Best Fifties Adventure
October 20, 2013
NOTE: This post has been superseded by HILOBROW’s 100 Best Adventures of the Fifties page.
The Best Adventure series of posts will list my favorite 21 adventure novels from each of the 20th Century’s first eight (socio-cultural) decades. Plus, I kicked off the series with a list of the Top 32 adventures from the 19th Century; in total, then, I aim to list 200 of my all-time favorite adventures.
JOSH GLENN’S ADVENTURE LISTS: 200 Greatest Adventure Novels (1804–1983) | Best Adventure Novels (1984–2013, notes only) | 100 Best Radium Age Sci-Fi Novels (1904–1933) | 75 Best Golden Age Sci-Fi Novels (1934–1963) | 75 Best New Wave Sci-Fi Novels (1964–1983) | 75 Best Diamond Age Sci-Fi Novels (1984–2003) | 55 Best Scientific Romances (1864–1903) | Best 19th Century Adventure (1805–1903) | 101 Science Fiction Adventures | 70 Crime Adventures | 65 Fantasy Adventures | 61 Espionage Adventures | 40 Atavistic & Historical Adventures | 25 Frontier & Western Adventures | 20 Avenger & Artful Dodger Adventures | 20 Apophenic & Treasure Hunt Adventures | 20 War & Ruritanian Adventures | 18 Picaresque Adventures | 10 Robinsonade & Survival Adventures. ALSO: BEST SIXTIES YA & YYA (1964–1973) | THE OUGHTS: 1904 | 1905 | 1906 | 1907 | 1908 | 1909 | 1910 | 1911 | 1912 | 1913. THE TEENS: 1914 | 1915 | 1916 | 1917 | 1918 | 1919 | 1920 | 1921 | 1922 | 1923. THE TWENTIES: 1924 | 1925 | 1926 | 1927 | 1928 | 1929 | 1930 | 1931 | 1932 | 1933. THE THIRTIES: 1934 | 1935 | 1936 | 1937 | 1938 | 1939 | 1940 | 1941 | 1942 | 1943. THE FORTIES: 1944 | 1945 | 1946 | 1947 | 1948 | 1949 | 1950 | 1951 | 1952 | 1953. THE FIFTIES: 1954 | 1955 | 1956 | 1957 | 1958 | 1959 | 1960 | 1961 | 1962 | 1963. THE SIXTIES: 1964 | 1965 | 1966 | 1967 | 1968 | 1969 | 1970 | 1971 | 1972 | 1973. THE SEVENTIES: 1974 | 1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1978 | 1979 | 1980 | 1981 | 1982 | 1983. THE EIGHTIES: 1984 | 1985 | 1986 | 1987 | 1988 | 1989 | 1990 | 1991 | 1992 | 1993. THE NINETIES: 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003. I’ve only recently started taking notes towards a list of the Best Adventures of the EIGHTIES, NINETIES, and TWENTY-OUGHTS. | Best Scottish Fabulists | Radium-Age Telepath Lit | Radium Age Superman Lit | Radium Age Robot Lit | Radium Age Apocalypse Lit | Radium Age Eco-Catastrophe Lit | Radium Age Cover Art (1) | SF’s Best Year Ever: 1912 | Cold War “X” Fic | Best YA Sci-Fi | Hooker Lit | No-Fault Eco-Catastrophe Lit | Scrabble Lit |
20 ADVENTURE THEMES AND MEMES: Index to All Adventure Lists | Introduction to Adventure Themes & Memes Series | Index to Entire Series | The Robinsonade (theme: DIY) | The Robinsonade (theme: Un-Alienated Work) | The Robinsonade (theme: Cozy Catastrophe) | The Argonautica (theme: All for One, One for All) | The Argonautica (theme: Crackerjacks) | The Argonautica (theme: Argonaut Folly) | The Argonautica (theme: Beautiful Losers) | The Treasure Hunt | The Frontier Epic | The Picaresque | The Avenger Drama (theme: Secret Identity) | The Avenger Drama (theme: Self-Liberation) | The Avenger Drama (theme: Reluctant Bad-Ass) | The Atavistic Epic | The Hide-And-Go-Seek Game (theme: Artful Dodger) | The Hide-And-Go-Seek Game (theme: Conspiracy Theory) | The Hide-And-Go-Seek Game (theme: Apophenia) | The Survival Epic | The Ruritanian Fantasy | The Escapade
ALSO: See my friend Sarah Weinman’s website about women crime writers of the 1940s–50s.
This is the seventh post in the series. Here you’ll find a list of my Top 21 Adventures from the Fifties (1954–1963).
ALSO SEE: Golden Age Sci-Fi: 75 Best Novels of 1934–1963
The Fifties was the era of James Bond. Fleming’s first Bond book, Casino Royale, appeared in the cusp year of 1953; before 1964, he’d publish Live and Let Die, Moonraker, Diamonds Are Forever, From Russia, with Love, Dr. No, Goldfinger, For Your Eyes Only, Thunderball, The Spy Who Loved Me, and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. I enjoyed these books as an adolescent, but find them unreadable now. In contrast to Bond’s rococo thrills, Graham Greene, and John le Carré gave us morally ambiguous — yet suspenseful, exciting — espionage adventures. PS: Jean Lartéguy’s The Centurions, whose context is the complexity of guerrilla warfare and insurgency (vs. straightforward combat), is a favorite of General David Petraeus’s.
