Whirlwind is a novel by James Clavell, first published in 1986. It forms part of The Asian Saga and is chronologically the last book in the series.
Set in Iran in early 1979, it follows the fortunes of a group of Struans helicopter pilots, Iranian officials and oil men and their families in the turmoil surrounding the fall of the Iranian monarchy and the rise of the Ayatollah Khomeini. Like many of Clavell's novels, it is very long and is composed of many interweaving plot strands involving a large cast of characters, as well as a detailed portrayal of Iranian culture.
The novel is closely inspired by the true struggle of Bristow Helicopters to escape the revolutionary forces and get their employees and equipment out of the unstable, deteriorating situation in the region. Much of the story mirrors these and other contemporary events. In February 1979, U.S. Ambassador Adolph "Spike" Dubs was murdered in Kabul after Afghan security forces burst in on his kidnappers, the actual event both mentioned and fictionalized into the plot of Whirlwind. Other companies operating in Iran faced similar dilemmas. For example, Ross Perot's Electronic Data Systems similarly became very involved in the rescue of two executives from prison in Tehran, events dramatised in Ken Follett's novel On Wings of Eagles.
When tai-pan Ian Dunross
learned in Noble House
that the North Sea
may soon be wide open for oil exploration, he sent Andrew Gavallan to Scotland
to quietly buy up real estate in Aberdeen so they would be positioned to take advantage of this trend. The North Sea oil
rigs, once built, are serviced by helicopter
, which leads to Gavallan being involved in the helicopter and oil services industries. These become main business ventures of Struan's in Iran during the 1970s, as depicted in Whirlwind
Gavallan, based in Scotland, runs S-G Helicopter company operating in Iran during the Shah
's reign. When Khomeini
comes to power, Gavallan must get his pilots and their families, and his valuable helicopters, out of the riot-torn country. Complicating matters is his power struggle with his company's secret owner, the Noble House of Hong Kong
. The pilots' escape efforts form the basic story and the action sweeps across many lives: lovers, spies, fanatics, revolutionaries, friends and betrayers. British
, and Iranian
are all caught up in a deadly religious and political upheaval, portraying the chilling and bewildering encounters when Westernized lifestyle clashes with harsh ancient traditions.
Aircraft used by S-G Helicopters throughout the story include Bell 212
, Bell 206
, Aérospatiale Alouette III
and British Aerospace BAe 125
The settings for the story are the western and southwestern parts of Iran, as well as neighboring Gulf states
to Lake Van
, and the environs of Aberdeen, Scotland
Actual locations within Iran include Teheran (including Qasr Prison, Evin Prison,
Galeg Morghi, and Doshan Tappeh Air Base), Tabriz, the Zagros Mountains, Lengeh, Bandar Delam, Siri, the Dez Dam and Kharg island.
Fictional locations include the city of Kowiss, Yazdek village and the safe haven emirate of Al-Shargaz, meaning protector.
- Robert Armstrong - Mi6 officer, appeared in earlier Noble House as a police inspector in Hong Kong, he was promoted to Special Intelligence, concerned with counter-espionage. He was killed by General Mzytryk in retaliation for the death of Igor Mzytryk.
- Freddy Ayre - ex-Royal Air Force helicopter pilot based at Kowiss
- Marc Dubois - French helicopter pilot based at Bandar Delam
- Kuram "Hotshot" Esvandiary - IranOil station manager based at Kowiss. After the revolution he became a notorious bully until he was killed for anti-Islamic crimes.
- Colonel Hashemi Fazir - deputy chief of Inner Intelligence. He was shot to death in Tabriz by General Mzytryk.
- Andrew Gavallan - member of Struans' inner court, brother-in-law of Ian Dunross, appeared in earlier Noble House. Gavallan is an aspirant to the office of tai-pan. He was married to Dunross' late sister Kathren. In Noble House, Gavallan worked in Hong Kong with the other members of the inner court. Gavallan later plotted with Dunross to force current tai-pan Linbar Struan into early retirement and hinted at having his son Scot take over the corporation.
- Scot Gavallan - helicopter pilot based at Zagros Three, son of Andrew Gavallan. Prospective next tai-pan after Linbar Struan.
- Yoshi Kasigi - Toda Shipping Industries executive and sometime ally to Struan's corporation.
- Abdollah Khan - father of Azadeh Yokkonen, head of Gorgon clan, leader in Iranian Azerbaijan playing both sides. He died from a combination of heart problems and the intervention of his advisor Ahmed the Turkmen.
