LONDON – British author Jack Higgins, who wrote “The Eagle Has Landed” and other bestselling thrillers and espionage novels, has died. He was 92.
Publisher HarperCollins said that Higgins died at his home on the English Channel island of Jersey surrounded by his family.
Born Henry Patterson in in Newcastle, England, in July 1929, Higgins served in the military before studying sociology at the London School of Economics. He became a teacher in the northern city of Leeds and a writer in his spare time, with novels that sold modestly starting in the late 1950s.
That changed with the 1975 publication of “The Eagle Has Landed,” about a fictional World War II plot to kidnap British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. In a 2010 interview with The Guardian, Higgins recounted a pivotal call from his accountant.
“He asked me what I wanted to get out of my writing,” Higgins said. “I replied that I wasn’t really sure, before adding as a joke it would be nice to make a million by the time I retired. He then said: ‘Well you’re a bloody fool. Because you’ve just earned that much this week. So what are you going to do about it?’”
He was advised to leave England because of 1970s taxation rates and settled with his family on Jersey.
“The Eagle Has Landed" became more popular after the 1976 film adaptation was released. Michael Caine, Donald Sutherland and Robert Duvall were among the stars of the eponymously named movie that was a box office success.
In a statement, HarperCollins chief executive Charlie Redmayne said Higgins' death marked “the end of an era.”
“I’ve been a fan of Jack Higgins for longer than I can remember. He was a classic thriller writer: instinctive, tough, relentless,” he said.
“The Eagle Has Landed and his other Liam Devlin books, his later Sean Dillon series, and so many others were and remain absolutely unputdownable."
Patterson wrote nearly 80 books, most under the pseudonym of Jack Higgins. Other Higgins titles included “The Eagle Has Flown,” “Angel of Death," ”Day of Reckoning," and “A Darker Place.”
According to his publisher's website, the novels have sold more than 250 million copies and been translated into dozens of languages.
His survivors include his wife, Denise, and four children from his previous marriage.