By Sean Tuohy
This week’s Badass Writer is a good guy who writes about the bad guys.
International best-selling author Jack Higgins has thrilled and excited readers the world over for the past 40years with no signs of stopping. His runaway best-seller, “The Eagle Has Landed,” put his name at the top of the list for thriller writers. He hasn’t looked back since. Higgins’ heroes are not your typical do-gooders (for example, Sean Dillon, one of his most famous characters, is a classically trained actor turned IRA hit man). But before Higgins started writing about men living tough and dangerous lives, he lived one himself.
Born Harry Patterson in 1929, Higgins grew up in Northern Ireland during World War II and social unrest within Ireland. Higgins has spoken about walking to the market with his mother as a child when a fire fight broke out and his mother used her body to shield him from bullets. Much of the violence and unrest that he witnessed as a child affected him later in life and made its way into his writing.
Higgins was known as an indifferent student as a child who could care less for school. He bounced around Ireland before he found a home in the British Army, where he became a noncommissioned officer in the cavalry. While in the military, Higgins discovered that he had sharpshooting skills and a high I.Q. Yep, this guy can do a math problem with ease while shooting a target a mile away.
Military service lit a fire under Higgins. After he got out, he went back to school, and, unlike before, he threw himself into school work and studied throughout England. Once he was finished with school, Higgins began writing. He pumped out short thriller paperbacks. None of them were hits, nor were they very good, but Higgins kept working at his craft.
It all came to a head when he published his sixth novel, the aforementioned “The Eagle Has Landed.” Higgins was the hot new writer despite the fact he had been writing for nearly 10 years. “The Eagle Has Landed” tells the tale of a group of German commandos sent to England to kidnap Winston Churchill during World War II. The book was later turned in to a film with Michael Cain, Donald Sutherland, and Robert Duvall. Not a bad payoff for a hardworking writer.
Now approaching 90 years old, Higgins still publishes at least one novel a year that features oddball protagonists and all-around tough guys. We assume he’ll long outlive any zombie apocalypse, nuclear holocaust, or plague by entertaining the barbarians at his door with his thrilling prose.