Posts Tagged ‘adventure’
So, Captain Blood Day. Yay!
Actually, though, I completely forgot about it until last week, so instead of thinking seriously about which Sabatini book I might want to talk about next, I just grabbed The Romantic Prince off my bookshelf. I read it once before — whenever Batman Begins came out, if the ticket stub I was using as a bookmark is any indication — and I recalled being pretty pleased with it.
If you’ve spent any significant amount of time reading Redeeming Qualities, you’ll know that I’m kind of fascinated by the way novelists solve problems. In particular, there’s a thing you get a lot in romance and adventure novels, where the hero is situated in such a way that it would be dishonorable for him to take any action whatsoever to resolve whatever issue he’s having. And often, as it is here, the issue is mostly just that the hero can’t be with the heroine. And sure, I love the resultant pining, but I also love watching the author’s resultant struggle to steer the characters to a happy ending without in any way impugning their honor. That’s Rafael Sabatini’s principal task in The Romantic Prince, so obviously it’s a lot of fun to me. It doesn’t hurt that the actual barriers keeping Count Anthony of Guelders and Johanna Claessens apart are strong enough that Sabatini doesn’t have to resort to the completely avoidable misunderstandings he seems to like so much. Read the rest of this entry ?
Halfway through The Mystery, by Samuel Hopkins Adams and Stewart Edward White, I decided that I definitely was not going to review it. But now that I’m done, I kind of feel like I have to. It’s just so weird. At least, it seemed weird do me, but I’m not really in the habit of reading slightly sci-fi pirate-y horror stories, so. Read the rest of this entry ?
I know I’ve said before that no one ever should have let Alice Williamson publish without Charlie, but I think I’ve changed my mind. I’m still not a fan of To M.L.G., and Shay says that The Adventure of Princess Sylvia isn’t so good either, but I just finished The Girl Who Had Nothing and I’m really glad it exists. (For what it’s worth, while this book is credited solely to Mrs. C.N.Williamson, it was published while he was alive.) This book, though. It’s like a cross between Miss Cayley’s Adventures and The Career of Katherine Bush, and it’s not as good as either of those, but that just means that it’s not as good as the beginning of Miss Cayley or everything but the end of Katherine Bush. It’s better than the less good parts of both of those. Read the rest of this entry ?
I am all set to go on an Edgar Wallace kick. It will actually be a delayed-onset Edgar Wallace kick. Thursday last week I was hunting around for something to read and found myself wishing I owned more Edgar Wallace. I eventually settled for one of Peter O’Donnell’s Modesty Blaise books — and then three more — but the yen for Edgar Wallace was still there and last night I went over to Project Gutenberg Australia (is it illegal for me to download post-1923 books from there? I don’t think I want to know) and read Room 13, featuring Wallace’s series detective J.G. Reeder.
So, here’s the thing about Edgar Wallace — I’ve talked about it before — every time I try to write about one of his books in particular I end up taking about his books in general. It’s like most authors’ books are individual objects, which can be discussed and compared, but Edgar Wallace’s fiction is a fairly homogenous substance to be measured out in page-lengths. I’m going to pretend for a moment that it’s not, though, and that Room 13 stands alone and has nothing to do with any other book. And when I am done, I will have described a pretty typical Edgar Wallace thriller. Read the rest of this entry ?
You know how sometimes your daily life saps your will to do anything you’re not actually required to do? So, yeah. That. But I wanted to drop by to talk about “The Fool’s Love Story”, which I read on the tail end of the Sabatini kick that started with my reread of Bardelys the Magnificent.
It looks like The Fool’s Love Story might have been Sabatini’s first published story — it’s the first listed on the uncollected stories list on rafaelsabatini.com, and…it reads young. It’s about a Hofknarr, or court jester, in a small German kingdom in the mid-17th century. He’s in love with a young woman who’s engaged to an unworthy Frenchman, and it doesn’t end too well for anybody, really, unless you count the fact that I was completely delighted by it. Which was why I wanted to say something about it, but probably not in the way you think.
This is the thing: this story is pretty terrible. The plot is ridiculous, the writing is more than ridiculous, and you’re sort of plopped down in the middle of a fully formed emotional situation that never really changes. Also, dying heroically and tragically tends to go over a little better if there’s a point to it. But it’s Sabatini, who pretty much always gets me where I live, and I was totally sold by the time I hit “lean, sardonic countenance,” halfway through the first sentence.
Basically, I suspect this is one for the Sabatini devotees — and I’d be interested to know if I’m right.
Happy Captain Blood Day, everyone! You can observe this holiday by reading adventure novels, trading witty barbs with people trying to unjustly sentence you to death, or, okay, talking like a pirate. But only if the pirate is Peter Blood.
I felt bad posting a negative review of a Sabatini book on Captain Blood Day last year, so this year I made sure to choose a book I know I like. And actually Bardelys the Magnificent is super appropriate as a follow up to The Suitors of Yvonne. It’s not just that it’s full of French courtiers for whom dueling is always a viable problem-solving tool — Bardelys the Magnificent came out four years after The Suitors of Yvonne and it frequently reads like Sabatini’s (successful) attempt to reshape that book into something, you know, good.
The bottom line is that sometime between 1902 and 1906, Rafael Sabatini acquired a knack for writing likable main characters, and I have yet to come across a later instance where it failed him. So there’s Gaston de Luynes, who is massively hateful, and then in between there’s the guy from The Tavern Knight, who’s just kind of irritating, and then there’s Bardelys, who’s got really poor judgment and terrible timing, but who I like quite a lot. Read the rest of this entry ?
