I dabble in BritLit, but not contemporary BritLit. But any time there’s a chance to do something about blockbusters, I have to give it a try. My very scientific method of picking a topic was to find the best-selling book in England in 1975. The rest followed. In much the same way I would ask students to rewrite The Da Vinci Code (should I ever have to teach a creative writing class project), I think there has to be something literarily interesting in The Eagle Has Landed, even if that interest takes the form of “writing like Dan Brown”.

The Eagle Has Landed may have sold fifty million copies but no one I know owns a copy”

The best-selling book in England the year I was born was The Eagle Has Landed, by Jack Higgins. It was also the best selling book of the entire decade, enjoying The Da Vinci Code-level sales. However, MLA searches of “Jack Higgins” and “The Eagle Has Landed,” predictably, turn up zero hits. The novel did spur an almost-immediate film adaptation starring Michael Caine, Donald Sutherland, Robert Duvall, and Donald Pleasance. As Gordon Hutner begins What America Read: Taste, Class, and the Novel, 1920-1960, soon-forgotten best sellers are key to the project of literary criticism. Such books, he argues, constitute “the merely ordinary, that is, the fiction against which academic tastemakers later needed to contradistinguish the best” (1). My paper will locate not only the merely ordinary traits of style and form in The Eagle Has Landed, but also the differently-ordinary, those moments that make the novel not so much an important piece of literature, but rather a key document in the history of literature, culture, and politics in the 1970s.

Hutner, Gordon. What America Read: Taste, Class, and the Novel, 1920-1960. Chapel

Hill, UNC Press, 2009.