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Old 03-22-2018, 03:11 AM   #1
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Pat Frank: Seven Days to Never

THERE is a sub-genre of thriller, really a basic plot, that can be described as the ticking time bomb. The bomb is set to go off at a certain time. The time becomes known but where the bomb is constitutes the problem, and of course the hero or heroes finally track it down and cut the red wire at the last minute.

You've see it a hundred times on TV.

In one memorable MacGyver episode, the bomb was in a mail truck, and MacGyver managed to coax a concrete mixer truckie to empty his load into the mail truck, so the bomb went off with nothing more than a loud "gloop" and wet cement squirting out of the cracks.

It's one of those plots which transcends background; it can be set on Mars, in downtown New York, or Victorian London, and work just as well, provided of course the writer comes to grips with it properly.

One such author is Pat Frank, best remembered today for his post-apocalyptic novel Alas Babylon (1959).

Until recently I had never read Alas Babylon; but many years ago I read Seven Days to Never, (1956), which turns out to be the UK title. The original US title was the rather dull Prohibited Area.

I must have read Seven Days to Never some time in the late 1960s. I certainly owned the UK Pan paperback for several years before, no doubt, losing it or giving it away during one of my house moves. I specially remembered the hero, an ex-SAC pilot with an eye patch.

I have just stumbled across a copy of the same Pan paperback, It was published in the mid-50s in the days of the Cold War, but the Cold War is just the background: it's definitely the ticking time bomb plot. The UK paperback, by the way, has a great cover by "Peff" (Sam Peffer, an outstanding UK cover artist) and, gosh, it then sold for two shillings and sixpence (25 cents).

The centre of the story is a unit in the Pentagon called "Enemy Intentions", an eclectic mix of academics and intelligence types whose role is to analyse and predict what the Soviet Union is up to next.

And they come up with a horrifying scenario: a nuclear attack on the USA on the coming Christmas Day.

The evidence comes from various sources, including the sudden radio silence and disappearance from contact of a whole fleet of Soviet nuke subs; a spate of accidents to the latest Strategic Air Command long range bomber the B99, which are blowing up for no known reason, and sundry other matters.

We, the readers, know that something sinister is definitely going on; specially as the novel opens with a mysterious midnight landing on a remote Floriday beach of an American sedan car from something lurking out to sea; and observed only by two teenagers in the dunes.

The Enemy Intentions group scenario, worked out in convincing detail, is presented up the chain of command, to a senior officer who thinks it is dangerous, destabilising trash and orders all five copies to be destroyed immediately.

And so the race is on. Somehow, the team must work around the roadblock as Christmas approaches rapidly, unravel the mystery of the exploding B99s, grasp the significance of the belated report of the mysterious landing at Florida, and short circuit the Soviet attack.

I remembered it as a hell of a good high-tension, high-speed read, and it still stacks up very well. It is reasonably short (85,000 words), right in the 1950s sweet spot for popular novel length, and Pat Frank's grip of military procedures and Pentagon politics seems authentic. Certainly authentic enough for the novel.

The only odd thing that I noticed at the time was there was no such thing as B99s, but I had no trouble imagining them as B52s on steroids.

If it pops up for you and you like a brisk action thriller, give it a go.
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Old 03-22-2018, 08:26 AM   #2
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Interesting, thanks. I never realized that he did anything other than Alas, Babylon.
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Old 03-23-2018, 09:39 AM   #3
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Interesting, thanks. I never realized that he did anything other than Alas, Babylon.
https://www.fadedpage.com/ has 4 of his works including Seven Days to Never if you are in a Life+50 country. They are in Canada.

Greg
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Old 03-23-2018, 03:58 PM   #4
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https://www.fadedpage.com/ has 4 of his works including Seven Days to Never if you are in a Life+50 country. They are in Canada.

Greg
Alas, I am in the US which is a "until Disney goes bankrupt" copyright country.
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Old 03-23-2018, 05:01 PM   #5
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https://www.fadedpage.com/ has 4 of his works including Seven Days to Never if you are in a Life+50 country. They are in Canada.

