The Golden Gate 

His 1976 work The Golden Gate fit neatly into Alistair MacLean's booklist of that era, including its immediate predecessors, Breakheart Pass and Circus. (To its credit, it was far better than his following book, the abysmal Seawitch.) None of that trio would be ranked among his best novels, but each of them could keep a typical reader turning pages. The Golden Gate is a classic example of MacLean's lone-agent-vs.-evil-conspirators sagas. The horde of baddies think they have everything under control (and they appear to be right), but the wily protagonist stealthily begins knocking chips out of their seemingly unassailable edifice until it is ready to crumble.


Plot keypoints

Police commanders and intelligence services worldwide knew Peter Branson all too well. Though implicated or suspected in many high-level crimes, he had never been brought to justice, due to his brilliance and meticulous planning. But would even his extraordinary abilities (and his crack team of underlings) be enough to carry off his boldest and most breathtaking plot: holding the President of the United States for ransom, in the middle of the Golden Gate Bridge? Initially, his plan went exactly according to form, and he seemed to hold all the cards. He didn't know, though, that among his captives was Paul Revson, not really a journalist after all but rather a ruthlessly capable FBI agent who would seek to unravel the plot from within.



  • In describing so many nefarious deeds by the bad guys, MacLean depicts well the intricate and risky steps needed to carry off such an audacious plot.
  • Revson's ingenuity comes across as both impressive and realistic. At the same time, MacLean shows how he must coordinate his efforts with those of many people outside his immediate environment, enabling the reader to experience more characters and also making it clear that one man can't always defeat a conspiracy.



  • Many circumstances, and so many poor decisions by people in important jobs, must go exactly the way Branson had planned/hoped. The reader is forced to accept this unlikely set of outcomes to reach the meat of the plot.
  • Part of Branson's plan entailed extracting a presidential pardon for what he had done; this is nonsensical, as any agreements (such as pardons) made under duress are unenforceable.
  • A common behavior in MacLean books is for people to refer to each other as madmen, often with little justification or at times when nobody would actually say that. In The Golden Gate, that happens quite a lot.
  • Once again we're presented with a wholly unbelievable romantic angle. MacLean was strangely fixated on the deep feelings that develop between highly skilled agents and random women with large eyes.



If you ignore references to madness and romance, you'll find The Golden Gate a reasonably satisfying page-turner.



 (6 out of 10)