Trail of the Lonesome Pine‘s a Curiosity Lost in Melodrama

John Fox, Jr. churned out sentimental novels about the American frontier that were immensely popular in the early 1900s. The Trail of the Lonesome Pine was his first big success, making the bestseller list two years running.

Jack Hale sees the opportunity to make a fortune by buying land in the Cumberland Gap after the Civil War when the demand for steel soars.

While he’s looking for investment property up near the lonesome pine, Jack meets a young hillbilly girl, June Tolliver. Hale arranges for her to get schooling outside the mountains.

Meanwhile, Jack tries to civilize the hillbillies enough that investors won’t be afraid to come in. He makes enemies of both sides in the Tolliver-Falin feud.

His investments don’t fare well either. When June comes back, clean and cultured, she finds Jack gone to seed and the feud ready to blow her family apart.

If you can imagine John Wayne playing Professor Henry Higgins, you’ve got the flavor of the book. Trail has several intriguing  story lines, but none of them is fully developed.

Characters are underdeveloped, too. Hale initially considers June a child , but readers never learn her age, which is a pivotal fact.

This melodrama survives as a curiosity, but it’s too splintered to endure as a novel.

The Trail of the Lonesome Pine
By John Fox, Jr.
Grosset & Dunlap, 1908
421 pages
1908 bestseller #3; 1909 bestseller #5
Project Gutenberg ebook #5122
My Grade C
© 2009 Linda Gorton Aragoni