- Hakim Khan - brother of Azadeh Yokkonen, son of Abdollah Khan, later leader in Iranian Azerbaijan. He became ruthless and devious with his appointment to the position of authority in Tabriz.
- Nitchak Khan - Qashqai Kalandar of Yazdek village in Zagros neighborhood. He thought about killing the entire Zagros Three crew but decided not to.
- Hussain Kowissi - mullah, town of Kowiss. He was saved multiple times by Conroe Starke, causing him to forsake the path of martyrdom in favor of violent Islamic activism.
- Ibrahim Kyabi - university student-turned-leftist. He was killed while attempting to assassinate Hussain Kowissi.
- Nathaniel "Nogger" Lane - helicopter pilot based at Tehran
- Sharazad (Bakravan) Lochart - Iranian wife of Tom Lochart. She was killed by a grenade explosion in Tehran.
- ۞Tom Lochart - Canadian senior helicopter pilot based at Zagros Three, husband of Sharazad. His life was taken in the same grenade attack that killed Sharazad.
- ۞Rudiger "Rudi" Lutz - German senior helicopter pilot based at Bandar Delam
- ۞"Dirty" Duncan MacIver - medically-grounded senior helicopter pilot, managing director of S-G Helicopter operations office in Teheran, appeared in earlier Noble House. He almost died due to a heart attack during the Whirlwind operation.
- Genevere "Genny" McIver - wife of Duncan MacIver
- Captain Karim Peshadi - Imperial Iranian Air Force, cousin of Sharazad. He was killed by revolutionaries for crimes against Islam.
- Sandor "Sandy" Petrofi - Hungarian American helicopter pilot based at Kowiss. He attempted to kill Esvandiary unsuccessfully.
- Charlie Pettikin - helicopter pilot based at Tehran, Vietnam vet with Duke Starke. He escaped Iran during the Whirlwind operation.
- Fedor Rakoczy - alias Dimitri Yazernov/alias Ali Bin Hassan Karakose/real name Igor Mzytryk, KGB agitator, son of Petr Oleg Mzytryk. He died as a result of mistreatment by numerous spy agencies after being captured in Tehran by Iranian Inner Intelligence.
- John Ross - Gurkha captain sent to destroy abandoned CIA listening posts. He died from injuries he received in a car bombing in Tehran.
- ۞Harry "Scrag" Scragger - oldest S-G pilot, senior helicopter pilot based at Lengeh, DFC and bar, AFC and bar.
- Jean-Luc Sessonne - French helicopter pilot based at Zagros Three. He survived the Whirlwind operation.
- ۞Conroe "Duke" Starke - American senior helicopter pilot based at Kowiss, Vietnam vet with Charlie Pettikin. He was a committed Christian and "man of the book," a fact which saved his life on numerous occasions.
- Manuela Starke - wife of "Duke" Starke
- George Talbot - United Kingdom Embassy Tehran MI6 Station Chief. He died in a car bombing in Tehran.
- General Valik - chairman of IHC (Iran Helicopters Company, enforced partners of S-G Helicopters) and uncle of Sharazad. He died in the missile attack on the chopper ferrying him out of Iran.
- Sergeant Wazari - Iranian air traffic control based at Kowiss. Despite being marked for execution, he escaped from Iran during the Whrilwind conspiracy.
- Azadeh (Gorgon) Yokkonen - Iranian wife of Erikki Yokkonen. She escaped the situation in Iran over the border into Turkey.
- ۞Erikki Yokkonen - Finnish helicopter pilot based at Tabriz. After a series of traumatic events, he escaped Iran with his wife, Azadeh, via Turkey.
- Zataki - leader of Kowiss komiteh (Islamic Revolution Committee). It was revealed that he was a victim of torture, which contributed to his dangerous mental state.
۞ indicates leader of respective base
- Ali Abbasi - Iranian helicopter pilot of General Valik. He died when the helicopter was destroyed attempting to cross the Iraqi border.
- General Aryani - Imperial Iranian Air Force
- Jared Bakravan - father of Sharazad. He was killed in prison in Tehran.
- Sheik Bayazid - tribal leader, kidnapper of Erikki Yokkonen. He was killed by Yokkonen while attempting to escape from Tabriz.