The Golden Age of adventure was in the rearview mirror, during the Fifties, but Alistair MacLean, Helen MacInnes, Geoffrey Household, and newcomers Lionel Davidson and Len Deighton, did some of their best work during these years. It was also a great era for caper adventures: Between 1954 and 1963, Richard Stark, Jim Thompson, Donald Hamilton, Lionel White, Ed McBain, Eric Ambler, Patricia Highsmith, Andrew Garve, and John D. MacDonald wrote some of the best crime novels of all time.
The apex of Cold War paranoia coincided with the apex of the so-called Golden Age of Science Fiction and Fantasy — by 1963, the New Wave era of these genres was visible on the horizon. Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword, Philip K. Dick’s Time Out of Joint and The Man in the High Castle, Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination, Kurt Vonnegut’s The Sirens of Titan and Cat’s Cradle, Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange, J.G. Ballard’s The Drowned World, and Michael Moorcock’s The Stealer of Souls already contain New Wave elements. Yet they’re not so self-conscious as New Wave science fiction and fantasy; the pleasure they offer to the reader is less rarified and self-conscious than what was to come. Not that there’s anything wrong with rarified and self-conscious.
I also want to mention that YA and children’s adventures of this era are incredible! Crockett Johnson’s Harold and the Purple Crayon, Hergé’s Tintin in Tibet and The Calculus Affair and The Red Sea Sharks, Goscinny and Uderzo’s Asterix the Gaul, Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, C.S. Lewis’s The Horse and His Boy and The Magician’s Nephew, Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth and The Lantern Bearers, Edward Eager’s Knight’s Castle and Half Magic, Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth, Jerome Beatty’s Matthew Looney’s Voyage to the Earth, Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach, Jane Langton’s The Diamond in the Window, Sid Fleischman’s Mr. Mysterious & Company and By the Great Horn Spoon!, Joan Aiken’s The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Robert Heinlein’s Podkayne of Mars, not to mention the first fruits of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s comic book collaboration: By the time I was growing up, in the 1970s, these were already recognized as timeless classics.
As in each post from this series, I’ve appended a list of 29 second-tier favorites — for a grand total of 50 Top Adventures of the Fifties. Plus a third-tier list that features, among other thing, many obscure adventures. These ought not to be thought of as “third-rate” (I wouldn’t mention them if they weren’t worth reading) but instead as Most Deserving of Rediscovery. Please leave suggestions and feedback.
If you’re interested in reading re-discovered science fiction adventures, check out the 10 titles from HiLoBooks — available online and in gorgeous paperback form.
In chronological order:
- 1954. Poul Anderson’s fantasy adventure The Broken Sword. Michael Moorcock declared The Broken Sword superior to Tolkien, calling it “a fast-paced doom-drenched tragedy in which human heroism, love and ambition, manipulated by amoral gods, elves and trolls, led inevitably to tragic consequences.” PS: It was influenced by H. Rider Haggard’s 1891 Viking adventure The Saga of Eric Brighteyes.
- 1955. Crockett Johnson’s children’s dream adventure Harold and the Purple Crayon. A four-year-old with a purple crayon draws an adventure for himself. Along with Ruth Krauss, P.D. Eastman, Syd Hoff, Leo Lionni, Lilian Moore, and William Steig, Johnson (who was author, from 1942–52, of the great newspaper strip Barnaby) was a leftist who raised questions — in an ostensibly playful manner — about our taken-for-granted forms and norms.
- 1957. Alistair MacLean’s WWII commando adventure The Guns of Navarone. New Zealand mountaineer-turned-commando Keith Mallory, American demolitions expert Dusty Miller, and Greek resistance fighter Andrea are sent on a mission impossible: to destroy a seemingly impregnable German fortress that threatens Allied naval ships in the Aegean Sea. Adapted as the 1961 movie starring Gregory Peck, David Niven, and Anthony Quinn.
- 1958–59. Hergé’s Tintin adventure Tintin in Tibet, the author’s own favorite of his books. A strange adventure without an antagonist (unless the Yeti counts?), without Calculus or the Thompsons. Just Tintin, Haddock, Snowy, and the sherpa Tharkey, trekking across the Himalayan mountains in search of the sole survivor of a plane crash. An emotional, mystical, funny, weird voyage of redemption. Published as a color album in 1960.
- 1958. Graham Greene’s espionage adventure Our Man in Havana, a sardonic inversion of the genre. In this black comedy, which Greene considered an “entertainment” rather than a “novel,” Greene mocks intelligence services, especially the British MI6 (for whom he’d worked during WWII), and their willingness to believe reports from local informants. Adapted as the 1959 movie starring Alec Guinness.
- 1959. Philip K. Dick’s science fiction adventure Time Out of Joint. Ragle Gumm believes that he lives in the year 1959 in a quiet American suburb. His repeatedly wins the cash prize in a newspaper competition, “Where Will The Little Green Man Be Next?”. Confusion gradually mounts for Gumm. Adapted as (actually, baldly ripped off by) The Truman Show. Except Gumm’s occluded reality is much weirder than Truman’s.
