The Hollow Hills tells Arthur’s tale

The Hollow Hills is Mary Stewart’s follow-up to her bestseller The Crystal Cave.

A drawing of a sword and  colors behind the title words are only art on The Hollow Hills' dustjacket.
There’s no magic on this cover.

Stewart picks up where that story ended, giving just enough background that people who didn’t read the earlier work aren’t lost but dedicated Stewart readers aren’t bored.

Within days of his birth, Arthur is given into Merlin’s care. Arthur’s father, King Uther Pendragon, had sent the Duke of Cornwall into battle and then bedded the Duke’s wife while the Duke was dying on the battlefield.

Arthur is a bastard.

Uther hopes as his queen Ygraine will bear sons untainted by bastardy, but Uther wants Arthur kept safe just in case he has no legitimate male heir.

Most of The Hollow Hills relates Merlin’s travels between the time he secrets the baby away and the time he comes back to return Arthur to his father as his successor. Those chapters allow Stewart to display her considerable landscape word-painting skills.

The Hollow Hills has less hocus-pocus than Cave and better developed characters (although Merlin, his youthful sidekick Ralf, and Arthur each have about a quarter century’s more maturity than appropriate to their chronological ages).

Stewart isn’t to my taste, but The Hollow Hills gave me more to admire than others of her novels that I’ve read.

The Hollow Hills by Mary Stewart
William Morrow, 1973. 490 p.
1973 bestseller #6. My grade: B

© 2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Once Is Not Enough: It’s more than enough.

Once Is Not Enough is not nearly as bad as Jacqueline Susann’s prior two bestsellers, thank goodness.

Eyes focus on trophy represent worthyless pursuits in Once in Not Enough.
January Wayne wants to be important like her father.

Once is about the spoiled daughter of a famous producer, Mike Wayne. Mike ships January off to boarding school at age 7 after his wife kills herself trying to abort their second child.

January has no real friends at school, has no idea of what families are.  She idolizes her father, whom she sees sometimes on weekends in New York.

Graduated at 17, she wants to go work with Mike. He’s busy so he sends her to enjoy herself with an actor several years older.

Franco takes her on a wild motorcycle ride.

January is thrown off, hitting a wall. She spends three years learning to walk again.

That’s about all January ever learns.

All the people around her are immature, self-centered, greedy for money and power.

January’s fate is predictable.

Once Is Not Enough is a forgettable novel, though technically far better than Susann’s earlier bestsellers, Valley of the Dolls and Love Machine.

In Once, Susann draws her plot out of the personalities of her characters, but none of the characters in is someone you’d want to know: They carry too much drama around with them.

Once Is Not Enough by Jacqueline Susann
William Morrow, © 1973. 467 p.
1970 bestseller #4. My grade: B-

© 2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Semi-Tough: Thoroughly sixth grader humor

Three facts about Dan Jenkins’s 1972 bestseller Semi-Tough tell all you really need to know:

Football star sits with his girl, a beer, and his guitar.
This is how the Giants get ready for the Super Bowl.
  • The novel is about two teams facing off in the Super Bowl.
  • The author was a senior editor at Sports Illustrated at the time he wrote the novel.
  • A portion of the novel appeared in Playboy magazine prior to the book’s publication.

Semi-Tough‘s narrator is Billy Clyde Puckett, a running back (and running mouth) for the New York Giants.

His best pals are his teammate “Shake” Tiller and Shake’s girlfriend, model Barbara Jane Bookman. The three spent their childhood in the same Texas town. It would be incorrect to say they grew up there or anywhere else.

Billy Clyde has a book contract to keep a journal of events before and after the Super Bowl. That’s why he’s taking notes about players drinking and screwing in preparation for the Big Game.

Football fans say Semi-Tough is funny; personally, I’m just not that in to jokes about farting.

I did laugh at Shake’s philosophical observation, “There’s no heartbreak in life like losing the big game in high school,” but I don’t think he meant it to be funny.

Semi-Tough by Dan Jenkins
Atheneum, 1972. 307 p.
1972 bestseller #10 My grade: C-

© 2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni