We lost one of the all-time greats at the weekend, with the news that thriller writer, Harry Patterson, had passed away at the age of 92.
Harry (or Henry as he was christened, and as the BBC have been referring to him) became better known as Jack Higgins, just one of his many pen names; for he also wrote his early novels under the names James Graham, Martin Fallon and Hugh Marlowe.
Harry penned his early stories very much in the tradition of the best 'high adventure' writers, among them: Alistair MacLean, Hammond Innes, Geoffrey Jenkins, Gavin Lyall, Desmond Bagley, Berkley Mather, and Duncan Kyle, usually featuring hard bitten, cynical heroes and, oft times, desolate locations.
It was in 1975, though, when he hit the big time, with the publication of The Eagle Has Landed. The rest, as they say, after more than 50 million copies sold worldwide, is....etc etc.
I had the happy experience of corresponding with Harry a couple of times, way back in the dark and distant; the first time just after my second novel Crow's War was published. I plucked up courage and sent it to him at his home in Jersey (to this day, I have no idea how I found his address) to ask him for his opinion. I think it's fair to say that his response: that he found it to be a 'good and competent thriller with an excellent technical background, the choppers and all that sort of thing and also the Afghan background, but I didn't find it in anyway unusual or different as a story' was a slightly more underwhelming verdict than I'd hoped for, but the fact that he took the time to reply with a long and very chatty letter - he even added a couple more extra lines typed along the letter's side margin! - meant a great deal and I've always been a long-time fan.
Several of his books were made into films, Eagle, with Michael Caine, probably being the best known, while among the others were To Catch A King, Night of the Fox, A Prayer for the Dying, with Mickey Rourke and Bob Hoskins, and The Wrath of God, with the great Robert Mitchum, along with one that I confess I'd never heard of: The Windsor Protocol, starring Kyle MacLachian as - wait for it - Sean Dillon. Yeah, I know, that's what I thought, too.
It was several years before he brought out The Eagle Has Flown, the sequel to his mega best seller. When I sent him a copy, asking him to sign it, he very kindly did so and even paid for the return postage, which to my horror, I realized I had forgotten to include..!
A class act, in anyone's book.