10 Best Adventures of 1960
November 2, 2015
Fifty-five years ago, the following 10 adventures — plucked from my Best Fifties (1954–63) Adventures list — were first serialized or published in book form. I urge you to read them immediately.
The following titles are listed in no particular order.
- Hergé’s Tintin adventure Tintin in Tibet. One of the strangest and most marvelous Tintin adventures — fantastical, even cryptozoological! Troubled by visions, Tintin travels to Tibet in search of his friend Chang (a young Chinese boy he’d met in The Blue Lotus). From Kathmandu, Tintin, Haddock, and Snowy, accompanied by sherpas, travel overland from Nepal to the Gosain Than Massif in the Himalayas of Tibet. Mysterious Yeti tracks are found; was Chang abducted — or rescued — by the Abominable Snowman? Fun fact: This is the 20th Tintin adventure, serialized 1958–59 in Tintin magazine; it is supposedly the author’s own favorite. The Dalai Lama awarded the book the Light of Truth Award.
- Donald Hamilton’s Matt Helm adventure Death of a Citizen. Before Liam Neeson played a retired CIA op forced to rescue his daughter, there was Matt Helm. A one-time special agent — that is, a deadly and relentless assassin of Nazis — for the US government in Europe during the Second World War, Helm is living contentedly in Santa Fe when a former colleague, who plans to kill one of the scientists at Los Alamos, kidnaps his daughter. Can Helm shed his “citizen” persona, and become the ruthless killer he’d once been? And if he succeeds in doing so, will he ever be able to return to his peaceful family life? Fun fact: This is the first in a series of 27 Matt Helm novels. Not to be confused with the sardonic Matt Helm movies starring Dean Martin.
- Geoffrey Household’s hunted-man adventure Watcher in the Shadows. One of the greatest hunted-man adventures of all time! Mild-mannered, reclusive zoologist Charles Dennim is sent a mail bomb — why? During the war, we discover, Dennim was a double agent working for the Allies as a Gestapo officer in a concentration camp… and now the husband of one of the Gestapo’s victims, who doesn’t know the Dennim was one of the good guys, wants revenge. Dennim must use his wartime skills to stay one jump ahead of his equally capable foe; he goes to earth in the English countryside — but the hunt picks up again almost immediately. Fun fact: By the author of Rogue Male, one of the other greatest hunted-man adventures of all time. After languishing in obscurity for years, in 2010 Watcher in the Shadows was reissued by the British thriller reprint house Ostara.
- Jean Lartéguy’s military adventure The Centurions. French paratroopers struggle to quell guerrilla uprisings in France’s post-World War II empire in Indochina and Algeria. Lt. Col. Pierre Raspeguy must transform a military unit accustomed to conventional warfare into one that can handle the challenge of defeating an insurgency. This is a story of two armies (as the author, a war correspondent who’d fought during WWII with the Free French, puts it): “one for display, with lovely guns, tanks, little soldiers,” etc., and “the real one.” The regular army is heroic, admired by civilians; the irregular army continues to fight on “when the age of heroics is over.” Fun fact: The Centurions, one of France’s biggest bestsellers since WWII, includes the first use of the so-called “ticking time bomb” scenario. It was adapted in 1966 as the movie Lost Command.
- Poul Anderson’s historical/sci-fi adventure The High Crusade. In the year 1345, an alien spacecraft lands in a remote English village — where, as it happens, a military force has gathered to assist King Edward III in the war against France. The blue-skinned alien humanoids — advance scouts from another planet — place too much faith in their forcefield… because they’re used to dealing with advanced civilizations, who use photon weapons. The English warriors, led by Sir Roger, storm the spaceship and capture it… at which point it takes off, heading back to the aliens’ home galaxy. One battle leads to another, and soon enough Sir Roger and his men are recruiting subjugated races to overthrow an empire.
- René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo’s Asterix adventure Asterix and the Golden Sickle. The second volume of the comic book series, serialized in 1960 (published in book form, 1962). When Getafix the druid breaks his golden sickle — with which he cuts mistletoe for the indomitable Gauls’ magic potion — Asterix and Obelix head for Lutetia (Paris) to buy a new one. However, they discover that a cabal of golden sickle purveyors — put up to it by a bored Roman prefect — have created an artificial shortage, in order to drive prices up. Our heroes must invade the plotters’ underground store-room.
