SOUTH BY JAVA HEAD by Alistair MacLean


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The author of H.M.S. Ulysses and The Guns of Navarone is at base, first and last, a story teller, a spinner of tall tales told with such verisimilitude of detail that one feels it might have happened. Now comes a third adventure novel, but- for this reader at any rate- the sense of conviction was not there. Luck played too potent a role; courage and perseverance and stamina are tried beyond human capacity to compass. And yet; it is holding reading. The period is that immediately following the fall of Singapore, and the story revolves around Corporal Fraser and his oddly assorted group of exhausted, dispirited men, ""dazed and sick and wounded and weak"", who had retreated through Malaya and must now escape the ravaged fallen city; a group of nurses and a small lost boy; and the mysterious Brigadier, who played the part of a useless sodden drunk- and who sought to escape with Japanese plans for invasion of Australia. These plans must be delivered at whatever cost, before the plan went into operation. Here is a tale of espionage and counterespionage, of mixed loyalties, of betrayals, and of hairbreadth escape after hairbreadth escape. There is even a modicum of romance -- and more than a touch of sentiment. Two thirds of the story carries conviction; but even the most credulous addict will raise sceptical eyebrows at the final miracle of escape.

Publisher: Doubleday