- 1959. Richard Condon’s The Manchurian Candidate, a political thriller about the son of a prominent US political family who is brainwashed into being an unwitting assassin for a Communist conspiracy. Condon’s over-the-top style is strong medicine; as much as I like the 1962 John Frankenheimer movie adaptation, the novel is much better. “Raymond stood as though someone might have just opened a beach umbrella in his bowels.”
- 1959–60. René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo’s historical adventure Asterix the Gaul. The story was first published as a serial in Pilote magazine, a Franco-Belgian comics magazine founded by Goscinny and others. Published in album form in 1962. The English translation was first published in 1969.
- 1960. Donald Hamilton’s espionage adventure Death of a Citizen, the first in a long-running (27 titles) series featuring assassin Matt Helm. The title refers to the metaphorical death of peaceful citizen and family man Matt Helm and the rebirth of the WWII killer. NB: In the late 1960s, several comedy movies — sardonic inversions of the genre — starring Dean Martin were produced.
- 1960. Geoffrey Household’s hunted-man adventure Watcher in the Shadows, his second best novel (after Rogue Male). Zoologist Charles Dennim is sent a mail bomb — why? Turns out that during the war, he was a double agent working for the Allies as a Gestapo officer in a concentration camp. Now the husband of one of the Gestapo’s victims wants revenge.
- 1960. Jean Lartéguy’s military adventure The Centurions, which concerns paratroopers in Indochina and Algeria. Lt. Col. Pierre Raspeguy must transform a military unit accustomed to conventional warfare into one that can handle the complex, dynamic challenge of defeating an insurgency. The book, which includes the first use of the so-called “ticking time bomb” scenario, was adapted in 1966 as the movie Lost Command.
- 1962. Lionel Davidson’s adventure The Rose of Tibet. A Haggard-esque yarn in which an English man travels to Tibet searching for his missing brother. He is mistaken for a god; he falls in love with a high priestess; he is entrusted with a treasure; and he in the end, he must flee the invading Red Chinese army. Graham Greene: “I hadn’t realised how much I had missed the genuine adventure story until I read The Rose of Tibet.”
- 1962. Richard Stark’s (Donald E. Westlake) crime adventure The Hunter. Parker, a brutal thief, is shot and left for dead by his partner and wife. He recovers, then embarks on a relentless quest to retrieve his money and get revenge. Westlake would write 23 other Parker novels over the next half-century; he is credited with having made it OK for readers to root for the bad guy. Adapted in 1967 as John Boorman’s excellent movie Point Blank.
- 1962. Eric Ambler’s crime adventure The Light of Day. A petty crook in Athens, Arthur Abdel Simpson, preys on an international jewel thief — who blackmails him into driving a suspicious car across the Turkish border. Caught by the Turkish police, Simpson is coerced into spying on his erstwhile colleagues. Perhaps the author’s best work. Adapted by Jules Dassin as the light-hearted caper movie Topkapi.
- 1962. Len Deighton’s espionage adventure The IPCRESS File is a sardonic inversion of the genre… but still an exciting thriller. The plot involves mind control, the titular acronym standing (absurdly) for “Induction of Psycho-neuroses by Conditioned Reflex under strESS.” The novel’s protagonist if nameless; he works for an intelligence agency with the unexplained acronym WOOC(P). Adapted in 1965 as the popular Michael Caine movie.
- 1963. Madeleine L’Engle’s YA science fiction adventure A Wrinkle in Time. Fourteen-year-old Meg Murry is shy, awkward, and too good at math to be considered cool. When their scientist father disappears, Meg and her genius baby brother travel through space and time to rescue him — with the assistance of two weird neighbors (Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Who), and a basketball-playing jock.
- 1963. Thomas Pynchon’s apophenic adventure V. — published on the cusp of the Sixties. I am fascinated by fiction from ’63 — including YA lit — in so much of which we find a volatile admixture of seriousness (not earnestness) and irony. In Pynchon’s début novel, which details the picaresque exploits of schlemiel Benny Profane and the Whole Sick Crew, in and underneath New York, characters in search of a plot (in the paranoid sense of the term), jazzman McClintic Sphere articulates Pynchon’s cynical-yet-innocent worldview: “Keep cool but care.”
- 1963. Helen MacInnes’s espionage adventure The Venetian Affair. Though she got famous writing WWII anti-Nazi espionage adventures, some consider her Cold War anti-Communist books to be her best. In this one, set in picturesque Venice, a resourceful, intelligent amateur gets into a situation where a skilled agent would fear to tread. Adapted into a film in 1967 starring Robert Vaughn and Elke Sommer.
- 1963. Jim Thompson’s crime adventure The Grifters. A lollapalooza, in which a young con artist’s half-hearted efforts to go straight are stymied by his youthful con artist mother — who strongly resembles his girlfriend. Crime, sex, murder, crime, sex, impersonation, incestuous desire, murder. “There is no ease on Uneasy Street. The longer one’s tenancy, the more untenable it becomes.”
- 1963. John le Carré’s espionage adventure The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, in which the head of the West Berlin office of the British Secret Intelligence Service, is recalled in disgrace… but then asked to stay “in the cold” for one last mission. A sardonic inversion of the genre, one which de-glamorizes the spy and spy-craft — and at the same time a suspenseful, elegantly plotted, morally ambiguous thriller. Publishers Weekly named it the “best spy novel of all-time.” Adapted as an excellent 1965 movie.