I get so excited about books that feature a main character with memory loss, but I generally end up disappointed. I have yet to find a pre-1923 amnesia-centric story that gives me what I want. Charles Neville Buck’s The Key to Yesterday gave me very little of what I wanted, but at the same time, it’s probably the best public domain amnesia novel I’ve read. If that’s a thing.
I mean, it’s also kind of silly. It begins with painter Robert A. Saxon falling half in love at first sight with a girl named Duska. And then Saxon confesses to his friend Steele that he steers clear of women because he has no knowledge of his life before about six years ago and he might already be married or something. But whatever. We know he’s going to fall in love with Duska. We knew it before we knew her ridiculous name. Read the rest of this entry ?
In 1913, a Chicago publishing house called Reilly & Britton offered a $10,000 prize for the best manuscript submitted to them. About five hundred manuscripts were submitted, and eventually it was announced that Leona Dalrymple (later the author of Jimsy: the Christmas Kid) had won the prize for her novel Diane of the Green Van. She had also submitted another manuscript to the competition, and they were going to publish that, too.
So, is Diane of the Green Van worthy of the prize? Not having seen the other manuscripts, I obviously can’t judge, but this one? Is insane. Read the rest of this entry ?
George Barr McCutcheon’s name comes up a lot when I’m looking up information about early 20th century adventure novels, or when I’m looking through advertisements in magazines like The Bookman. Sometimes the books his name appears in conjunction with sound interesting. But I hated Graustark. I hated Graustark so much.
Still, I’ve felt for a while now that I ought to give McCutcheon a second chance. And Brewster’s Millions, his other most famous book, seemed like the obvious thing to try.
You may know the story from one of the ten different film adaptations: Monty Brewster inherits a million dollars from his grandfather, and then a week later he finds out that his long-lost uncle has also died, leaving him over six million dollars. The catch is that he can’t have the six million unless he manages to spend the one million from his grandfather within a year. Read the rest of this entry ?
These days I mostly come home from work and sort of collapse. Which doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading — just that I haven’t taken the time to write down anything about the books. I’m trying to knock out my backlog this week, though. If you don’t see a post from me every day from now until Friday, that means I’ve failed. First up is Mary Roberts Rinehart’s Long Live the King!
Even knowing all the other things that Mary Roberts Rinehart can do — the funny short stories, the romantic ones, the adventurish novels, the suspenseful ones, the “had-I-but-known” mysteries, the novels that deal with social issues and modern society, the screwball comedies, etc. — I honestly never thought I’d see her try Ruritanian romance. But Long Live the King! exists, and is set in a vaguely Germanic country called Livonia, where our nine year-old main character, Ferdinand William Otto, is the Crown Prince. Read the rest of this entry ?
Say hi to Inez Haynes Gillmore. I know some of you are familiar with her, but I suspect most of you are not. She could easily be your new favorite author. She’s pretty good. But mostly what she is is versatile.
I read a book of hers the other day called Gertrude Haviland’s Divorce. It made me re-examine three of Gillmore’s other books, just because it seemed so unlikely that they all could have come from the same person. So, there’s Gertrude Haviland, a divorce novel — and please don’t try to tell me that’s not a genre, because I won’t listen — and then there’s an adorable children’s book, a fluffy romance/adventure/ghost story/paean to old furniture, and a disturbing, bloody, and terrifyingly upbeat allegorical feminist fantasy. All of them are, in their separate ways, perfect. Read the rest of this entry ?
When it comes to early 20th century thriller writers, Edgar Wallace is easily my favorite, in spite — or perhaps because — of the fact that his books are mostly ridiculous and terrible. But Tam O’ the Scoots is not terrible at all. Tam O’ the Scoots doesn’t know what terrible is.
It is kind of ridiculous, of course, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Read the rest of this entry ?
I was totally fine with The Island Mystery until I read The Unspeakable Perk. Now I wish George A. Birmingham and Samuel Hopkins Adams had traded books. That way The Island Mystery would have been charming as it needed to be and The Unspeakable Perk would have been as cynical as it ought to have been. For the record, I am only comparing the two because they’re novels about American millionaires’ daughters on fictional islands. If you add in Romance Island, this starts looking dangerously like a trope.
That said, I like The Unspeakable Perk a lot better than The Island Mystery. If there is one thing Samuel Hopkins Adams is super consistent about, it’s his charm, and that’s one of the few things that will win me over to an otherwise unsatisfying book. Read the rest of this entry ?
I hate to do this. I can’t believe I’m doing this. Here, for Captain Blood Day, is a bad review of a Rafael Sabatini book. But, given the book itself. I couldn’t very well have written a good one. And it’s not like I uncritically love all of Sabatini’s other books. This one is his first novel, The Suitors of Yvonne, and while I probably wouldn’t have been sure it was by Sabatini if his name wasn’t in the title page (and if, you know, I hadn’t known for years that his first novel was called The Suitors of Yvonne) you can sort of see hints of what he’s going to be like later.
For instance, Sabatini’s heroes are almays saying really cleverly insulting things to people they don’t like. And because they’re so cool and self-posessed and have such clever senses of humor and we know they’re all romantic and sensitive on the inside — and because their enemies are usually warped caricatures of human beings — it’s fun.
Gaston de Luynes, hero of The Suitors of Yvonne, is not like that. He is, in fact, kind of an asshole. I mean, he’s got the insulting part down, but not the clever part, and certainly not the sensitive part. Mostly, he’s just offensive. Read the rest of this entry ?