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Adriatic Crossing

Novella (13,710 words)

first US first uniform
First edition 1958 US first edition 1959 Uniform edition 1972

Serialised in John Bull, 19 and 26 March, 1955.

Published as one part of the collection Young man on a bicycle, Hodder and Stoughton, 1958. Published in the USA as part of Oasis Nine; four short novels, New York, W. Sloane Association, 1959. The other novellas in the collection were Young Man on a Bicycle, Oasis Nine, and The Goldini Bath.


George Parsons, an Englishman recovering from a nervous breakdown and under doctor's orders to live an outdoor life, runs a motor boat, the Doria, for fishing charters out of Termoli on the south-east coast of Italy. One day he is engaged by a Dr Veti, who arrives with two companions called Orba and Marani. An hour after they set off, a girl emerges from the cabin. It turns out that she is an American student called Jane Dahl whose money has run out and who has been allowed to sleep on board by his deckhand, Sandro. George immediately turns the boat round to take her back, but his passengers produce guns and order him to continue out to sea. They have planned a rendezvous on the (fictitious) Albanian island of Lechi.

On the island they are met by an old man wearing army uniform, who has betrayed his comrades in return for passage to Italy. He stands guard over George, Jane and Sandro, while the three conspirators go off and ambush a truck. They return carrying two boxes of gold bullion. They load the gold on to the boat, shoot dead the old soldier, and set off. George realises that he, Sandro and the girl will also be killed once they have brought the boat back to Italian waters.

Luckily at this point the boat's engine gives up. George diagnoses the problem, a failure to top up the oil, and says the repair will take a day. They put in to a (fictitious) island called Astovo, possibly based on the real island of Lastovo, which luckily has no telephone link to the mainland. While repairing the engine, George is able to retrieve his own hidden rifle. From here on the action gets faster and less plausible by the paragraph, handicapped as it is by a Boy Scout code of ethics which lets the hero benefit from the villains' misfortunes so long as he does not do anything as unsporting as kill them.

Part of Victor Canning's war service in 1944/46 had been spent in Italy, so it is likely he would have known Termoli, though probably not Albania.