In Association with

Only the Best
not at all in order of preference
Many people look down on this particular form of literature, labeling it as mere escapism. I really don't know why; trying some, any escape is quite legit to me. Happily, many of the best authors agree with that, even those who also wrote other stuff. Some keep to their forte, which is just fine, too. The funny thing to me is that they often seem to be yearning more for adventure than their average reader. Take guys like Desmond Bagley or John D. MacDonald, who sometimes seem to try acting out their Heroes' role.
Like in all literature, there's much horrible stuff on the market. Why even consider those preposterous, racist, sexist and often downright stupid books? But I always do insist upon a measure of plausibility. Which is why I have this personal blacklist to avoid future spending of my dear money on them no-goods.

Yes, I fully agree, not everybody would call these things "Adventure books". I infuse thrillers to make the mixture even richer and headier, who cares about categories, really?
Here's a shortcut alphabetical list to all those on this page
but I'd advise browsing
Desmond Bagley - Lee Child - Arthur Conan Doyle - Peter Fleming - C.S. Forester - Ernest K. Gann - Joseph Garber - Jan de Hartog - Carl Hiaasen - James Hilton - Hammond Innes - Rudyard Kipling - Jack London - Gavin Lyall - John D. MacDonald - Herman Melville - Alain René le Sage - Robert Louis Stevenson - B. Traven - Mark Twain - Jules Verne - H.G. Wells - Yoshikawa Eiji

Ernie Gann
Ernest K. Gann
Not only adventure novels, but some rattlin' good ones!
Ernie Gann is best known for his aviation stories, but there's much more to him than that. Many of his adventure books, especially, have been filmed.
You're cordially invited to check him out.

Jan de Hartog
Jan de Hartog
People have been putting him down, saying he merely wrote boys' books for grown-ups. Petty spoilsports.
Of course, when you're happy enough to have been reading him, you know he wrote many other things as well, or even better. But there's no denying, and why should I — he did write great adventures.

Peter Fleming
Peter Fleming
Aha! Caught you, huh? You never heard of him. Now ain't that a real shame.
I only read one book of his, Brazilian Adventure USA Deutschland U.K. Canada; but recently more have been reprinted.
Peter Fleming was an English film critic who in the early 1930s joined an expedition to search for Colonel Falwell, an explorer who had disappeared in the interior of Brazil. He takes much delight in describing the gang he belongs to as a bunch of bungling nincompoops on a demented mission, not sparing himself. Very funny and great reading.
Colonel Falwell also figures in Tintin's Broken Ear.

Joseph Garber
Picked up my first one, Vertical Run, and started searching for the rest at once. Alas, there are only four—they're all good.
That first one starts of with a guy arriving at his office to start work and everybody, but absolutely and I mean it, everybody starts to try killing him. Intriguing, huh? He really writes and plots well, read him!
He died in 2005, so get 'em as long as they're around.
One small crumble to get your taste buds craving for more: his main character needs some glue which he gets by taking some gum stuck to the underside of a seat—and chewing it.

Gil Blas
Alain René le Sage
The only book I've read by this guy is Gil Blas de Santillano Amazon.usa, a delightful picaresque novel (I won't blame you for not yet knowing this means about knaves—only knew the Dutch word myself.) I'm sorry I never read more.

Yoshikawa Eiji
There's only one book of his I ever got a chance to read, well, five plus one, come to think of it: Musashi, about the legendary samurai who even wrote a book himself on the art of warfare. No doubt Musashi is right: never give your enemy a chance. But who needs war?
His character certainly comes across much more sympathetic in Yoshikawa's books, which read like a Japanese Jan de Hartog (with the one same fault: too mystic for me.) Kurosawa owes this man a lot... Grand and sweeping. They compare it with Shogun and Gone with the Wind, but both have so much less class than this one, it's pitiful. To give you one example, the leading character somewhere has to kneel down and apologize to a carpenter's square after having stepped on it. Right. I'm yearning for more.
[Urinating monk exclaims:] That feels good! Am I one with the universe, or is the universe one with me?
(If you, too, have always wondered what a Crytomeria tree looks like, here's one.)

The Way of the Samurai Amazon.usa
The Art of War Amazon.USA
The Way of the Sword Amazon.usa
The Bushido Code Amazon.usa
The Way of Life and Death Amazon.usa

In the early 1950s Inagaki Hiroshi turned the book into a trilogy
for Toho Films, starring Mifune Toshiro. It's really fine.
Samurai Trilogy
I Musashi Miyamoto
II Duel at Ichijoji Temple
III Duel at Ganryu Island.

Muyamoto Musashi
A Book of Five Rings
the classic guide to strategy - if you really want to win.
U.K. Canada

Arthur Conan Doyle
Arthur Conan Doyle
The creator of Sherlock Holmes, need I tell you? next to Forester's Hornblower the most popular character in English literature, also wrote adventure novels. Like The Lost World Amazon.usa, need I tell you? I think they're more readable. The supreme test of an adventure novel may be, what film do they make out of it? (But it doesn't always work out.) The 1960 Irwin Allen movie version of The Lost World I found more enjoyable than the original book. The very title has recently been recycled.

