Save the Adventure (5)

By: Joshua Glenn
October 7, 2013

The previous post looked at the all-for-one theme within some Argonautica adventures. This post will mention several examples of another Argonautica theme: Crackerjacks.

Thanks! To the nearly 400 adventure fans who kickstarted the SAVE THE ADVENTURE e-book club.


MORE LIT LISTS FROM THIS AUTHOR: 200 Greatest Adventure Novels of All Time | 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) | 55 Best Scientific Romances (1864–1903) | Best 19th Century Adventure (1805–1903) | Best Nineteen-Oughts Adventure (1904–13) | Best Nineteen-Teens Adventure (1914–23) | Best Twenties Adventure (1924–33) | Best Thirties Adventure (1934–43) | Best Forties Adventure (1944–53) | Best Fifties Adventure (1954–63) | Best Sixties Adventure (1964–73) | Best Seventies Adventure (1974–83) | 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 YYA Lit 1963 | Best YYA Lit 1964 | Best YYA Lit 1965 | Best YYA Lit 1966 | Best YYA Lit 1967 | THE OUGHTS (1904–13): 1905 | 1906 | 1907 | 1908 | 1910 | 1911 | 1912 | 1913. THE TEENS (1914–23): 1915 | 1916 | 1917 | 1918 | 1920 | 1921 | 1922 | 1923. THE TWENTIES (1924–33): 1925 | 1926 | 1927 | 1928 | 1930 | 1931 | 1932 | 1933. THE THIRTIES (1934–43): 1935 | 1936 | 1937 | 1938 | 1940 | 1941 | 1942 | 1943. THE FORTIES (1944–53): 1945 | 1946 | 1947 | 1948 | 1950 | 1951 | 1952 | 1953. THE FIFTIES (1954–63): 1955 | 1956 | 1957 | 1958 | 1960 | 1961 | 1962 | 1963. THE SIXTIES (1964–73): 1964 | 1965 | 1966 | 1967 | 1968 | 1970 | 1971 | 1972 | 1973. THE SEVENTIES (1974–83): 1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1978 | 1980 | 1981 | 1982 | 1983. | 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


The invisible prison, in a crackerjack-themed Argonautica story, is UNPROFESSIONALISM. Crackerjacks are consummate pros, who team up for a particular purpose; together, they form a smoothly functioning mechanism that gets the job done. Each member of the team possesses a particular skill, talent, or ability; he or she is ace, expert, proficient, sharp, slick.

One final note: Crackerjacks get along! And they aren’t losers. In subsequent posts I’ll look at quarrelsome teams of highly skilled men and women; and I’ll also consider teams composed of beautiful losers.


* I’ve included a few caper crime stories: generally a light-hearted romp in which a gang of disparate characters bands together to pull off a substantial robbery from a seemingly impregnable site. However, I’ve mostly included capers on the list of Treasure Hunt adventures.

ALSO SEE: Wikipedia’s list of heist films.



* From the King Arthur legend: the Orkney brothers. Gawain, Mordred, Gaheris, Agrivain, and Gareth.

THE TEENS (1914-23)

* Richard Hannay, John S. Blenkiron, Sandy Arbuthnot, and the Boer hunter Peter Pienaar, in John Buchan’s classic espionage adventure novel Greenmantle (1916).

THE THIRTIES (1934-43)

* Nevil Shute’s novel Most Secret (1942; censored until 1945), about four British Navy officers who launch a quixotic secret mission against Germany in a converted French fishing vessel, manned by a crew of Free French ex-fishermen, armed only with a flamethrower.

THE FORTIES (1944-53)

The so-called Greatest Generation really identified with this theme, it seems.

* Objective, Burma!, a 1945 WWII movie — starring Errol Flynn — in which a platoon of special ops are tasked to parachute into the remote Burmese jungle and destroy a strategic Japanese radar station.

* W.R. Burnett’s 1949 heist novel The Asphalt Jungle — made into the 1950 John Huston-directed movie. Note that each crackerjack has a fatal flaw.

cruel sea

* Nicholas Monsarrat’s 1951 novel The Cruel Sea, in which an inexperienced British Navy crew battles fierce storms and German U-boats.

* The 1953 WWII commando movie The Desert Rats. Richard Burton plays a Scottish Army officer put in charge of a disparate band of ANZAC troops on the perimeter of Tobruk with the German Army doing their best to dislodge them.


* The 1953 WWII commando novel Honour the Shrine by Francis Clifford. Clifford (Arthur Leonard Bell Thompson) was a war hero, and respected British thriller author.

THE FIFTIES (1954-63)

* Alistair MacLean’s 1955 novel HMS ULysses — his first book — takes place on a light cruiser during WWII. The crew is pushed well beyond the limits of endurance as the ship faces a fierce Arctic storm, German ships and U-boats, and air attacks.

* Lionel White’s 1955 heist novel Clean Break — made into Stanley Kubrick’s 1956 movie The Killing.

* Lionel White’s 1955 heist novel The Big Caper, which gave the “caper” genre its moniker.

