I first read WHEN EIGHT BELLS TOLL in my mid-teens, and it was hugely influential on me. I particularly liked the deadpan stoicism and ever-so-slightly knowing first-person narration delivered by the ‘hero’, the put-upon but resourceful spook Calvert. When my first novel appeared, people were generous enough to favourably mention the blatant Chandleresque rip-off, and some even mentioned John D. MacDonald and Jim Thompson (the latter due to the epigraph I used, probably), but even moreso than Chandler, EIGHTBALL BOOGIE was heavily influenced by Colin Bateman’s DIVORCING JACK and Alistair MacLean’s WHEN EIGHT BELLS TOLL - hence the ‘EIGHT’ in EIGHTBALL BOOGIE. To wit:
WHEN EIGHT BELLS TOLL by Alistair MacLeanAnyway, the reason I mention WHEN EIGHT BELLS TOLL is that the good people at Book Aware asked me to contribute my Top Ten Crime Novels to their list, as flagged earlier this week by Ken Bruen’s Top Ten Crime Novels. For the full list of my own Top Ten, which includes James Ellroy, Adrian McKinty, John McFetridge, Jim Thompson, The Artist Formerly Known As Colin Bateman and Barry Gifford, clickety-click on Book Aware here …
I’m not normally a fan of thrillers, but when I read this at a young age it seemed to me a low-fi James Bond novel, and all the more enjoyable for it. In fact, it’s Bond laced with Chandlerisms, set in a superbly drawn Scottish landscape of islands, crags, inlets and castles, and combines the page-turning quality of the high-concept thriller with a grittily realistic spy tale reminiscent of Le Carré.
Book Aware is hosting a series of such lists, with the aim of supporting Sightsavers, which has the vision of ‘a world where no one is blind from avoidable causes and where visually impaired people participate equally in society. Help Sightsavers help people enjoy the world of books too.’ Any writers wishing to help out Book Aware and Sightsavers by contributing their own Top Ten Favourite Novels should contact Neil at neil(at)galwayprint.ie.