The Crossing Reveals Early Public Contempt for Congress

Early Map of Louisiana Territory
Louisiana Purchase Territory

The Crossing is a story of the days when Tennessee and Kentucky were the American frontier and New Orleans was a Spanish colony.

The book is narrated by David Trimble, a Blue Ridge lad orphaned when his father goes to fight Indians. He’s taken in by a frontier couple, Polly and Tom McChesney.

When Tom joins George Rogers Clark to fight the British and their Indian allies, Davey goes along as drummer, errand boy, and mascot.

After the colonies win their independence, the McChesneys and Davey settle down in Kentucky.

Davey goes into law. His clients hire him for investigations that take him to New Orleans and involve him in the international intrigue for control of the Louisiana Territory west of the Mississippi.

Part romance, part historical novel, The Crossing is an engrossing but forgettable novel.

Winston Churchill’s presentation of Davey as a child is unconvincing. Davy’s small stature would not have afforded him “child” status in 1780, especially since he was old for his age.

His investigative work as a lawyer is scarcely more plausible.

What rings true in the book is the tension between the settled colonies and frontiersmen.

Churchill makes clear that the resentment of Americans toward what they view as an unresponsive Congress is as old as the nation itself.

The Crossing
by Winston Churchill
1904 bestseller #1
Project Gutenberg ebook #388
My grade: B-

© 2014 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Image: Map of the Louisiana Purchase Territory, 1903 , from the National Archives ID# 03444_2000_001_A

 

Historical fact renders Alice of Old Vincennes implausible

Maurice Thompson got the idea for Alice of Old Vincennes from a scrap of a letter by Gaspard Roussillon dated 1788. The letter aroused Thompson’s curiosity. His research stirred his imagination to plug gaps in the historical record.

Roussillon, a wealthy and influential French trader, has adopted the lovely orphaned Protestant child, Alice Tarleton, and is bringing her up as his daughter.

When the colonies declare war on the Crown, the French at Vincennes side with the colonies against the British and their Indian allies.

Colonel George Rogers Clark sends the rough Lt. Helm and the suave Lieutenant Fitzhugh Beverley to take charge of the miliary post at Vincennes.

The British under Hamilton take the fort, but they don’t get the American flag: Alice takes it down and has it hidden. Hamilton determines to break “the frogs” of Vincennes.

Beverley escapes and heads for Clark’s encampment, surviving torture by Indians and torture by the elements of nature. Clark, though outnumbered, outsmarts Hamilton and retakes Vincennes.

Alice and Beverley marry and go to live with their kin in Virginia.

The facts Thompson unearthed were sufficiently romantic that little embroidery was necessary to create a plot. Unfortunately, the historical facts appear totally implausible when presented in novel form.

Literature demands plausibility that life does not produce.

Alice of Old Vincennes
by Maurice Thompson
1901 Bestseller #2
Project Gutenberg e-book #4097
My grade B-
©2011 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Project Gutenberg

Man of the Forest Has Feminine Appeal

If Zane Grey is synonymous in your mind with plot-heavy cowboy stories, The Man of the Forest might change your thinking.

Taking shelter from a rain storm in the Arizona mountains, Milt Dale overhears outlaws plotting to kidnap Helen Reyner so their boss, Beasley, can get the Auchincloss ranch to which she is heir. Milt decides to save her. He doesn’t know she’s also being stalked by an Eastern scumbag named Riggs.

With the aid of a quartet of Mormons, Milt rescues Helen and her younger sister, Bo, and keep them safe in his forest hideaway until Auchincloss comes for them. Bo falls for a handsome Texas cowboy, and Helen falls for Milt.

The requisite number of narrow escapes, show-downs and shoot-’em-ups occur before the story reaches its happy ending.

Grey uses the story to explore the virtue  and destructiveness of a solitary life. Milt instructs Helen in the code of the lawless American frontier. He shows her the impulse for self-preservation in herself.

Helen teaches Milt that “work that does not help others is not a real man’s work.”  By the end of the novel,  Milt accepts Helen’s  civilized values and saves her happiness just as he saved her life.

The Man of the Forest
by Zane Grey
New York: Harper & Brothers, 1919
383 pages
1920 #1 bestseller
Project Gutenberg Ebook No. 3457

© 2010 Linda Gorton Aragoni