Hammond Innes
Hammond Innes
What this guy obviously did was travel around, have a look at a country and come back to combine all those impressions in an adventure novel. (I do the same thing, only to come back with more photographs than anybody could possibly find a use for - least of all I.) He wrote the most vivid description of a North Sea storm I ever read (Maddon's Rock.)
It's not every day you see a shipload of munitions dedicated to the service of God on the banks of the Thames.

Desmond Bagley
Desmond Bagley
Bagley, like Innes, liked to travel around and put his lively imagination to work on what he saw. His plots are pretty preposterous, and who's dumb enough to really care? Be grateful that they do hang together.
He could squeeze a dollar until it cried uncle.
His book is quite prophetic, foretelling a plot to smuggle drugs in torpedoes.

Rudyard Kipling
Rudyard Kipling
He's out of fashion these days, which merely means he's not as enormously popular as a century ago.
This colonial writer still has a large following in India (just like P. G. Wodehouse.) He's good. His most popular seems to be Kim Amazon.usa, and that's well-deserved but still debatable, if there were any accounting for tastes.
Check out his comments on the Bandar-Log from The Jungle Book Amazon.usa

Mark Twain
Mark Twain
You feel he ought to be under Humor, maybe? You may have a point. But there are so many other categories he fits in as well. In short, the guy may not fit in anywhere—for which I love him madly. But he did write great adventure novels: the Tom Sawyer Amazon.usa novels (yes, there are more than the one you've read); the immortal Huckleberry Finn Amazon.usa (And don't forget Life on the Mississippi Amazon.usa

Gavin Lyall
I don't find him nearly often enough, but will always pick him up. Not bad at all. And no presumptions at high-class.

Duncan Kyle
Another one who's quite good. Funny guy; grows on you. Try it, you'll like it.

Herman Melville
For now, only think of Moby Dick Amazon.usa or Typee Amazon.usa —see what I mean?

Child Lee

Now this guy really has an output, keeps 'em coming in a steady grind-out of one per year. His plots are just amazing and they always work, even if, stop me from saying it, I find them over-intricate. But that's because everybody seems to want fat heavy >400 pages paperbacks. For me, the good old 100 page novel and 100 minute movie are good lengths. Having said that, Lee keeps it going all through. His specialty is finding novel and, again, often intricate ways of getting his adversaries in a horizontal position with crosses for eyes (if they have any eyes left). The more goons you send out at Jack Reacher, the merrier!
Some books, you see right through his plots from the very start. Even then, it hardly matters.
One thing I gotta say, he's politically correct as far as that goes. But he sure lovesguns! Amusing.
There's one thing about him, and he freely admits it and is even proud of it. He's incredibly pedantic. And also just like me, he realizes that it's a luxury: if you are a pedant, you have to get your facts right. Now to mention just two that are entirely wrong.
He describes how an airliner at take-off flexes it's wings and they start pointing downward. Wrong, Lee. An airliner hangs from its wings, and when they take over the load, the rump sags down and the wings point upward.
Even more amusing is, and he makes that mistake several times, that he thinks a bullet will not fly in a straight line but will follow the curve of the earth. Who knows what gave him that idea? Before you attack me in turn, sure, a bullet indeed does not fly in a straight line; trajectory of all ballistic projectiles is a parabola. But that has to do with gravity, not with the earth's curvature&$8212;which is round and not parabolic.

B. Traven
I only read two of his, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre Amazon.usa which is very good if not very surprising, and The Death Ship Amazon.usa, which is really fine. As good a description of slave work as Upton Sinclair's The Jungle Amazon.usa Made me lust for more. If you want to know more about the B. Traven enigma, read The Secret of Sierra Madre: The Man Who Was B. Traven by Will Wyatt

C.S. Forester
Yeah, yeah, I know the guy wrote much other stuff. What else is new? He wrote an enormous stack of good old plain adventure as well, right?
The Hornblower series, his greatest hit, is maritime war adventure—mostly.
Here's a list of all his works I've been able to find.

John D. MacDonald
John D. MacDonald
Another guy generally considered a detective, mystery or thriller writer, where you'll find another picture, more in that style. Than which nothing could be finer with me. Anyway, I think of him as an adventure writer. To me his best books are Crossroads Amazon.usa on one of those mail-order rip-off churches; Condominium Amazon.usa, about a Gulf hurricane; and the Travis McGee The Green Ripper Amazon.usa If you find it boring when he fulminates about the Florida tourists and accompanying urbanization, just skip it. Some of that stuff actually is pretty good.
The one thing I really can't stand about Travis McGee is how he keeps running into wimmins who have lost all interest in sex, but old spit-eye turns them on again. John D.'s audience probably is much more mature than he thinks: never underestimate your clientèle. Or maybe it was a favorite real fantasy of his? Once again, what can you do but hope for the best.
I read a religious comic book. All about Samson yanking down that temple. Samson looked like Burt Reynolds. Delilah looked like Liz Taylor. The temple looked like the Chase Bank. (The Green Ripper)

Jack London

Jack London
Don't get put off by that semi-cult around him. Jack London is a fine author, if too close to the edge of "fascism" to me. There's one book of his in which dogs think about human beings as the gods, to give you one reason to check him out. Hint: try The Call of the Wild Amazon.usa One of his best is the short story The Seed of McCoy Amazon.usa, with its great punch line.

Jules Verne

Jules Verne
My, was the guy Royally Victorially bearded. To the gills... But that's mere kvetsching ad hominem. Mostly, he gets classified as science fiction, where you'll find more on him, but his novels were published as Wonderreizen, Wondrous Travels; at least, in Holland. In France they were called the equivalent of Miraculous Travels; still, travels.
To me, it is good old adventure; and fine, indeed.

Robert Louis Stevenson
More on him later (when I've got time). Here, I just give the first line of his masterpiece, Treasure Island Amazon.usa
See if you can put it down after reading that sentence! I dare you.
The Old Sea Dog at the 'Admiral Benbow'
SQUIRE TRELAWNEY, DR. LIVESEY, and the rest of these gentlemen having asked me to write down the whole particulars about Treasure Island, from the beginning to the end, keeping nothing back but the bearings of the island, and that only because there is still treasure not yet lifted, I take up my pen in the year of grace 17—, and go back to the time when my father kept the 'Admiral Benbow' inn, and the brown old seaman, with the sabre cut, first took up his lodging under our roof.

Carl Hiaasen
A more recent discovery; as usual first picked him up in a second-hand market for 50 cents (hey, just throw it back if it turns out to be rubbish), but it wasn't rubbish. He's pretty good. Like me, he loves John D. MacDonald. But while John D. has written some very good novels indeed, Hiaasen doesn't reach that height, quite. And why should he?
Most entertaining, sometimes a tad too violent maybe, but at least he has a much healthier attitude than John D. re women.
As regards funny mistakes, there are plenty:
In Skinny Dip on page 97 he has sheep lowing, really!
In Lucky You a weirdly gross guy who comes to a rather bad end begs the pants off a chick working for Hooters—those tight orange things to wear over his head. Then, he gives them back, only to use 'em later for an emergency flag.
Nature Girl has a character using a digital Nikon—with a motor drive. Hey, cummon. There are "rusty beer cans" to be found on page 113, but these things have been made from aluminum since time immemorial.
I take this back. I did find rusting beer cans in South Africa, but still maintain that they wouldn't have lasted that long in Florida.
He also mentions a "gnarled poinciana trunk", about the last adjective I'd use myself for this species.
And in Stormy Weather someone lowers a recliner, a thing I couldn't figure out how to do you paid me for it.
Funny as well are his rants about evil Big Oil who promise that gas will become cheaper, if only they're allowed to drill more. Who'd be so stupid to believe that! Well, it did happen, Carl.
But that's just nagging. All jolly good reads which are made more amusing by stumbling over these roots in the path. Just stay away from Star Island, we couldn't stand it.
And here's his website.
Won't show his photograph; he has these all too perfect teeth in a standard smile, and they're all copyright anyway, I guess.

H.G. Wells
H.G. Wells
He wrote a lot of good old adventure. You might, again, call much of that stuff science fiction just as well, and it's often done. Not by a long way, though, would you be entitled to label his other stuff adventure.

James Hilton
His Lost Horizon Amazon.usa is very nostalgically famous; it's the first Pocket Book ever published. It has lended the name Shangri-La to one of the finest Kinks songs (on their Arthur recording.) The theme of travelers stranding in an isolated place, here Tibet, is nothing new, but it's a pretty good book. Very popular with the aging New Agers, I shouldn't wonder. What ruined the taste for me is the racism in it—only white people can make it to the Superman state.
(Snide side comment: it was first published in 1939.)
Another very popular book of his, if not adventure, Goodbye Mr. Chips was so boringly full of respect for what's a mere old stodgy chalk talker (best part of the book, he dies), I'll never buy another book of his. One more instance of preferring Ray Davies!

personal grey to black list
No offense, but these guys, to my exquisite taste, are too blatant, too machine-produced, too obnoxious or preposterous, or too whatever. In some cases, too plainly bad-written.
I prefer to read books I can enjoy.
— These I read, sometimes, when I'm in the mood, when they come free: (I may not even spell 'em right... so sorreee!)

Arthur Hailey — Michael Crichton — Alistair McLean — Alexandre Dumas — H. Rider Haggard
(— And these, and then some, I avoid like the plague. Now, really: Robert Ludlum — Alexander Kent — Tom Clancy — Clive Custler — Robert Ruark)




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