- 1963. Maurice Sendak’s children’s fantasy adventure Where the Wild Things Are. Forget the self-consciously sad live-action 2009 Spike Jonze/Dave Eggers feature-film adaptation — please! Dressed in a wolf costume, Max goes wild — and is sent to his room, which transforms into a jungle. Max sails to an island inhabited by magnificently grotesque Wild Things, whom he (the most feral thing on the island) subjugates. A Wild Rumpus ensues.
Thanks! To the nearly 400 adventure fans who kickstarted the SAVE THE ADVENTURE e-book club.
- 1954. William Golding’s Lord of the Flies is a sardonic inversion of the Robinsonade. A group of civilized boys is stranded on a desert island, and (SPOILER ALERT) they revert to savagery.
- 1954. Rosemary Sutcliff’s YA Eagle of the Ninth historical adventure The Eagle of the Ninth.
- 1954. Jack Finney’s science fiction adventure The Body Snatchers. Interpreted as a social and political satire on the conformity of the Fifties. Inspired three film adaptations.
- 1954–56. Hergé’s Tintin adventure The Calculus Affair. Published as a color album in 1956.
- 1955. Patricia Highsmith’s crime adventure The Talented Mr. Ripley. The first in an acclaimed series of novels featuring a charming, guilt-free, opportunistic murderer who is never brought to justice. It’s been called one of the 30 essential crime reads written by women in the last 100 years.
- 1955. Graham Greene’s espionage adventure The Quiet American. A sardonic inversion of the genre.
- 1955. J.P. Donleavy’s The Ginger Man is a kind of sardonic inversion of the picaresque. Donleavy’s first novel, published in France by Olympia Press, helps define the archetype of the romantic rebel for the Fifties.
- 1955/1958. Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita is — at least in part — a picaresque. Not published in the US until 1958.
- 1955. Lionel White’s crime adventure The Big Caper. Gave the “caper” genre its moniker.
- 1956. Edward Eager’s YA fantasy adventure Knight’s Castle.
- 1956. Henry Treece’s pre-historical adventure The Golden Strangers. Primitive flint-using Britons encounter warlike Indo-European invaders armies with metal weapons, in this excellent story from an author best known for his YA historical adventures about later (Viking and Roman) invaders.
- 1956. Alfred Bester’s science fiction adventure The Stars My Destination, also known as Tiger! Tiger! An interstellar Count of Monte Cristo, and an important influence on Samuel R. Delany’s Nova.
- 1957. Jack Kerouac’s On the Road is a picaresque.
- 1957. James Salter’s The Hunters, which deals with the author’s experiences as a fighter pilot in Korea.
- 1957. Chester Himes’s crime adventure For Love of Imabelle. The first of nine novels featuring black police detectives Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones.
- 1958. Maxwell Kenton (pseudonym of Terry Southern) in collaboration with Mason Hoffenberg’s Candy. A satirical sexual picaresque. Owes elements of its plotline to Voltaire’s Candide.
- 1959. Saul Bellow’s comic adventure Henderson the Rain King is a sardonic inversion of the frontier adventure sub-genre. Henderson, a Connecticut millionaire, faces death in the jungle and emerges reborn.
- 1959. Shirley Jackson’s psychological/occult thriller The Haunting of Hill House. Filmed as The Haunting in 1963.
- 1960. Poul Anderson’s historical/science fiction adventure The High Crusade.
- 1960. Ian Fleming’s James Bond espionage adventure collection For Your Eyes Only. I like the Bond short stories better than the novels.
- 1960. E.L. Doctorow’s Western adventure Welcome to Hard Times. A frontier town is destroyed by a psychopathic killer. Adapted as a 1967 movie with Aldo Ray and Henry Fonda.
- 1960–61. René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo’s historical Asterix adventure Asterix and the Golden Sickle.
- 1961. John Hawkes’s crime adventure (sorta) The Lime Twig concerns an attempt to steal a racehorse and run it under a false name. Along with John Barth’s Sot-Weed Factor, Nabokov’s Pale Fire, and Thomas Pynchon’s V., this is considered one of the novels that ushered in literary postmodernism.
- 1961. Robert Heinlein’s science fiction adventure Stranger in a Strange Land. A cult classic.
- 1961. Elmore Leonard’s Western adventure Hombre. A sardonic inversion of the Western, and a cult classic. Adapted in 1967 as a Paul Newman movie.
- 1962. Anthony Burgess’s science fiction adventure A Clockwork Orange.
- 1963. Robert A. Heinlein’s fantasy adventure Glory Road.
- 1963. Michael Moorcock’s Elric fantasy adventure The Stealer of Souls.
- 1963–on. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s comic The X-Men.
- 1954. Eric Ambler’s espionage/crime adventure The Schirmer Inheritance. An American lawyer searches for the heir to a significant estate; he is drawn into an international conspiracy.
- 1954. Jim Thompson’s crime adventure Roughneck.
- 1954. Edward Eager’s YA fantasy adventure Half Magic.
- 1954. Hammond Innes’s adventure The Strange Land (also published in the U.S. as The Naked Land).