- General Beni-Hassan - national IranOil liaison
- Sayada Bertolin - mistress of Jean-Luc Sessonne, secret Palestine Liberation Organization agent. She ended up being blackmailed by members of Fazir's Group Four agents.
- Major Changiz - Shah-loyalist military officer based at Kowiss, second-in-command to Colonel Peshadi
- Elizabeth "Liz" Chen - Scotland-based secretary to Andrew Gavallan
- Paul "Profitable" Choy - the richest and most powerful Chinese businessman in Hong Kong, adversary to Andrew Gavallan, ally to Linbar Struan and witness to the death of David MacStruan. He was likely the mastermind of Linbar's sinister plots.
- Georges de Plessey - French chief EPF official
- Marc Dubois - French helicopter pilot based at Bandar Delam
- Ian Dunross - retired tai-pan of Struan's, protagonist and behind-the-scenes supporter of Gavallan, major character of Noble House
- Ahmed Dursak - Turcoman advisor to Abdollah Khan and later to Hakim Khan. He died due to injuries he received during the Bayazid assault.
- Pietro Fiere - Italian second in command at Rig Bellissima in the Zagros
- Maureen Gavallan - wife of Andrew Gavallan
- Paula Giancani - Alitalia stewardess
- Sergeant Gueng - Gurkha sent to destroy abandoned CIA listening posts. He died in Tabriz.
- Mario Guineppa - manager at Rig Bellissima in the Zagros. He died of a heart attack.
- Henley - MI6 liaison based at Tabriz
- John Hogg - senior S-G fixed wing pilot
- Major Abdul Ikail - Turkish police officer
- Hideyoshi Ishida - Iran-Toda engineer
- Jahan - radio operator at Bandar Delam
- Fowler Joines - helicopter mechanic based at Kowiss
- "Effer" Jordon - Australian helicopter mechanic based at Zagros Three
- Ignatius "Pop" Kelly - helicopter pilot based at Kowiss
- Yusuf Kyabi - IranOil senior area manager based at Ahwaz. He was killed by revolutionaries.
- Petr Oleg Mzytryk - alias Gregor Suslev, KGB Colonel appeared in earlier Noble House. After killing Robert Armstrong and Hashemi Fazir, he was himself killed by Iranian revolutionaries in Tabriz.
- Nasiri - Zagros base manager
- Willi Neuchtrichter - German helicopter pilot based at Lengeh
- Numir - new site director at Bandar Delam
- Doctor Nutt - S-G company doctor based at Kowiss
- Abrim Pahmudi - newly-appointed SAVAMA head.
- Emir Paknouri - first husband of Sharazad, goldsmith
- Ali Pash - radio operator at Lengeh
- Pavoud - Iranian chief clerk based at Kowiss
- Colonel Peshadi - Shah-loyalist military commander of Kowiss Air Base, Hero of Dhofar and uncle of Sharazad, possibly based on Nader Jahanbani. He was shot in Tehran.
- Sergeant Qeshemi - police officer at Lengeh
- "Rod" Rodrigues - American helicopter mechanic based at Zagros Three
- Vien Rosemont - CIA officer. He died in an ambush in NW Iran.
- Mimmo Sera - Italian] company man based at Rig Rosa]] in the Zagros
- Sir Percy Smedley-Taylor - director of Struan's Holdings, MP, appeared in earlier King Rat
- Linbar Struan - Twelfth tai-pan of Struan's, who assumed that office in 1975 following the ostensibly accidental death of his predecessor David MacStruan. Prior to this, in Noble House, he was a member of Struan's inner court and an aspirant to the office of tai-pan.
- Sergeant Tenzing - Gurkha sent to destroy abandoned CIA listening posts. He died in an ambush in NW Iran.
- Hiro Toda - tai-pan of Iran-Toda Shipping joint partnership, appeared in earlier Noble House
- Massil Tugul - Palestinian air traffic control tower operator based at Kowiss
- Jon Tyrer - American helicopter pilot, second-in-command based at Bandar Delam
- Ed Vossi - helicopter pilot based at Lengeh
- Watanabe - chief engineer of Iran-Toda Shipping joint partnership
- Suliman al Wiali - Syrian assassin and head Group Four intelligence agent
Escape: The Love Story from Whirlwind
A much shorter version of the story, focussing on a single pair of characters, was published in 1994 as Escape: The Love Story from Whirlwind. The back cover of the first edition bore a message from the author humorously dedicating the book to anyone who had ever complained that his books were too heavy.