Where Eagles Dare - Alistair MacLean

It was always going to be difficult to enjoy this book having just read and been astounded by the brilliant Submerged by Thomas F Monteleone. As a youth I have fond memories of the boys own type thrillers by Scottish born Alistair McLean, and on initial reading I recall that Where Eagles Dare was a first class page-turner. Unfortunately revisiting this 2ndWW thriller after many years has not proved so enjoyable.

 

The story starts off with a great flourish when Major Smith and Lt Shaffer together with their motley crew are sent on a perilous mission to the Schloss Adler, a fortress high in the alps of Southern Bavaria. There is initial intrigue when having parachuted into enemy territory one of the saboteurs is found murdered, there is an enemy agent within the ranks! We then proceed in a set formulaic manner as Smith and Shaffer proceed to infiltrate the fortress stronghold by means of a perilous journey on the roof of a cable car. Their task it would appear is to rescue Col Carnaby before the Germans can interrogate him and discover the plans for the second front ie the expected imminent Normandy Landings. There is lots of shooting, and a final confrontation within the castle when the true nature of Smith’s mission is disclosed. This is followed by more shooting as our brave heroes depart the bloody scene amidst chaos and a smouldering fortress that is fast being destroyed by fire and turning into dust and decay.

 

This is a clean easily assimilated adventure story suited to the minds and attitude of teenage boys emerging from a youth spent reading the adventures of comic heroes Batman and Superman. It is not really a book to satisfy the intellect or demands of an adult reader due to its simplicity and soulless empty characters. It is probably best remembered for the 1968 movie starring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood with the immortal words “Broadsword calling Danny Boy, he said Broadsword calling Danny Boy. Can you hear me? Can you hear me? It is also equally absurd as representing the German high command as bumbling fools who somehow allowed a small trained group of saboteurs to destroy a seemingly well protected impregnable fortress and as they escape are heard to say..” Gott in Himmel!” They’ve got away.”

 

Perhaps I criticize and reprimand a story that is simply there to entertain, and not to be viewed as a well researched and informative thriller. That may be so but in the final analysis I demand more from my reading than a routine adventure with a much frequented theme and a predictable conclusion.