- 1954. Victor Canning’s political thriller A Handful of Silver. An innocent man is drawn into danger.
- 1954. Jim Thompson’s crime adventure The Golden Gizmo (aka The Golden Sinner).
- 1954. Ian Fleming’s James Bond espionage adventure Live and Let Die.
- 1954. C.S. Lewis’s Narnia fantasy adventure The Horse and His Boy.
- 1954. Jim Thompson’s crime adventure A Swell-Looking Babe.
- 1954. Edgar Pangborn’s science fiction adventure A Mirror for Observers.
- 1954. Jim Thompson’s crime adventure A Hell of a Woman.
- 1954. Frank Herbert’s science fiction adventure The Dragon in the Sea.
- 1954. Agatha Christie’s espionage/mystery adventure Destination Unknown.
- 1954. Richard Matheson’s science fiction adventure I Am Legend.
- 1954. Anne Desclos (under the pen name Pauline Réage)’s erotic adventure Story of O.
- 1954. Jim Thompson’s crime adventure The Nothing Man.
- 1955. Margaret Millar’s crime adventure Beast in View.
- 1955. Victor Canning’s treasure-hunt adventure Twist of the Knife.
- 1955. Jim Thompson’s crime adventure After Dark, My Sweet.
- 1955. Helen MacInnes’s adventure Pray for a Brave Heart.
- 1955. Robert Heinlein’s YA science fiction adventure Tunnel in the Sky. A Robinsonade.
- 1955. Isaac Asimov’s science fiction adventure The End of Eternity.
- 1955. C.S. Lewis’s Narnia fantasy adventure The Magician’s Nephew.
- 1955. Geoffrey Household’s adventure Fellow Passenger (aka Hang the Moon High).
- 1955. Leigh Brackett’s science fiction adventure The Long Tomorrow.
- 1955. Ian Fleming’s James Bond espionage adventure Moonraker.
- 1955. J.J. Marric’s crime adventure Gideon’s Day.
- 1955. William Golding’s atavistic adventure The Inheritors: Neanderthals vs. Homo sapiens. It was Golding’s personal favorite of his novels.
- 1955. Philip K. Dick’s science fiction adventure Solar Lottery.
- 1955. Alistair MacLean’s sea-going adventure HMS Ulysses.
- 1955. Michael Innes’s Cold War suspense-pursuit adventure The Man from the Sea (Death by Moonlight). In the mold of Buchan.
- 1955. Robert E. Howard’s Conan fantasy adventure stories Tales of Conan, written much earlier but collected by Gnome Press as part of a series. Note that the stories in this particular volume were extensively rewritten by L. Sprague de Camp.
- 1955. Edgar P. Jacobs’s Blake & Mortimer sci-fi espionage comic-book adventure Atlantis Mystery.
- 1956. C.S. Lewis’s Narnia fantasy adventure The Last Battle.
- 1956–58. Hergé’s Tintin adventure The Red Sea Sharks. Published as a color album in 1958.
- 1956. Henry Treece’s historical fantasy adventure The Great Captains, about Artos the Bear (King Arthur).
- 1956. Ed McBain’s crime adventure Cop Hater.
- 1956. Ian Fleming’s James Bond espionage adventure Diamonds Are Forever.
- 1956. Hammond Innes’s sea-going adventure The Wreck of the Mary Deare.
- 1956. Maurice Tillieux’s humorous Gil Jourdan crime comic Libellule s’évade (Libellule Escapes). Convicted burglar Libellule is snatched from under the nose of police Inspector Crouton by private detective Gil Jourdan who needs his help in breaking up a gang of drug smugglers.
- 1956. Maurice Tillieux’s humorous Gil Jourdan crime comic Popaïne et vieux tableaux (Popaïne and Old Paintings). Between them Jourdan, Libellule and Queue-de-Cerise have traced the smugglers’ route. Now comes the difficult bit: getting the evidence without getting Crouton under their feet.
- 1956. Donald Hamilton’s adventure Assassins Have Starry Eyes.
- 1956. John Christopher’s post-apocalyptic science fiction adventure The Death of Grass.
- 1956. Arthur C. Clarke’s science fiction adventure The City and the Stars.
- 1956. Philip K. Dick’s science fiction adventure The Man Who Japed.
- 1956. Rosemary Sutcliff’s YA Eagle of the Ninth historical adventure The Shield Ring.
- 1956. Philip K. Dick’s science fiction adventure The World Jones Made.
- 1956. William Golding’s survivalist adventure Pincher Martin: The Two Deaths of Christopher Martin. The protagonist is stranded on an unmapped rock in the middle of the Atlantic after his ship is torpedoed. Much of his DIY survival here is psychological, devising daily routines to keep himself sane on the rock. SPOILER: Is he really on the island?
- 1956. Eric Ambler’s adventure The Night-Comers, also published as State of Siege. High adventure; but one of Ambler’s weaker efforts. Set in Malaysia.
- 1956. Raymond Abrashkin and Jay Williams’s YA adventure Danny Dunn and the Anti-Gravity Paint.
- 1957. Francis Clifford’s survival adventure Overdue. Survival in the Arizona desert.
- 1957. Frederik Pohl and Cyril Kornbluth’s science fiction adventure Wolfbane, in which Earth is moved out of its orbit by a runaway planet whose inhabitants are Pyramids.
