Breakheart Pass (novel)

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Breakheart Pass
Alistair Maclean – Breakheart Pass.jpg
First edition cover (UK)
Author Alistair MacLean (1922-1987)
Country United Kingdom (Scotland)
Language English
Genre Western Thriller
Publisher Collins (UK)
Doubleday (US)
Publication date
Media type Print
Pages 256 pp.
ISBN 0-00-615805-6
OCLC 16481828
Preceded by The Way to Dusty Death
Followed by Circus

Breakheart Pass is a novel by Scottish author Alistair MacLean (1922-1987), first published in 1974. It was a departure for MacLean in that, despite the thriller novel plot, the setting is essentially that of a western novel, set in the western ranges of the Sierra Nevada mountains of the Rocky Mountains in the Western United States in the late 19th century. Fans of MacLean will recognize the usual plots twists, thrill-packed finale, and trademark sardonic dialogue. Unfortunately, for American audiences, MacLean was less successful capturing an authentic tone of the frontier American West, and the 1975 movie version starring Charles Bronson, Richard Crenna, Ben Johnson, and Jill Ireland, proved to be more popular with the public than the novel.[1][2]

Plot introduction[edit]

The story begins with a perilous winter railroad journey through the Sierra Nevada mountain chain in the 1870s in the midst of a blizzard. Aboard the train are Nevada state governor Fairchild and his niece Marica, along with U.S. Army cavalry Colonel Claremont and two carloads of troops. Joining them are U.S. Marshal Pearce, the governor's aide, and Pearce's old Army buddy Major O'Brien. Pearce, a lawman and Indian agent is transporting supposedly dangerous murderer and gunman John Deakin. Their destination is the remote Fort Humboldt deep in the Nevada mountains, whose troops have recently been decimated by a cholera epidemic. (This Fort Humboldt is fictional and has no connection with the Fort Humboldt State National Park in California, to which a link was wrongly incorporated into this article previously.) Dr. Molyneaux, a tropical disease expert, is also accompanying the group.

As the journey continues we slowly learn that all is not what it seems, and that none of the characters is telling the whole truth. MacLean meticulously obliterates the lines defining exactly which characters are the good guys and which are the bad. As the story winds down, the cunningly devious nature of the plan is finally revealed.

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