Posts Tagged ‘adventure’

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The Snowshoe Trail

February 14, 2020

I do love a good survival book, but The Snowshoe Trail, by Edison Marshall, isn’t one. It is, however, a) racist as fuck, b) action-packed, and c) substantially too long.

Bill Bronson is a fur trapper in, I think, present-day British Columbia. He’s hoping to someday find his father’s gold mine, and also take revenge on the man who killed his father and made off with the loose gold.

Virginia Tremont is a young woman from an unspecified US city. She and her guardian, Kenly Lounsbury, hire Bill to help them look for Harold Lounsbury, Kenly’s nephew and Virginia’s fiance. He disappeared after coming to this part of the world six years ago, so there’s not much hope, but Virginia hasn’t given up. Kenly Lounsbury’s motives are less clear. He’s financing the expedition, but it’s hard to imagine him caring about anything but his own consequence and comfort.

Bill falls in love with Virginia at first sight, but keeps it to himself. It’s pretty obvious that he approves of her sense and spirit, though, especially when the only others with them are the whiny Lounsbury, and the shifty cook, Vosper. Virginia appreciates Bill, too, and her steadfastness and appreciation of nature create a friendly bond between them.

Winter seems to be arriving in the mountains a little bit early, but they’re doing okay. And then disaster strikes–well, the first disaster, anyway. Bill and Virginia (brave, trying to do things) get swept into a river, while Lounsbury and Vosper (cowardly, lazy) hang back and watch. Bill (superhumanly, and not for the last time) manages to get himself and Virginia to the opposite shore, somewhere downstream. The other two pack up as soon as is seemly, leaving behind everything they don’t feel like carrying, and head back to civilization.

Bill and Virginia have ended up near one of the cabins that Bill maintains, and it’s well-stocked with supplies. The two of them have similar tastes, and with food, shelter, a stove and a phonograph, they get along pretty well. Bill teaches Virginia to shoot and snowshoe, she spontaneously learns to cook, and they wait for the river to freeze over.

And then–yes. Bill finds Harold Lounsbury. He’s fine. He didn’t go home because he didn’t care to. He’s an alcoholic, and he’s living with a native woman who seems to be largely without agency. The depiction of the First Nations people in this book is really, really bad, folks. Worth steering clear of the book for. The only part of Harold’s living arrangements that Edison Marshall doesn’t seem to disapprove of is the power imbalance.

Bill promised to bring Harold to Virginia, so he does, but none of the three are all that happy with the arrangement. Then: a food shortage. A bear attack. Bill goes blind. Harold hatches a plot with his native pals. Virginia gets shot. It’s exhausting. I kept thinking the book was over, and it wasn’t.

We do finally get an ending, and it’s fine, but by that time I didn’t care anymore. I think there are reasons you might want to read this book, but I can no longer remember them.

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12th Blogiversary/Polly of Pebbly Pit

March 4, 2019

I read the first five books in Lillian Elizabeth Roy’s Polly Brewster series in 2007, right around when I started this blog. I had to stop there, because the sixth book wasn’t out of copyright yet, but since then, when I’ve thought about the public domain expanding in 2019, I’ve thought, “Oh, then I’ll be able to read the next Polly and Eleanor book.” 2019 felt really far away in 2007, but it’s finally here, so it feels appropriate to celebrate this blogiversary by revisiting this series.

This is making it sound like these books are really great, and if I recall correctly, they’re not. Polly of Pebbly Pit certainly isn’t, but it’s not bad, either–it’s just a decent girls’ series book for people who like girls’ series books, with an emphasis on sensible parenting and some mean-spirited comic relief. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Empty Hands

June 22, 2018

Robert Endicott, early in Arthur Stringer’s Empty Hands, compares his employee Shomer Grimshaw to a Diesel engine, efficient and emotionless, and wonders who would win out if Grimshaw had to deal with Endicott’s modern, spoiled daughter Claire. As a reader, you know what this signals: they will meet, and probably fall in love, and we’ll find out just how human Grimshaw can be. And I guess we do, but — and I suspect Stringer didn’t intend this — the answer is “not very.”

Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Girl Crusoes

June 1, 2018

I don’t know how I feel about The Girl Crusoes (by Mrs. Herbert Strang, a pseudonym for the same two guys who wrote as Mr. Herbert Strang). I love a good survival story, which I think means this isn’t one. Also I wish people writing about castaways wouldn’t populate their tropical islands; so often it just seems like an excuse to be super racist. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Peter Ruff and The Double Four

December 18, 2017

I’m not going to write about all my recent E. Phillips Oppenheim reads–I’ve read about twenty of his books over the past month and a half, and that’s too many. But the more I read, the better a handle I get on him, and I’m finding most of his short story characters really enjoyable.

The Double Four seems to have been published before Peter Ruff, but Peter Ruff comes first chronologically. (You can find the two volumes in one here. I thought it was going to be a third Peter Ruff book, and was disappointed.) Peter is a nice young master criminal who falls in love with a young woman without anything in particular to recommend her. He’s trying to settle into a dull, middle-class lifestyle (to correspond with hers) when the police catch up with him and he has to leave his identity behind and create a new one.  Read the rest of this entry ?

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Tom Slade with the Flying Corps/Captain Blood Day 2017

September 19, 2017

Look, I know it’s Captain Blood Day, and really I should be posting about a Sabatini book, but…I think Sabatini would mostly approve of Tom Slade, seeing as many of his heroes are also a) cripplingly honorable and b) super awkward. Anyway, Happy Captain Blood Day! May we all be as ready with a good comeback as Peter Blood.

Tom Slade with the Flying Corps is, honestly, kind of amazing. It’s not perfect, but it’s clever and unexpected: a mostly-successful experiment. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Tom Slade, Motorcycle Dispatch Bearer

September 15, 2017

So, Tom Slade, Motorcycle Dispatch Bearer, is kind of great. It picks up some time after Tom Slade with the Boys Over There ends, and since we last saw him, Tom has become a motorcycle messenger.

There are no significant plot developments in this book–Tom is a very good dispatch bearer at the beginning and a very good dispatch bearer at the end–but it doesn’t need them. Instead we get some episodic adventures as Tom joins some of the fighting at the front lines, gets captured — sort of — along with a sniper, and races a ship to port on his motorcycle. He meets two old friends and impresses them both thoroughly, and one of his adventures is so genuinely tense that it was uncomfortable to read.

I feel like Percy Keese Fitzhugh was experimenting over the course of the WWI Tom Slade books, of which this is the last one. The first, Tom Slade with the Colors, is structured very much like the prewar books, and so is the second. But that one (Tom Slade on a Transport) end with a clear setup for the next book. And Tom Slade with the Boys Over There is self contained in a way none of the previous books have been. And then this one is, in a way, the most normal of them all — but that’s not normal for Fitzhugh, and I felt like there was an experimental quality to it.