- 1957. John Wyndham’s science fiction adventure The Midwich Cuckoos. Adapted as the 1960 movie Village of the Damned.
- 1957. Alistair MacLean’s adventure South by Java Head. As Singapore falls to the invading Japanese Army, a mixed collection of soldiers, nurses, fleeing civilians, a small boy, and at least one spy attempt to escape.
- 1957. John D. MacDonald’s adventure The Executioners. A dark psychological thriller. Adapted as a movie in 1962 and 1991 as Cape Fear. Attorney Sam Bowden must kill the brutal rapist/murderer who threatens his family.
- 1957. Edward Eager’s YA fantasy adventure Magic By the Lake.
- 1957. Robert A. Heinlein’s science fiction adventure The Door into Summer.
- 1957. Philip K. Dick’s science fiction adventure The Cosmic Puppets.
- 1957. Raymond Abrashkin and Jay Williams’s YA adventure Danny Dunn on a Desert Island.
- 1957. Jim Thompson’s crime adventure The Kill-Off.
- 1957. Philip K. Dick’s science fiction adventure Eye in the Sky.
- 1957. Rosemary Sutcliff’s YA Eagle of the Ninth historical adventure The Silver Branch.
- 1957. Ian Fleming’s espionage adventure From Russia, With Love.
- 1957. Jim Thompson’s crime adventure Wild Town.
- 1958. Ian Fleming’s James Bond espionage adventure Dr. No.
- 1958. Helen MacInnes’s adventure North from Rome. When a witty young American playwright follows a former girlfriend to Rome, he saves a mysterious Italian girl from assassins — and the action never slows down from there. A narcotics ring, Communists, a battle in a Renaissance villa. Not everyone’s favorite MacInnes, but I think it’s a ripping yarn.
- 1958. Brian Aldiss’s science fiction adventure Non-Stop.
- 1958. James Blish’s science fiction adventure A Case of Conscience.
- 1958. Robert Heinlein’s YA science fiction adventure Have Space Suit — Will Travel.
- 1958. Hammond Innes’s adventure The Land God Gave to Cain.
- 1958. Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums is a picaresque, and — if California is a kind of frontier for East Coast types — a frontier adventure, too.
- 1958. Jim Thompson’s crime adventure The Getaway.
- 1958. Robert Lewis Taylor’s The Travels of Jamie McPheeters.
- 1958. Victor Canning’s political thriller The Dragon Tree. Relatively uninteresting.
- 1958. John Christopher’s spelunking adventure The Caves of Night.
- 1958. Richard Condon’s The Oldest Confession. A museum heist gone wrong. Sardonic inversion, or ironic homage to the heist genre? The first of many for Condon.
- 1958. Mary Renault’s historical adventure The King Must Die traces the early life and adventures of the Greek mythological hero Theseus.
- 1958. Edgar P. Jacobs’s Blake & Mortimer sci-fi espionage comic-book adventure SOS Meteors.
- 1958. William Haggard’s Colonel Charles Russell espionage adventure Slow Burner. The Sunday Express called Haggard “the adults’ Ian Fleming.”
- 1958. Muriel Spark’s Robinson is a sardonic inversion of the Robinsonade.
- 1958. L. Sprague De Camp’s historical adventure An Elephant for Aristotle. One of five by the same author.
- 1958. Maurice Tillieux’s humorous Gil Jourdan crime comic La voiture immergée (Murder by High Tide). While driving off the coast of Brittany, antique dealer Nikita Zix and his car are swept out to sea. Items in his collection then turn out to be fakes. Can Jourdan solve the mystery without falling into the same fatal trap and is Zix really dead?
- 1958–on. DC’s comic book series The Legion of Super Heroes.
- 1958. T.H. White’s YA fantasy adventure The Candle in the Wind.
- 1958–62ish. Jack Kirby’s science fiction adventures for Marvel’s Strange Worlds, Amazing Adventures, Journey into Mystery, Strange Tales, and Tales to Astonish.
- 1959. Ian Fleming’s James Bond espionage adventure Goldfinger.
- 1959. Maurice Tillieux’s humorous Gil Jourdan crime comic Les cargos du crépuscule (Catch as Catch Can). Syringe Joe, a dangerous criminal, escapes from prison in a way that defies explanation. He blames his lawyer for his conviction. Even Jourdan cannot foil the lawyer’s kidnapping and events take an even more sinister turn for the young detective himself.
- 1959. Victor Canning’s atavistic adventure The Burning Eye. One of the author’s best. A group of westerners are marooned on the coast of Somalia when a native uprising threatens all their lives.
- 1959. Jack Finney’s crime adventure Assault on a Queen. By the author of The Body Snatchers. Adapted into a Frank Sinatra movie.
- 1959. Eric Ambler’s adventure Passage of Arms. A tourist in Malaysia is recruited to dispose of a cache of illegal weapons.
- 1959. Rosemary Sutcliff’s YA Eagle of the Ninth/Arthurian historical adventure The Lantern Bearers.
- 1959. Michael Innes’s espionage adventure Hare Sitting Up. A top bacterial-warfare scientist goes missing, possibly with a vial of some unspecified super-virulent disease toxin. Sardonic inversion of the genre.
