Thursday, February 11, 2010

An inconvenience rightly considered.

Sir Fitzroy MacLean, Gentleman Adventurer

Eastern Approaches is autobiography of the best sort. A tale of high adventure that begins in Paris in the Thirties and ends in Yugoslavia at the end of the Second World War it is broken into three sections.

The first begins in Paris, where Foreign Office man about town, Fitzroy MacLean tires of the diplomatic round and request a posting the Soviet Union. He arrives in Moscow to see the Stalin's society before and during the great purges. Not satisfied with a ringside seat at a witch hunt, he spends his holidays travelling in the near East, dodging NKVD minders and Intourist officials to see Samarkhand and Kabul.

The second section concerns his time in the Western Desert with the SAS. Their operations end in a mixture of farce and failure, but are redeemed in the last chapter by the piratical kidnapping of a Persian general.

The last and longest section is about MacLean's time in Yugoslavia. MacLean was chosen to head a fact finding mission to Yugoslavia as there were two resistance movements, the Chetniks and the Partisans. The British were already committed to the Chetniks, but there were concerns that they were spending more time fighting the Partisans than the Germans. MacLean's job was to find out who was killing the most Germans and throw British support behind them.

This section is a fascinating melange of high level politics, boys own adventure and brutal endurance. The portraits of Churchill and Tito are particularly interesting, adding a human dimension to the grand strategy.

More honourable than Flashman, more human than Bond and funnier than Hannay, MacLean is well worth a read for those who like their escapism to combine all the virtues of fiction and fact.


  1. Thanks for the heads up on this.
    Never heard of him...

  2. Fitzroy Maclean is always worth reading . I'm gflad I'm not the only one who still reads him.

  3. I recall there being a copy of 'Eastern Approaches' in my parents' bookshelves when I was a kid. I skipped the first part, but thoroughly enjoyed the second and third. That was more than 40 years ago...
    Ion (Archduke Piccolo)

  4. Of course Macleans other stuff is pretty readable too Whu=isky Galore is a joy.