has ever written. The future is now!