* Jack Kirby’s comic book team Challengers of the Unknown — who first appeared in a 1957 issue of Showcase, but then got their own title — are an argonaut-type crew. The quartet of adventurers — pilot Kyle “Ace” Morgan, daredevil Matthew “Red” Ryan, strong and slow-witted Leslie “Rocky” Davis, and scientist Walter Mark “Prof” Haley — explored science fictional and apparent paranormal occurrences and faced fantastic menaces. The “Challs” establish the hollowed-out Challengers Mountain as headquarters.


* In Alistair MacLean’s 1957 novel The Guns of Navarone, a crackerjack team (Captain Keith Mallory, a New Zealand officer with the Long Range Desert Group and a pre-war mountain climber; Andrea, a former Lt. Colonel in the Greek army; Corporal Dusty Miller, an American explosives expert; Petty Officer Telegraphist Casey Brown, a Royal Navy engineer; and Lt Andrew Stevens, an experienced mountaineer) is assembled in order to sabotage the guns on the island of Navarone. The 1961 film adaptation stars Gregory Peck, David Niven, and Anthony Quinn. PS: “The Guns of Navarone”, the film’s theme song, was a hit for the Jamaican first-wave ska group The Skatalites and was also covered by The Specials.

* Fritz Leiber’s 1958/1961 sci-fi novella The Big Time.

* DC’s Suicide Squad, who first appeared in The Brave and the Bold (1959).

* Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert’s Sgt. Rock & Easy Co. — who first appeared in DC’s Our Army at War in 1959.

* Never So Few, a 1959 WWII special forces movie — featuring Frank Sinatra and Steve McQueen. 

* Francis Clifford’s 1959 novel Acts of Mercy (US title: Guns of Darkness) has been compared to Guns of Navarone.

* The 1960s comic book adventures of the Justice League (who first appeared in DC’s The Brave and the Bold in February/March 1960).

* The original (1960) Ocean’s Eleven — starring members of the Rat Pack.

* The Centurions (1960; French title: Les Centurions) is a novel written by French journalist and former soldier Jean Lartéguy. The novel includes the first use of the so-called “ticking time bomb” scenario. In 1966, it was adapted into a motion picture, Lost Command, that starred Anthony Quinn.

* The Beardless Warriors is a 1960 World War II novel written by Richard Matheson. It is based on his experiences as a young infantryman in the 87th Division in France and Germany.

* DC’s The Metal Men, who first appeared in Showcase in 1962.


* Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s The Avengers, who first appeared in Marvel’s The Avengers in 1963.

THE SIXTIES (1964-73)

* In Frank Herbert’s 1965 science fiction novel Dune, Paul Atreides is trained and protected by his father’s men: Thufir Hawat, Mentat and Master of Assassins; Gurney Halleck, loyal troubadour warrior; and Duncan Idaho, Swordmaster.

* Gavin Lyall’s 1965 thriller Midnight Plus One concerns a couple of crackerjacks — one of them is ex-French Resistance, the other ex-Secret Service — hired to protect a businessman from assassins as he races across Europe.

* Not an adventure story, but: The rock “supergroup” Cream formed in 1966. To the extent that a rock “supergroup” is an amalgam formed by the talented malcontents of other bands, it is an argonaut-type team. To the extent that a rock “supergroup” is the Traveling Wilburys, they are not argonauts.


* The 1966–73 spy TV show Mission Impossible.

* The Professionals, a 1966 movie — with Burt Lancaster and Lee Marvin — in which a Texas millionaire hires four adventurers to rescue his kidnapped wife from a Mexican bandit.

* The 1968 Vietnam War movie The Green Berets, starring John Wayne.

* Not an adventure story, but: Led Zeppelin’s semi-mythical formation in 1968.

* Not an adventure story, but: Crosby, Stills & Nash formed in 1968; its members had previously found great success with The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, and The Hollies.

eagles dare

* Where Eagles Dare is a 1968 WWII action film starring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood. Alistair MacLean wrote the novel and the screenplay at the same time. A team of commandos, led by Major John Smith (Richard Burton) and U.S. Army Ranger Lieutenant Morris Schaffer (Clint Eastwood) parachutes into a German-held fortress in Alps in order to rescue General Carnaby.

* Alistair MacLean’s Guns of Navarone sequel, Force 10 from Navarone, was published in 1968. The movie — with Harrison Ford — came out in 1978.

* The Devil’s Brigade (1968), a WWII commando movie with William Holden and Cliff Robertson.

* The 1969 caper movie The Italian Job.

* Play Dirty is a 1969 British film inspired by the North African exploits of units such as the Long Range Desert Group, Popski’s Private Army and the SAS during World War II. It was directed by Andre De Toth and written by Melvyn Bragg and Lotte Colin. It stars Michael Caine, Nigel Green and Harry Andrews.

* Desmond Bagley’s 1969 novel The Spoilers. A team of specialists are assembled — by a London drug treatment specialist — in order to smash a major international drug ring.

* Kelly’s Heroes, a 1970 WWII movie — with Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas, Don Rickles, Carroll O’Connor, and Donald Sutherland — that is in some ways a sardonic inversion of the genre.