- E.L. Doctorow’s postmodernist Western Welcome to Hard Times. Before Thomas Berger’s Little Big Man, Larry McMurtry’s Horseman, Pass By, or Ishmael Reed’s Yellow Back Radio Broke Down, the Post-Western literary genre was kickstarted by Doctorow’s novella about a frontier town is terrorized and destroyed by a psychopathic killer. Welcome to Hard Times is also a metafiction — whose narrator, Blue, historian and self-appointed mayor of the town of Hard Times, realizes that he’s creating fiction as he attempts to record history — which encourages readers to question the very possibility of depicting the past with true accuracy. Fun fact: Doctorow’s first novel. Adapted as a 1967 movie with Aldo Ray and Henry Fonda.
- Walter M. Millers’s post-apocalyptic epic A Canticle for Leibowitz. Not exactly an adventure, but this science fiction novel is a gripping read spanning thousands of years. In a monastery in the desert of the Southwestern United States, a community of monks faithfully copies surviving remnants of humankind’s scientific knowledge — bequeathed them by their order’s founder — a Jewish electrical engineer who’d saved important documents from the Simplification, a violent backlash against the culture of advanced knowledge and technology that had led to the nuclear apocalypse. The novel’s three sections (“Fiat Homo”, “Fiat Lux”, “Fiat Voluntas Tua”) are separated by periods of six centuries each. Fun fact: A Canticle for Leibowitz, Miller’s only novel, won science fiction’s Hugo Award in 1961.
- Lionel Davidson’s espionage adventure Night of Wenceslas. A sardonic inversion of the genre, in which a dissolute young Londoner is sent to Prague — supposedly, in order to discharge a debt to an unscrupulous moneylender. Pursued by the Czech secret police and tempted by the beautiful and mysterious Vlasta, Nicholas Whistler is dragged into the world of Cold War espionage — the formulae for glass-making processes he was asked to bring back to England turns out to be atomic secrets. Fun fact: The debut novel of British (later Israeli) writer Lionel Davidson won the Crime Writers’ Association’s Gold Dagger Award in 1960. The 1964 movie adaptation (titled Hot Enough for June) starred Dirk Bogarde and Sylva Koscina.
- Ian Fleming’s James Bond espionage adventure For Your Eyes Only. I like Fleming’s Bond short stories better than the novels. In “From a View to a Kill,” Bond disguises himself as dispatch rider, and rides a motorcycle through France — expecting an assassin’s attack all the while. In “For Your Eyes Only,” as Bond prepares to kill a target he meets a beautiful young woman stalking the same prey… with a bow and arrow. In “Risico,” Bond an Italian smuggler team up against a narcotics racket. “Quantum of Solace” and “The Hildebrand Rarity” aren’t espionage stories; they’re not even adventures, exactly.
Let me know, readers, if I’ve missed any 1960 adventures that you particularly admire. Also, please check out these additional lists. The 200 Greatest Adventure Novels of All Time. THE OUGHTS (1904–13): 1905 | 1906 | 1907 | 1910 | 1911 | 1912. THE TEENS (1914–23): 1915 | 1916 | 1917 | 1920 | 1921 | 1922. THE TWENTIES (1924–33): 1925 | 1926 | 1927 | 1930 | 1931 | 1932. THE THIRTIES (1934–43): 1935 | 1936 | 1937 | 1940 | 1941 | 1942. THE FORTIES (1944–53): 1945 | 1946 | 1947 | 1950 | 1951 | 1952. THE FIFTIES (1954–63): 1955 | 1956 | 1957 | 1960 | 1961 | 1962. THE SIXTIES (1964–73): 1964 | 1965 | 1966 | 1967 | 1970 | 1971 | 1972. THE SEVENTIES (1974–83): 1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1980 | 1981 | 1982. The goal, eventually, is to publish a Top 10 Adventures list for every year of the 20th century.
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 | 1910 | 1911 | 1912. THE TEENS (1914–23): 1915 | 1916 | 1917 | 1920 | 1921 | 1922. THE TWENTIES (1924–33): 1925 | 1926 | 1927 | 1930 | 1931 | 1932. THE THIRTIES (1934–43): 1935 | 1936 | 1937 | 1940 | 1941 | 1942. THE FORTIES (1944–53): 1945 | 1946 | 1947 | 1950 | 1951 | 1952. THE FIFTIES (1954–63): 1955 | 1956 | 1957 | 1960 | 1961 | 1962. THE SIXTIES (1964–73): 1964 | 1965 | 1966 | 1967 | 1970 | 1971 | 1972. THE SEVENTIES (1974–83): 1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1980 | 1981 | 1982. | 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 |