Shorty McCabeMay 26, 2015
Shorty McCabe is no Torchy, but sometimes that’s okay, like when you stop your Torchy reread before the last book because the dog stories make you inexplicably uncomfortable, and switch over to an excellent children’s book about pirates and then a super weird Eleanor Hallowell Abbott book, but then you sort of start to have regrets? But you can’t go back to Torchy as a Pa, because you can’t start a Torchy reading with Torchy living in the suburbs; you have to work up to that.
That’s what happened to me over the last few weeks, and Shorty McCabe, Sewell Ford’s other series character, is a good solution to the problem. He’s the same but not the same, good, but not good enough to make me want to read more than one book worth of additional Sewell Ford stories.
Shorty is a boxer — a lightweight champion, which presumably means something to some people — but he’s a couple of years into retirement when we meet him. He starts out down on his luck, but first becomes the personal trainer of a rich guy, and later founds a school of physical culture — a fancy gym — and gets involved in a number of business ventures. He usually solves the problems he comes up against, but he’s not brilliant like Torchy. The most useful weapons in his arsenal are his friends’ social capital and the ability to exercise people into a good mood. It works for him.
There’s also a woman — a pretty cool one, because Sewell Ford is kind of great at love interests. Her name is Sadie Dipworthy, but Shorty tends to refer to her as “Sadie Sullivan that was.” They grew up together and she married a patent medicine heir or something — someone who has since left her a very wealthy widow, anyway. Shorty helps her break into Society, and after that she brings him into a lot of his adventures and also invites him to house parties and things. Shorty’s moves towards the upper class are mostly in the direction of Westchester, which gives them a different feel from Torchy’s Long Island adventures.
I don’t know what the Shorty McCabe stories are missing, why they aren’t as compelling as the Torchy ones. But not a lot is as good as Torchy, and the Shorty McCabe stories are as good as Mary Roberts Rinehart’s Tish stories, and Inez Haynes Gillmore’s Phoebe and Ernest ones.