Greg
I looked him up on Faded Page, and he seems to have written stories with plots that have been ahh, 'liberated', by Hollywood, many times!
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Old 03-23-2018, 10:56 PM   #6
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He was not a prolific writer, but Alas Babylon, Forbidden Area, and Hold Back the Night were all dramatised either for TV or movies; and "Man's Favourite Sport", a mild sex comedy, was based on one of his short stories.

I discovered Par Frank through Seven Days to Never, and didn't find another book of his until I tripped over Alas Babylon recently, so Seven Days is still, in my mind, the definitive Pat Frank.
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Old 03-23-2018, 11:01 PM   #7
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He was not a prolific writer, but Alas Babylon, Forbidden Area, and Hold Back the Night were all dramatised either for TV or movies; and "Man's Favourite Sport", a mild sex comedy, was based on one of his short stories.

I discovered Par Frank through Seven Days to Never, and didn't find another book of his until I tripped over Alas Babylon recently, so Seven Days is still, in my mind, the definitive Pat Frank.
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Old 03-28-2018, 02:14 AM   #8
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It is amazingly hard to find a definitive bibliography of Pat Frank's novels, and this is the best I could come up with after a lot of fossicking:

Mr Adam, 1946
Beyond Jack Squat
An Affair of State, 1948 (pre-cold war)
Little Warriors
Salt of the Earth
Hold Back the Night, 1951 (a Korean War story)
Forbidden Area, 1956 (Seven days to Never)
Alas, Babylon, 1959

He also wrote a number of non-fiction books.
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Old 03-30-2018, 12:34 PM   #9
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Cold War novels may make a comeback given the present situation between the UK and Russia with the US now joining in. Troubling times, but good for creativity.
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Old 03-30-2018, 12:46 PM   #10
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Mr Adam also seems to have an intriguing plot:

"After a nuclear power plant in Mississippi explodes, it was soon realized that a previously unknown form of radiation was released. The radiation caused all men on Earth to become sterile, even boys who were still inside the mother's womb. However, ten months after the explosion in Mississippi, a doctor delivers a perfectly healthy baby girl. It's soon discovered that the child's father, who has the surname Adam was more than a mile under the surface of Earth inside an old silver and lead mine during the explosion. It would appear that Mr. Adam is humanity's only hope to stave off extinction."
(From fadedpage.com)

From this description, it may be somewhat similar to Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham.

Last edited by BookCat; 03-30-2018 at 12:49 PM.
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Old 03-30-2018, 02:10 PM   #11
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Mr Adam also seems to have an intriguing plot:

"After a nuclear power plant in Mississippi explodes, it was soon realized that a previously unknown form of radiation was released. The radiation caused all men on Earth to become sterile, even boys who were still inside the mother's womb. However, ten months after the explosion in Mississippi, a doctor delivers a perfectly healthy baby girl. It's soon discovered that the child's father, who has the surname Adam was more than a mile under the surface of Earth inside an old silver and lead mine during the explosion. It would appear that Mr. Adam is humanity's only hope to stave off extinction."
(From fadedpage.com)

From this description, it may be somewhat similar to Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham.
Are you sure this wasn't a short story published by a Men's magazine?
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Old 03-31-2018, 12:47 AM   #12
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"A story which can be read as a joyous satire on American bureaucracy -- as a somewhat uninhibited development of a standard science fiction theme -- or for just plain fun." (P. Schuyler Miller, Astounding Science Fiction, May 1948
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Old 04-19-2018, 04:07 AM   #13
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I used to have a copy of Mr. Adam a long time ago, and remember it as being satirically amusing. I will have to scout around to find it for a re-read.

Alas Babylon was one of my favorites of the "apocalyptic' genre. At the time of publication, very scarifying and nervous-making. (oh, those "duck and cover" drills in school!)
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