- 1959. Alistair MacLean’s adventure The Last Frontier (US: The Secret Ways). MacLean’s first foray into the espionage thriller genre. Inspired by the events surrounding the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.
- 1959. Pat Frank’s post-apocalyptic science fiction adventure Alas, Babylon.
- 1959.Jack Higgins’s adventure Wind from the Sea (written as Harry Patterson, the author’s real name). Higgins’s first novel: A man intercedes on behalf of a kidnapped girl and has a series of adventures in China.
- 1959. Kurt Vonnegut’s science fiction adventure The Sirens of Titan.
- 1959. Alistair MacLean’s survival adventure Night Without End. Unforgiving Arctic environment.
- 1960. Francis Clifford’s WWII adventure A Battle is Fought to be Won concerns a reluctant soldier who must fight the Japanese in the jungle almost single-handedly.
- 1960. Lionel Davidson’s espionage adventure The Night of Wenceslas. His first book. A sardonic inversion of the genre.
- 1960. Mary Stewart’s crime adventure My Brother Michael.
- 1960. Maurice Tillieux’s humorous Gil Jourdan crime comic L’enfer de Xique-Xique (Ten Thousand Years in Hell). Jourdan and Libellule journey to a South American dictatorship in order to find a kidnapped weapons designer. Arrested on trumped-up charges of espionage they are taken to the prison-mines of Xique-Xique in the middle of a scorching desert from which escape is said to be impossible.
- 1960.Jack Higgins’s adventure Cry of the Hunter, the first of many Higgins novels that would feature IRA members as protagonists.
- 1960. Philip K. Dick’s science fiction adventure Vulcan’s Hammer.
- 1960. Helen MacInnes’s espionage adventure Decision at Delphi. One of her lesser efforts.
- 1960. Philip K. Dick’s science fiction adventure Dr. Futurity.
- 1960. L. Sprague De Camp’s historical adventure The Bronze God of Rhodes. A Robinsonade of sorts, in which an innovative artisan and thinker gets caught up in a war between Rhodes and Macedonia. One of five notable historical novels by the same author.
- 1960. Walter M. Millers’s science fiction novel A Canticle for Leibowitz. Amazing book — but not really an adventure.
- 1960. Algis Budrys’s science fiction adventure Rogue Moon.
- 1960. Theodore Sturgeon’s science fiction adventure Venus Plus X.
- 1960. Hammond Innes’s adventure The Doomed Oasis.
- 1960. Philip McCutchan’s espionage adventure Gibraltar Road.
- 1960. Edgar P. Jacobs’s Blake & Mortimer sci-fi espionage comic-book adventure The Time Trap.
- 1961. John le Carré’s espionage adventure Call for the Dead. The author’s first, introducing George Smiley. Smiley has fallen from grace and is working in a relatively menial intelligence job.
- 1961. Ian Fleming’s James Bond espionage adventure Thunderball.
- 1961. Jerome Beatty’s children’s science fiction adventure Matthew Looney’s Voyage to the Earth. Illustrations by Gahan Wilson.
- 1961. Jim Thompson’s crime adventure The Transgressors.
- 1961. Alistair MacLean’s adventure Fear is the Key.
- 1961. Norton Juster’s YA fantasy adventure The Phantom Tollbooth. Is it YA? Seems like only adults enjoy it.
- 1961. Alistair MacLean’s adventure The Dark Crusader (US: The Black Shrike). Bentall, a physicist specializing in rocket fuels, must allow himself to be kidnapped.
- 1961.Jack Higgins’s hunted-man adventure The Thousand Faces of Night.
- 1961. Rosemary Sutcliff’s YA Eagle of the Ninth historical adventure Dawn Wind.
- 1961. L. Sprague De Camp’s historical adventure The Dragon of the Ishtar Gate. One of five by the same author.
- 1961–on. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s comic Fantastic Four.
- 1961. Roald Dahl’s children’s adventure James and the Giant Peach. There is a castaway/island aspect to it — i.e., the giant peach. The travelers must use ingenuity and tools they happen to have handy in order to survive; one thinks of the spiderwebs and the seagulls.
- 1961. Hergé’s Tintin adventure The Castafiore Emerald. Published as a color album in 1963.
- 1961. Philip McCutchan’s espionage adventure Redcap.
- 1961. Margaret Millar’s thriller The Fiend. It’s been called one of the 30 essential crime reads written by women in the last 100 years.
- 1962. John le Carré’s espionage adventure A Murder of Quality.
- 1962. Victor Canning’s political thriller Black Flamingo. One of his best efforts. A man assumes another’s identity in order to avoid trouble with the Congolese government; this leads him into worse trouble.
- 1962. Jane Langton’s YA fantasy adventure The Diamond in the Window.
- 1962.Jack Higgins’s hunted-man adventure Comes the Dark Stranger.
- 1962–on. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s comic The Incredible Hulk.
- 1962. J.G. Ballard’s science fiction adventure The Drowned World.
- 1962.Jack Higgins’s adventure Hell is Too Crowded.
- 1962. Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey’s political thriller Seven Days in May.
- 1962. Ian Fleming’s James Bond espionage adventure The Spy Who Loved Me.