* The 1971 WWII commando movie Raid on Rommel, with Richard Burton.


* The Day of the Jackal (1971) is a thriller novel by English writer Frederick Forsyth about a professional assassin who is contracted by the OAS, a French dissident paramilitary organization, to kill Charles de Gaulle, the President of France. Forsyth’s first novel. Like his subsequent novels, it is more concerned with tradecraft than with character development.

* The 1972 caper movie The Hot Rock is a sardonic inversion of this theme.

* Marion Zimmer Bradley’s 1973 sci-fi novel Hunters of the Red Moon. Which was prefigured by Fritz Leiber’s 1958/1961 sci-fi novella The Big Time.



* Dungeons & Dragons, the fantasy tabletop role-playing game designed by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, first appeared in 1974. In it, players assume the roles of heroes — of various fantasy races, and heroic “classes” (fighter, magic-user, thief, etc.) who must band together in order to succeed.

* The Dogs of War (1974) is a war novel by Frederick Forsyth featuring a small group of European and African mercenary soldiers hired by a British industrialist to depose the government of the fictional African country of Zangaro.

* Ivor Drummond’s 1974 “super-thriller of terror and suspense” The Power of the Bug, featuring a crackerjack team of wealthy adventurers: Colly Tucker (Coleridge Tucker II), Lady Jennifer Norrington, and Sandro the enormous Italian (il conte Alessandro di Ganzarello).

* The Eagle Has Landed is a 1975 novel by Jack Higgins set during World War II. It was made into a film of the same name in 1976 starring Michael Caine, Donald Sutherland, Jenny Agutter and Robert Duvall. In this case, the crackerjack commandos are Germans.

* The 1979 caper movie The In-Laws is a sardonic inversion of this sub-genre. Note that it starts off with a crackerjack armored car robbery.

* The 1980 mercenary movie The Dogs of War.

THE EIGHTIES (1984-93)

* Buckaroo Banzai and the Hong Kong Cavaliers in the 1984 movie Buckaroo Banzai. An ironic yet loving homage to this theme.

* The elite special forces team in the 1987 sci-fi/horror movie Predator, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Jesse Ventura, and Kevin Peter Hall.

* The thieves in A Fish Called Wanda (1988). An ironic yet loving homage to this theme.

Tom the Dancing Bug

* 1991: Ruben Bolling’s “The Impossible Squad” sends up this genre.

reservoir dogs

* Quentin Tarantino’s 1992 heist movie Reservoir Dogs. An ironic yet loving homage to this theme.

THE NINETIES (1994-2003)

* The 1995 heist movie The Usual Suspects is in some ways a sardonic inversion of the argonaut-type adventure.

* The 1998 science fiction disaster movie, Armageddon, is an argonaut-type adventure. The protracted sequence in which the rambunctious deep-sea drillers are tracked down and rounded up is almost a parody of the argonautica genre.

* Guy Ritchie’s 2000 film Snatch is a sardonic inversion of this sub-genre.

* Ocean’s Eleven (2002) and sequels are ironic tributes to this sub-genre.

THE OUGHTS (2004-13)

* The bank robbers in Spike Lee’s Inside Man (2006).

star trek

* J.J. Abrams’s 2009 Star Trek remake, Star Trek.

* The soldiers of fortune in Sylvester Stallone’s 2010 movie The Expendables.

* The 2011 caper movie Tower Heist is a sardonic inversion of this theme.


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


MORE FURSHLUGGINER THEORIES BY JOSH GLENN: We Are Iron Man! | And We Lived Beneath the Waves | Is It A Chamber Pot? | I’d Like to Force the World to Sing | The Argonaut Folly | The Perfect Flâneur | The Twentieth Day of January | The Dark Side of Scrabble | The YHWH Virus | Boston (Stalker) Rock | The Sweetest Hangover | The Vibe of Dr. Strange | Tyger! Tyger! | Star Wars Semiotics | The Original Stooge | Fake Authenticity | Camp, Kitsch & Cheese | Stallone vs. Eros | The UNCLE Hypothesis | Icon Game | Meet the Semionauts | The Abductive Method | Semionauts at Work | Origin of the Pogo | The Black Iron Prison | Blue Krishma! | Big Mal Lives! | Schmoozitsu | You Down with VCP? | Calvin Peeing Meme | Daniel Clowes: Against Groovy | The Zine Revolution (series) | Best Adventure Novels (series) | Debating in a Vacuum (notes on the Kirk-Spock-McCoy triad) | Pluperfect PDA (series) | Double Exposure (series) | Fitting Shoes (series) | Cthulhuwatch (series) | Shocking Blocking (series) | Quatschwatch (series) | Save the Adventure (series)


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What do you think?

  1. I’m really liking these posts on adventure books…except now my reading list has just about doubled! Anyway, I thought I’d mention Phoenix Force, men of various nationalities brought together to fight terrorism in the 80s. It was a spin-off of the Mack Bolan/Executioner books; I had to mention it because I have most of the books and it’s always been a favourite of mine.

  2. Great post, as always, Josh! Just one thing — The Green Berets was set in Viet Nam, not during WWII.

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