Author Alistair MacLean

The writer Alistair MacLean
The Scottish writer Alistair MacLean

Here are some interesting facts about Alistair MacLean:

  • He was born on April 21, 1922, in Glasgow, Scotland.
  • MacLean was descended from the Clan Maclean.
  • He was the third son of a Church of Scotland minister.
  • He learned English as a second language. MacLean’s mother tongue was Scottish Gaelic.
  • MacLean joined the Royal Navy in 1941 and fought in WW II.
  • His ranks included Ordinary Seaman, Able Seaman, and Leading Torpedo Operator.
  • He was discharged from the Royal Navy in 1946.
  • He graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1953 where he studied English.
  • He worked as a postal worker, a street sweeper, hospital porter, and a school teacher.
  • During MacLean’s university time, he began to write short stories for a bit of income.
  • His first novel, published in 1955, was HMS Ulysses which he based on his own war experiences.
  • Film rights to HMS Ulysses were sold, but the film was never made.
  • Eighteen films were made from MacLean’s books. Most of his fame came from the movie adaptations.
  • Popular film adaptations were made from over half of his novels, including: Where Eagles Dare, Guns of Navarone, and Ice Station Zebra.
  • Most of the movies stay true to the book because MacLean wrote the screenplays.
  • In the 1960’s he published two books under the pseudonym Ian Stuart so prove his books just didn’t sell because his name was on them.
  • MacLean’s writing style has been described as “hit ’em with everything but the kitchen sink, then give ’em the sink, and when they raise their heads, drop the plumber on ’em”.
  • Between the years 1963-1966 he took a hiatus from writing and ran a hotel business in England purchasing the Jamaica Inn on Bodmin Moor.
  • He wrote a biography of James Cook that was published in 1972.
  • MacLean struggled with alcoholism.
  • He died of a stroke related to his alcoholism on February 2, 1987 in Germany.