The Man on the End of the Rope, by Paul Townend. New York: E. P. Dutton & Company, Inc. 1960. 256 pages, no illustrations. Price $3.00. This bit of mountaineering fiction could find a suitable spot in your library alongside Ullman’s White Tower and Glynn Carr’s Murder on the Matterhorn, but such juxtaposition might seem to belittle the earlier volumes. It is more suitable for a single evening’s quick reading followed by delivery to some friend with a reputation for failure to return borrowed books.
The author has made a gallant but ineffective effort to translate into fiction the tensions and catastrophies of the Eiger-north-wall climbs. The reality remains much more remarkable. The window dressing added to create the fiction thins the true drama of the climbing history on the wall. The local Swiss characters are interesting and, on the whole, believable, but the unreal foreigners who provide the chief thread of the narrative are both improbable and distinctly unpleasant. What little suspense there is in the story stems from a problem of identity scarcely warranting the attention placed upon it by the author.
Perhaps the finest paragraphs in the book are the descriptions of the "breathtaking” views of the Eiger and adjacent peaks—as on page 24. The author shows a rare skill in portraying the mountain background constantly shifting under the passing sun, clouds, and storms. One can only wish the story were equally breathtaking.
Bradley B. Gilman