The Eagle Has Landed Paperback – 2 Jul 1998
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Praise for Jack Higgins"A seasoned pro...Mr. Higgins knows how to tell a story!"--The New York Times Book Review "Jack Higgins has written some of the best suspense fiction of the past fifty years."--The San Diego Union-Tribune "When it comes to thriller writers, one name stands well above the crowd--Jack Higgins."--Associated Press "Higgins makes the pages fly."--New York Daily News "Jack Higgins is one of the best-selling authors of popular fiction in the world, often considered the architect of the modern thriller."--The Huffington Post "Higgins is an author with the creative power to hook the reader and keep them forever because of his terrific tales. There are many villains out there, but Higgins is by far the greatest at bringing to life the best and worst of them all."--Suspense Magazine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Jack Higgins was brought up in Belfast and later moved to Leeds. Leaving school with no qualifications, he became a circus hand, a tram conductor and a teacher, before turning to writing.
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Apparently Higgins felt there were a lack of English-language books that portrayed German soldiers in World War II as anything other than foaming-at-the-mouth Nazis, and wished to present a more balanced depiction in keeping with his own experience. The idea was to present a thrilling scheme organized and conducted by largely sympathetic professional German soldiers with the help of somewhat less sympathetic, but nonetheless engaging traitorous helpmates. Indeed, the backgrounds of these two traitors -- one is an IRA hit man, the other a Boer widow -- is none too subtly calibrated to highlight the injustice and cruelty of British imperial rule. Although the IRA man probably has the most time on the page (and indeed, returns in five more books by Higgins), there's no protagonist as such, and the cast includes a bevy of German intelligence officers, a village full of typical stolid citizens, and a unit of American troops commanded by a kind of loose cannon (presumably meant to illustrate the ill discipline of the American cousins), not to mention the German commando unit itself. Everyone is kind of a stock character without very much depth, but that's pretty much OK for a thriller like this.
The book's opening graveyard scene appears to be a direct nod to the 1943 film When The Day Went Well (itself based on a Graham Greene short called "The Lieutenant Died Last"), which also opens in a small English village graveyard with a memorial to a platoon of German paratroopers. That story and film, which posit a small force bent on sabotage, must have clearly inspired Higgins, who then raised the stakes to the highest possible level in his version. On the whole, the book is a pretty fun read, and very well paced, with the action moving back and forth between the various players involved (including Himmler). It does get a little heavy-handed at times, especially the scene in which the true identity of the Germans is revealed, but it's all pretty ingenious and well-executed fun, chock full of interesting little details such as the Britisches Freikorps and things like that. Well worth reading by aficionados of WW II thrillers.
But even though Germany has suffered great defeats in North Africa and the vast territories of the Soviet Union, Hitler still has hopes of winning the war. Desperately seeking a significant propaganda victory and inspired by the rescue of fellow dictator Benito Mussolini by a team of German special forces, the Fuhrer (egged on by SS chief Heinrich Himmler) orders the head of Military Intelligence (Abwehr) to carry out an even more daring special forces mission: to capture British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and bring him to the Reich.
At first, it is an offhand remark, "a joke," as Abwehr Col. Max Radl notes, "...something the Fuhrer threw out in an angry mood on a Wednesday, to be forgotten by Friday." Soon, though, as Himmler orders a feasibility study and Radl ponders it, what seems like a fantastic notion soon starts looking as something that can, with the right men and conditions, be done.
This dangerous mission is assigned to Lt. Col. Kurt Steiner, the son of a German general and his American wife, and a small group of paratroopers. Their mission: to drop into East Anglia near the town of Studley Constable, where Abwehr agent Joanna Grey and IRA operative Liam Devlin are waiting to assist in the capture of Britain's wartime leader, and snatch Churchill from the estate where he is staying while on an inspection tour.
And so, in the early morning hours of November 6, 1943, as soon as Steiner's small band of paratroopers floats down onto English soil, Heinrich Himmler receives the coded message he has been waiting for with great anticipation: "The Eagle has landed."
Jack Higgins' bestselling novel was published almost 30 years ago, but its taut storyline and inventive blend of fact and fiction place this World War II thriller in the ranks of the best books of the genre. His descriptions of historical characters -- such as Adolf Hitler -- and his references to actual historical events give the whole scenario verisimilitude. All the characters -- hero, anti-hero, and even villains -- are well-developed and believable. Higgins also has the creative chutzpah of injecting a first-person narrator named Jack Higgins, making the book sound like a reporter's expose of a German mission so daring that it had to be covered up by the Allies.
The novel launched Higgins' career into almost instant fame, and in turn inspired a 1977 film version starring Michael Caine, Robert Duvall, Donald Sutherland, and Joanna Miles. It was followed in the mid-1980s by a sequel, The Eagle Has Flown.
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Great story well worth a read, but check it out first.
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