When Eight Bells Toll
First edition cover (UK)
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|Preceded by||Ice Station Zebra|
|Followed by||Where Eagles Dare|
When Eight Bells Toll is a first-person narrative novel written by Scottish author Alistair MacLean and published in 1966. It marked MacLean's return after a three-year gap, following the publication of Ice Station Zebra (1963), during which time he had run several restaurants.
When Eight Bells Toll combines the genres of spy novel and detective novel. MacLean calls on his own Scottish background to authentically portray the rugged weather, people and terrain of western Scotland.
The story concerns the hijacking of five cargo ships in the Irish Sea. British Treasury secret agent Phillip Calvert is sent to investigate, and narrates the story for the reader. Calvert manages to track the latest hijacked ship – the Nantesville, carrying £8 million in gold bullion – to the Scottish Highlands and the sleepy port town of Torbay on the Island of Torbay (patterned after Tobermory, on the Isle of Mull). He boards the ship under cover of night and finds the two agents planted aboard have been murdered. Chief suspect is Cypriot shipping magnate Sir Anthony Skouros, whose luxury yacht, Shangri-La, is also anchored in Torbay.
Operating out of his yacht Firecrest, Calvert is joined by Skouros's wife, Charlotte, and by his boss Sir Arthur Arnford-Jason, known as "Uncle Arthur". Calvert is a typical MacLean hero, world-weary and sometimes cynical, yet ultimately honorable, who must battle bureaucracy as well as the bad guys to solve the crime. Calvert's frantic search for the hijackers and for the hostages they hold takes him over the remote isles and sea lochs and forces him to make allies of some unlikely locals. As is usual with MacLean, the plot twists and turns, not all characters are as they seem to be at first introduction, and the double-crosses continue to the very last page.
Adaptations and uses in other media
- When Eight Bells Toll (1971 film) was directed by Etienne Perier and starred Anthony Hopkins as Calvert, Robert Morley as Uncle Arthur, Jack Hawkins as Skouras, and Nathalie Delon as Charlotte
- In the Bollywood film Aradhana (1969)), while Rajesh Khanna sang "Mere Sapno Ki Rani Kab Aayegi Tu" to Sharmila Tagore, Sharmila was trying to read When Eight Bells Toll
- Cromie, Alice (25 September 1966). "Crime on My Hands". Chicago Tribune (1963-Current file). Chicago. p. n4.
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