Broadsword Calling Danny Boy, by Geoff Dyer. Book report #32 (2022)

Broadsword Calling Danny Boy, by Geoff Dyer. Pub 2018

This book will only appeal to those who have a) seen and b) enjoyed (ideally several times) the 1968 movie Where Eagles Dare. For those who haven’t, this book is meaningless. For those who have and like it, this book is a joyful and hilarious retelling of a classic overblown and strange action story filled with much scenery chewing and ridiculous plot points. Geoff Dyer is a clearly a fan, and this scene-by-scene recap, complete with critiques and historical digressions, reflects his true love of the movie. In places, it is laugh-out-loud hilarious, without taking itself or the film too seriously.

The book is also a great example of “meta”, that strange concept of almost hyper self-awareness in films or stories. Where Eagles Dare was originally written as both a screenplay and an accompanying novelization. For Dyer to have novelized the film with awareness of both the screenplay and novel, as well as the subsequent 50 years of analysis and criticism, makes it almost a parody of itself.

The originating author of Where Eagles Dare is one Alistair MacLean, a Scottish novelist whose larger-than-real action thrillers were apparently legendary for teenage boys of the 70s and who contributed other classics of film including Force 10 from NavaroneIce Station Zebra, and Breakheart Pass. In an understatement worthy of himself (another meta point perhaps), a biography of MacLean states that his later novel were less popular as, “…he sometimes lapsed into unduly improbable plots.”

Fate: I’ll keep this little book and read it again the next time we watch the film.

1 – a book with a murder
9 – a book that has been made into a film
13 – a book set somewhere I’ve never been
14 – a book with a name in the title
23 – a memoir

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