- 1962. James Jones’s military adventure The Thin Red Line.
- 1962. Sid Fleischman’s YA historical adventure Mr. Mysterious & Company.
- 1962.Jack Higgins’s espionage adventure The Testament of Caspar Schultz (also published as The Bormann Testament) introduces a recurring hero, the spy Paul Chavasse.
- 1962. Philip K. Dick’s science fiction adventure The Man in the High Castle.
- 1962. Alistair MacLean’s adventure The Satan Bug.
- 1962. Brian W. Aldiss’s science fiction adventure Hothouse.
- 1962. J.G. Ballard’s science fiction adventure The Drowned World.
- 1962. Alistair MacLean’s adventure The Golden Rendezvous.
- 1962. James Clavell’s WWII prison adventure King Rat.
- 1962. Robert Sheckley’s satirical science fiction adventure Journey Beyond Tomorrow.
- 1962. Mary Renault’s historical adventure The Bull from the Sea, the second of her novels following the adventures of the Greek mythological hero Theseus.
- 1962. Aldous Huxley’s island adventure Island. A utopian counterpart to Brave New World.
- 1962. Hammond Innes’s adventure Atlantic Fury.
- 1962. Mary Stewart’s crime adventure The Moon-Spinners.
- 1962. Spider-Man makes his first appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15. Created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.
- 1962. Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler’s apocalyptic adventure Fail-Safe. Adapted into a 1964 film of the same name directed by Sidney Lumet.
- 1962. James Jones’s WWII adventure The Thin Red Line.
- 1962. Joan Aiken’s YA historical adventure The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. First in Aiken’s 12-part Wolves Chronicles series.
- 1962. Shirley Jackson’s thriller We Have Always Lived in the Castle. It’s been called one of the 30 essential crime reads written by women in the last 100 years.
- 1962. James Clavell’s military/prison adventure King Rat. Based in part on his own experiences as a prisoner of war in Southeast Asia.
- 1962. Philip McCutchan’s espionage adventure Bluebolt One.
- 1963. Andrew Garve’s crime adventure The Sea Monks. Trigger-happy hoods descend upon a lighthouse off the Cornwall coast and take hostages.
- 1963.Jack Higgins’s adventure Dark Side of the Island. An atmospheric story set on a postwar Greek island.
- 1963. Len Deighton’s espionage adventure Horse Under Water. The second of Len Deighton’s spy novels featuring an anonymous British agent protagonist.
- 1963. Sid Fleischman’s YA historical adventure By the Great Horn Spoon!.
- 1963.Jack Higgins’s Paul Chavasse espionage adventure The Year of the Tiger (rewritten and reissued in 1996).
- 1963. Ross Macdonald’s crime adventure The Chill.
- 1963.Jack Higgins’s historical adventure Pay the Devil. An American gets caught up in the Irish civil war.
- 1963. Alistair MacLean’s adventure Ice Station Zebra.
- 1963. John Fowles’s crime adventure The Collector.
- 1963. Philip K. Dick’s science fiction adventure The Game-Players of Titan.
- 1963. Victor Canning’s espionage adventure The Limbo Line. A professional spy comes out of retirement.
- 1963. Ian Fleming’s James Bond espionage adventure On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
- 1963. Clifford D. Simak’s science fiction adventure Way Station.
- 1963.Jack Higgins’s WWII military adventure Seven Pillars to Hell. The author’s first WWII adventure; reissued in 1995 as Sheba.
- 1963. Clifford B. Hicks’s YA adventure Alvin’s Secret Code.
- 1963. Rosemary Sutcliff’s Eagle of the Ninth/Arthurian historical adventure Sword at Sunset.
- 1963. Robert Heinlein’s YA science fiction adventure Podkayne of Mars.
- 1963. Geoffrey Household’s adventure Thing to Love.
- 1963. Pierre Boulle’s science fiction adventure Planet of the Apes.
- 1963–on. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s comic Iron Man.
- 1963. Kurt Vonnegut’s satirical science fiction adventure Cat’s Cradle.
- 1963–on. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s comic The Avengers.
- 1963. Jack London’s The Assassination Bureau, Ltd. Begun by London and finished after his death by Robert L. Fish. The plot follows Ivan Dragomiloff, who, in a twist of fate, finds himself pitted against the secret assassination agency he founded.
- 1963. Philip McCutchan’s espionage adventure Warmaster.
- 1963. Walter Tevis’s science fiction adventure The Man who Fell to Earth.
- 1963. Philip McCutchan’s espionage adventure The Man from Moscow.
What do you think?
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RT @HILOBROW: Best Fifties Adventure by Josh Glenn: Forget James Bond! Alistair MacLean, Helen MacInnes, Geoffrey Household… http://t.co/7…
Great list. It’s nice to see someone who includes comic books in literature lists, but what happened to Amazing Spider-Man? You listed all the other early Marvels.
Best Fifties Adventure http://t.co/b4tqFzO9an
Thanks Mike W — an oversight! Unlike my approach to adventure novels, which is fairly methodical, when it comes to comics I just listed some favorites off the top of my head.
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RT @HILOBROW: Best Fifties Adventure by Josh Glenn: Forget James Bond! Alistair MacLean, Helen MacInnes, Geoffrey Household… http://t.co/7…
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