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Archive for the ‘Adventure’ Category

Wildfire is a horse story with people in it.

The setting — Utah wilderness bordering the Colorado River — becomes a part of the action.


Wildfire by Zane Grey
1917 bestseller #5. Project Gutenberg EBook #2066. My grade: C+.

Wildfire getting started high in the mountains.

   Wildfire includes a real wild fire.

If Lucy Bostil loves horses, her father might be said to lust after them. John Bostil wants to own all the fast horses.

In the mountains, Lin Slone is trailing a wild stallion called Wildfire.

At last, Slone gets close enough to lasso the red stallion.

Exercising one of her father’s racehorses, Lucy finds Slone’s mount and Wildfire, both exhausted, and Slone himself badly battered.

The horses and Slone both fall for Lucy.

Lucy and Slone decide to have Lucy ride Wildfire in the big race against her father’s Sage King.

That sets up Lucy to be kidnapped and held for ransom while her kidnappers are pursued by horse thieves.

The fast-paced story is told by an omniscient narrator through an annoying series of “meanwhile back at the ranch” shifts.

There’s little character development: People don’t analyze events or reflect on behavior.

But few novelists can match Zane Grey’s physical descriptions. I found myself holding my breath as Slone and his horse slid and scrambled down and up the Grand Canyon’s walls.

Despite its flaws, Wildfire is breathtaking reading.

© 2017 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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John Gale watches soldiers building a military post on the Yukon River and thinks, “The trail ends here!”

Necia Gale, his daughter, sees Lieutenant Burrell and thinks her trail is just beginning.

old photo shows Fort Yukon from vantage point in excavated pit

                        Old Fort Yukon


The Barrier by Rex Beach
[Harper’s, 310 pp.] 1908. 1908 bestseller #2.
Project Gutenberg ebook #4082. My grade: B.

In its first chapter, The Barrier prepares readers for a romance in which the Kentuckian’s bias against non-whites will have to be overcome.

Predictably, the young people fall in love.

But prejudice is trivial compared John Gale’s problem.

Gale’s difficulties are revealed slowly while readers see the kind of man he is and speculate on what he might have done in his early years.

Stark, a saloon-keeper, and his rascally companion, Runnion, arrive in Flambeau just as “No Creek” Lee finds gold. Stark puts up a tent and by nightfall is in business taking money from those who aim to strike it rich.

photograph of gold mining operation sluices

                            Mining for gold in the Yukon

Poleon Doret, who has loved Necia for years, gets only sisterly love and a commission to find out if Burrell means to marry her.

I won’t reveal the ending which is as quarter-turn left of predictable.

Aside from Necia, the characters, too, are just unusual enough to keep readers’ full attention.

Necia, sad to say, is just a pretty face with nothing between the ears.

© 2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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An immediate success in 1906, Rex Beach’s The Spoilers seems shopworn today because of its overused romantic plot.

But however tired the romance, even today Beach holds readers’ interest with his fast paced, action-adventure plot.


The Spoilers by Rex Beach

1906 bestseller #8. Project Gutenberg ebook #5076. My grade: B.


First edition cover ot The Spoilers shows village at the foot of Alaskan mountain.Handsome young Roy Glenister and his older sidekick, Bill Dextry, are headed back to their Midas Mine when Helen Chester makes a dash for their ship with several sailors in hot pursuit.

The men help Helen aboard and escort her safely to Nome where she has important business.

On the trip, Roy decides he’s going to marry Helen.

She disagrees: He’s too uncouth for her tastes.

There are the usual plot complications: misunderstandings on both sides, the girl’s guardian who’s a scoundrel, the suitor who’s an even worse scoundrel, the hero’s old girl friend.

The novelty is the plot trigger: Unscrupulous politicians have devised a way to steal gold from the Alaskan mines with the blessings of the courts and the US government.

The plan is simple, looks legal, and seems to be aimed at protecting honest miners.

Beach trained as a lawyer before spending five years prospecting in Alaska. The romance didn’t happen, but the skullduggery did.

Fraud on such a scale is mesmerizing—and well worth a read.

© 2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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1926-07_beaugesteThe French phrase beau geste refers to a gracious gesture that has unwelcome consequences.

It’s an apt title for P. C. Wren’s novel about British orphan lads with the surname Geste.


Beau Geste by P[ercival] C[hristopher] Wren

J. B. Lippincott. 412 p. 1926 bestseller #7. My grade: C+


Michael “Beau” Geste, a natural leader; his twin brother, Digby; and their younger brother John are reared by their aunt, Lady Patricia,  in upper class comfort at Brandon Abbas.

When a precious jewel known as the “Blue Water” disappears, suspicion falls on the boys.

Beau takes off to join the French Foreign Legion, followed separately by Digby and John.

