Alistair Maclean Biography

(One of the Best-Selling Fiction Authors of All Time)

Birthday: April 21, 1922 (Taurus)

Born In: Shettleston, Glasgow, Scotland

Alistair MacLean was a 20th century Scottish novelist. He is best remembered for his thrillers and adventure stories, most notably ‘The Guns of Navarone’ and ‘Ice Station Zebra.’ He is one of the best-selling fiction authors of all time, and his books have sold more than 150 million copies worldwide. The son of a church minister, MacLean grew up to be a curious and creative young man. At the age of eighteen, he joined the Royal Navy and served in World War II. Following his departure from the military in 1946, he enrolled at the University of Glasgow where he studied English. During this time, MacLean did a number of odd jobs, including those of a hospital porter and a street sweeper. He eventually took up writing. From 1955 until his death in 1987, he wrote numerous books and also pursued a career as a screenwriter. On a personal note, he married twice and had three children.
Quick Facts

Also Known As: Alistair Stuart MacLean

Died At Age: 64


Spouse/Ex-: Gisela Heinrichsen (1953–1972), Mary Marcelle Georgius (1972–1977)

siblings: Ian

children: Gisela

Born Country: Scotland

Novelists Scottish Men

Height: 5'7" (170 cm), 5'7" Males

Died on: February 2, 1987

place of death: Munich, Germany

Cause of Death: Stroke

City: Glasgow, Scotland

More Facts

education: University Of Glasgow

Writing Career
While a university student at Glasgow, Alistair MacLean started writing short stories. He won a competition in 1954 with "Dileas", a maritime story that garnered attention from the executives at the publishing agency Collins who asked him to write a novel. The resultant novel, titled ‘HMS Ulysses,’ was based on his personal war experiences. This was followed by the novel ‘The Guns of Navarone’ in 1957. Based on an attack on a fictitious island, the novel was highly successful as it sold over 400,000 copies within six months of publication. It was later made into a movie which was also a huge success.
MacLean next wrote the book ‘South by Java Head’ and the thriller ‘The Last Frontier’ which were released in 1958 and 1959, respectively. ‘The Last Frontier’ was later adapted into a film titled ‘The Secret Ways’ which was released in 1961. His next novel was ‘Night Without End,’ published in 1959.
In the early 1960s, the talented novelist wrote two novels, ‘The Dark Crusader’ and ‘The Satan Bug,’ under the name "Ian Stuart". He also continued to release books like ‘The Golden Rendezvous’ and ‘Ice Station Zebra’ under his real name. From 1963 to 1966, MacLean took a hiatus from his writing career to run a hotel business. He returned with his novel ‘When Eight Bells Toll,’ which was released in 1966.
His later works include ‘River of Death’, ‘Partisans’, 'Floodgate', and ‘San Andreas,’ which were mainly worked on by ghost writers. His last novel was ‘Santorini,’ which was published after his death.
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Screenwriting Career
Alistair MacLean took up screenwriting in the 1960s, with one of his initial works being ‘Where Eagles Dare’, a 1968 film based on his 1967 novel of the same name. He wrote a sequel to ‘The Guns of Navarone,’ titled ‘Force 10 from Navarone,’ which was later adapted into a film.
In the ensuing years, he contributed to several films, such as ‘Ice Station Zebra’, ‘Caravan to Vaccarès’, ‘When Eight Bells Toll’, ‘Circus’, ‘The Golden Gate’, ‘Breakheart Pass’, and ‘Bear Island’, to name a few. In 1980, MacLean began focusing on television. His work, ‘The Hostage Tower,’ aired on CBS that year.
Family & Personal Life
Alistair MacLean was born on 21 April 1922, in Shettleston, Glasgow, Scotland, to a Church of Scotland minister and a singer. He had three brothers. He studied at Inverness Royal Academy and Hillhead High School before graduating from the University of Glasgow in 1953.
From 1946 to 1956, he worked as a teacher at Gallowflat School. In 1983, the University of Glasgow awarded him a Doctor of Letters.
From 1953 to 1972, he was married to his first wife Gisela Heinrichsen. The couple had two biological sons as well as an adopted third son. He later married Mary Marcelle Georgius. The couple divorced in 1977.
He struggled constantly with alcoholism and eventually died of a stroke on 2 February 1987.

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