The 1970s was a great decade for adventure novels. There was a wave of writers, mostly British, who were writing suspense adventure—generally featuring a common man in very uncommon trouble—as well as the genre as ever been written. The most popular, and the most remembered, is Alistair MacLean, but there were others. Men named Desmond Bagley, Gavin Lyall and Jack Higgins. These writers were very nearly MacLean’s equal; if Mr MacLean’s early work is the measuring stick.
The genre also cultivated other writers who, while not quite consistent enough to break into the top level, wrote some pretty damn good novels. One such writer is Duncan Kyle. Mr Kyle, which is a pseudonym for one John Franklin Broxholme, published 15 novels between 1970 and 1993. He was a bestseller in the United Kingdom, but his work never quite paid out in the United States. I recently read Mr Broxholme’s fifth Kyle novel, Terror’s Cradle, published by William Collins in 1975.
John Sellers is a British newspaperman in Washington D. C. covering a Senate corruption case that may implicate an English politician. It is a bust, but before Sellers can fly home to London he is sent on a junket to Las Vegas where a starlet, who is a magnet for trouble, is in more when a man is found dead in her hotel bathroom. His Las Vegas trip is cut short when he is first threatened, and then actually chased by armed gunmen. When Sellers returns to England he learns his coworker and friend, Alison Hay, has disappeared after a seemingly successful assignment in the Soviet Union.
Terror’s Cradle is a slick adventure novel. The protagonist is both strong and vulnerable, and even better, stubborn. He quits his job and plays a harrowing game with both the KGB and CIA. His mission is to find Alison Hay, and he will do anything to do it. The locales are exotic from the desert landscape of Lake Meade in Las Vegas to Gothenburg, Sweden to the Shetland Islands in the North Atlantic. The pace is smooth and quick; it charges out of the gate and never slows. The action scenes are believable, and even better, exciting. There is a chase scene in the opening pages that transitions from Lake Meade to the barren desert landscape of its shores, and it is really one of the better I have read.
“As I stumbled quickly between the sheltering rocks, I heard the car stop and doors open and close. Then there was silence. I kept going, frantic to get space and distance between myself and the road.”
Terror’s Cradle is on par with the best of the genre. It is literate, intelligent, and exciting. The prose is sharp, the plot is straight-forward and smoothly perfect. There isn’t much mystery about where the story is going, but it is so concise and exciting it doesn’t matter. If this is an example of the quality of Mr Broxholme’s Duncan Kyle novels, there very well may be an addition to the top tier of suspense adventure writers.