Tag Archives: Alistair Maclean

Pulp Friday: ‘The godfather of the airport novel’

Have you ever noticed, whenever someone pens one of those articles listing the most influential books of the second half of the 20th century, how worthy the titles are? You’ll usually find books like Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago, Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull or E. M Forster’s Maurice, published in 1971, a year after the author’s death. But no one ever mentions influential books I suspect people were actually reading in large numbers, Peyton Place, Jacqueline Susan’s Valley of the Dolls, Mario Puzo’s The Godfather or the subject of today’s Pulp Friday offering, the novels of Harold Robbins.

Growing up in the 1970s, when popular culture was still mass rather than the niche individual choice it is increasingly now, Robbins was still a big deal. I don’t know about your household, but prominently placed amongst the Alistair Maclean and Ian Fleming thrillers, Desmond Morris’s The Naked Ape and Erich von Daniken’s 1968 sensation, Chariot of the Gods, were a large number of paperback books by Robbins.

Robbins has been called ‘the godfather of the airport novel’ and the ‘Onassis of supermarket literature’. He wasn’t a good writer by any stretch of the imagination but starting with his debut novel, Never Love A Stranger, in 1948, he produced fast paced, meaty narratives with larger than life characters, corporate executives and adventurers, accompanied by lashings of drama and explicit sex.… Read more

Books my father read

July 24 was the fourth anniversary of the death of my father, William Nette.

He died peacefully in hospital on the Queensland Gold Coast, where he had retired with my mother many years earlier. He was 86.

William Nette, Papua New Guinea, 1942

Like many father-son relationships, we didn’t always get on. That’s putting it mildly. But he brought a lot of positive influences to my life.

He turned me onto the joy of jazz, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Art Blakey and Dave Brubeck. He had a large collection of 78s wrapped in brown paper that he’d secreted out of Papua New Guinea, where he was an armed forces disc jockey during the war, along with cartons of cigarettes he later sold in Australia.

Only recently have I realised he’s also responsible for much of the delight I find in reading and my particular fondness of crime fiction.

I remember the pivotal moment quite clearly. I was thirteen. He came home from work one day and, to my complete horror, announced he was withholding my allowance until I started reading books (comics, which I loved, didn’t count).

He set the first two books, Robinson Crusoe, followed by Treasure Island. They were heavy looking volumes with no pictures that had belonged to my father when he was a boy.… Read more