Having pledged themselves to serve France, they refuse to join a mutiny against the despicable Sergeant Lejaune that is prevented only by an Arab attack.

Only John survives the desert ordeal, returning to England where the mystery of the jewel theft is revealed.

Wren makes clear that Geste boys represent an entire class of British who do “the right thing” regardless of consequences: In the world war just ended and the one coming soon, such boys are the heroes of the Empire.

You might want to view the film version of this novel. Beau Geste is a rip-snorter of a mystery-adventure tale, but pages of detail bury the excitement.

The plot, however, is admirably suited to film presentation where an image can reveal 40 pages of detail.

©2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Before he was posted to the Tuamoto Archipelago, Dr. Kersaint was warned “those islands are sometimes visited by hurricanes, and from all accounts, they are most unpleasant things.”

Fifteen years later, Kersaint tells a young colleague the story of a handful of one hurricane’s survivors.

A man, a woman holding a baby, and a second woman cling to branches in a tree as hurricane roars.

Detail from the cover of The Hurricane.


 The Hurricane by Charles Nordhoff & James Norman Hall

Little, Brown, 1935. 275 p. 1936 bestseller #7. My grade: B-.


As the hurricane bears down on the Archipelago, the French, who administer the South Pacific islands, are seeking an escaped criminal, a native lad who a British merchant seaman had been training to take over his shipping business.

Terangi has been pulled from the sea by the local priest and brought home.

When the islands’ administrator accidentally discovers Terangi’s relatives are conspiring to help him get away, he sails off to find  the convict, leaving his wife at home watching the barometer fall.

Writer team Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall skillfully punctuate gray blurs of terrifying sound and sleep-deprived ache with vivid details that make readers feel the narrator truly lived through a hurricane.

They do not, however, go beyond telling an exciting story.

The survivors of  “the wind that overturns the land”  survive unchanged.

That’s would be impossible for anyone whose adventures occur outside their armchairs.

© 2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Truxton King is the third of George Barr McCutcheon’s novels about Graustark, a tiny East European monarchy.

Graustark’s fairy-tale existence is threatened by forces making their presence felt worldwide at the dawn of the 20th century.

Truxton King talks with 7-year-old Prince Robin, who leads a collie.

Truxton King talks with Prince Robin, heir to the throne of Graustark.


Truxton King by George Barr McCutcheon

Harrison Fisher, illus. Dodd, Mead 1909. 1909 bestseller #3.
Project Gutenberg EBook #14284. My grade: B-.


Graustark’s titular head is 7-year-old orphan Prince Robin. Three regents rule for the Prince.

The task of raising Robin belongs to his father’s American friend John Tullis.

Truxton King stops in Graustark hoping to find romance so he won’t have to settle down to “domestic obsolescence” when he gets back to New York.

King finds romance.

He also uncovers a double conspiracy: One is by malcontents intent on killing the Prince and establishing a socialist state. The other is by exiled “Iron Count” Marlanx to use the Reds’ assassination of the Prince to make himself king of Graustark.

McCutcheon develops his characters only to a level of realism suitable to fairy-tales. He covers that shortcoming by a story replete with secret passages, spies, double crosses, and dark-of-night adventures by the intrepid hero and the less intrepid, but well-informed, travel agent who aids in his escapades.

The novel’s strength is its weakness: Abhorrent topics are treated with a light touch so they don’t seem abhorrent at all.

©2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni

 

 

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Rex Beach’s The Silver Horde is a breathless story of competition to make a killing in the short salmon spawning season.

Engineer Boyd Emerson and “Fingerless” Frasier, whom he rescued from police on an ice-floe in Norton Sound, arrive in Kalvik, Alaska, just barely alive.

Salmon spawning

Salmon spawning


The Silver Horde by Rex Beach

1909 bestseller #3. Project Gutenberg E-Book #6017. My grade B+.


All doors but one are closed to them.

Miss Cherry Malotte, a lovely young entrepreneur living alone, takes the men in.

She convinces Emerson to start a salmon canning company to compete with her arch enemy, Willis Marsh.

Emerson has a girl in the States whose rich father disapproves of penniless engineers and wants his Mildred to marry Willis Marsh.

Even without peeking,  readers know how the romance will end.

What they don’t know is how bloodthirsty salmon fishing can be.

Beach makes sure they don’t remain ignorant.

Cherry has a past; Boyd has depression. Those traits make make them miserable.

Frasier is another matter.

The good-hearted crook talks incessantly to fill Boyd’s morose silence. Frasier tells Boyd:

If you prefer to swallow your groans, you do it. I like to make a fuss when I suffer. I enjoy it more that way.

And readers will enjoy The Silver Horde: Beach doesn’t let any character’s misery get in the way of his story.

©2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Photo credit: “Salmon Spawning at Hood Canal” by Hood Canal

 

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