Bestselling author Henry Patterson (known as Jack Higgins) reached superstar status with his 1975 novel The Eagle Has Landed. However, beginning as early as 1959, Patterson began authoring a number of action-adventure novels using pseudonyms like Martin Fallon, Hugh Marlowe and, of course, Jack Higgins. Patterson wrote four novels under the name James Graham, including 1974's The Run to Morning. This novel was also released that same year under the title of Bloody Passage. As if things couldn't get any more complicated, the combination of Higgins, Graham and Fallon were all listed as author names for the many various printings of this novel under the two titles. Considering all of the publishing and marketing strategies, did the author deliver a worthwhile reading experience?
The book begins with one of the most effective opening paragraphs that I can recall:
“The first shot ripped the epaulette from the right hand shoulder of my hunting jacket, the second lifted the thermos flask six feet into the air. The third kicked dirt at my right heel, but by then I was moving fast, diving headfirst into the safety of the reeds on the far side of the dyke.”
From that opening segment, readers are introduced to Oliver Grant, a man with a unique profession. After developing a skill-set of freeing captives during the Vietnam War, Grant now runs a successful, illegal business of breaking into international prisons and liberating select prisoners. His clientele are wealthy businessmen, politicians and criminals (there's a fine line between the three) that pay top dollar to free associates, family and friends. When Grant is asked to break into a Libyan prison for a corrupt businessman named Stavrou, he politely declines fearing the regime's vicious dictatorship. But shortly after his declination, Grant's blind sister Hannah is kidnapped by Stavrou's cartel and held as a bargaining chip.
The first 100-pages of The Run to Morning features Grant's realization that Stavrou's step-son is being held in a notorious, cliff-side prison that is reputed to be impenetrable. To assist with the mission, Grant recruits a former U.S. Army Green Beret, a skilled mountain climber and a boat captain. Complicating Grant's teamwork is a vile henchman named Langley, a man that reports directly to Stavrou, and Stavrou's lover Simone. Once the escape is underway, Grant begins to believe that the whole operation is just a set-up. But why? That's the question as readers plunge into the riveting second-half narrative.
While The Run to Morning had some gaping plot holes, it's still better than 90% of the books I read and review. Higgins' storytelling style and his ability to construct these international espionage adventures make for an exhilarating reading experience. The narrative's recruitment stage was intriguing with the addition of Langley and his effect on Grant's mission. The love interest angle between Simone and Grant was an evolution, eventually revealing its true nature. The Simone character was a slow development and from a reading experience, the author's patience was a key component to her impact on the story.
From exciting nautical chases, explosive gunfire and a brilliant prison raid, The Run to Morning was another thrilling addition to Higgins' impressive catalog. Highly recommended!
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