Satan Sanderson a patchwork of implausibilities

Called to witness a dying man’s will, the Reverend Henry Sanderson learns college friend Hugh Stires, is being disinherited as a wastrel.

Sanderson intercedes on Hugh’s behalf. He confesses his college nickname was “Satan” and that it was he who led Hugh to drink and gamble.


Satan Sanderson by Hallie Erminie Rives (Mrs. Post Wheeler)
A. B. Wenzell, Illus. 1907 bestseller #6. Project Gutenberg ebook #39689. My Grade: B-.

As he pleads for Hugh, however, Sanderson tries to recall something—anything—to suggest Hugh is capable of reversing his downward spiral.

There is none. Hugh is “a moral mollusk.”

An elderly man and blind young woman in Victorian dress sit in drawing room.
Mr. Stires with his ward, Jessica.

David Stires says he wishes the resemblance between his son and Sanderson extended to more than physical appearance.

He agrees to think again before he signs his will leaving his fortune to his beautiful, blind ward, Jessica Holme.

The reprobate son reappears ready to be good long enough to woo and wed Jessica, thereby insuring he gets his father’s money one way or the other.

Sanderson realizes he not only started Hugh downhill, but aided his masquerade as reformed character.

From that set up, Hallie Erminie Rives could have aimed the plot in any of several directions.

She chose to take them all.

The novel is a patchwork plot of implausibilities performed by manikins.

Rives did give Sanderson a nice dog; he, at least, stayed in character.

© 2017 Linda Gorton Aragoni

The Hounds of Spring quietly stunning novel

As The Hounds of Spring opens, Cynthia Renner tells her Austrian-born husband she’s “not perfectly satisfied” with their children.

She fears they haven’t had enough disappointments to build character.


The Hounds of Spring by Sylvia Thompson

Little, Brown, 1926. 366 p. 1926 bestseller #4. My grade: A.


1926-04_houndsWithin hours, Austria declares war on Serbia. Within days England is sucked into the conflict.

Colin Russell, the elder Renner daughter’s fiancé, enlists. Two months later, he’s on the front lines in France.

Colin and Zina plan to marry when he gets his first leave. Before then, Colin is declared missing, believed dead.

John Renner, his mother’s favorite child, joins the R.N.A.S. He is shot down over France.

Deadened by her loss and feeling her mother cared for more John than for her, in 1918 Zina marries a man she doesn’t love rather than face the future alone.

While Zina is on her honeymoon, her father intercepts a telegraph message for her: Colin is alive.

Sir Edgar goes to Paris immediately.

When he learns that Zina didn’t wait for his return, Colin says, “So this is war.”

Sylvia Thompson’s quietly stunning novel about an English family whose lives were soaked by the social and political sea changes of 1914-1924 deserves to be rediscovered and reread by a new generation.

©2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni

007 Rates 000 in You Only Live Twice

Cover of Ian Fleming's You Only Live Twice
Cover of You Only Live Twice

You Only Live Twice is next to last of the 12 James Bond novels Ian Fleming began publishing in 1953. Assuming readers are familiar with the names and personalities of the series’ characters, Fleming plunges into what passes for a plot.

Bond’s wife died in the previous novel; 007 has messed up two assignments since.

His supervisor, M, gives Bond the opportunity to redeem himself by persuading the Japanese to share radio transmissions captured from the Soviet Union. Japan’s price is the assassination of foreign “scientific researchers” living in a Japanese castle on a volcanic island.

Japanese wishing to commit suicide are drawn to the site’s geysers and fumaroles, as well as the researchers’ collection of toxic plants and carnivorous animals. The suicides are bad PR for Japan.

Bond infiltrates the castle, learns the researchers are the couple who killed his wife and blows the place up.

The explosion leaves him with amnesia.

A word in a news story triggers a faint memory, and Bond is off to a new adventure.

You Only Live Twice reads like a collaborative project by 13-year-old boys, with elements of every story they’ve ever seen or read from Random Harvest  to — I’m not making this up — Winnie the Pooh.

Unless you have a life to waste, read some other novel.

You Only Live Twice
by Ian Fleming
New American Library, 1964
240 pages
1964 bestseller #8
my grade D+
 

© 2014 Linda Gorton Aragoni

The Breaking Point Is Vintage Gem

Mary Roberts Rinehart House

In The Breaking Point, Mary Roberts Rinehart skillfully weaves mystery and romance into a page-turner peopled with characters that feel like old friends by the novels’ end.

The mystery concerns Dr. Dick Livingstone, the nephew whom Dr. David Livingstone and his sister Lucy are grooming to take over his uncle’s practice.

Dick came east from Wyoming, went to medical school, and served in WWI. Recently he discovered Elizabeth Wheeler and is thinking of marriage. He has little memory of his life in Wyoming except for being tended by David during a long illness.

A rumor has reached town that the Wyoming Livingstone never married. Dick thinks he ought to make sure there’s nothing in his past to prevent him from marrying Elizabeth.

Dick takes Elizabeth to the theater to see Beverly Carlysle, an actress once involved with the profligate son of a multimillionaire rancher implicated in the murder of the actress’s husband. Carlysle’s manager-brother thinks Dick is Judson Clark whom authorities believed died in a Wyoming blizzard. A reporter realizes if the man is Jud, he has the scoop of a lifetime.

Dick heads west.

The reporter heads west.

Elizabeth waits anxiously at home.

Though mysteries are usually stronger on plot than characterization, Rinehart manages her far-flung cast so they not only appear on cue but also age and mature chapter by chapter. The characters are enveloped in the small town atmosphere that wafts from each chapter, making Rinehart’s sweet-tart ending feel entirely natural.

The Breaking Point
Mary Roberts Rinehart
1922 Bestseller #6
Project Gutenberg ebook #1601

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons photo of Mary Roberts Rinehart House in  Pittsburgh’s Allegheny West Historic District where she lived  with her family from 1907 to 1912 .

©2012 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Random Harvest is unforgettable for all the wrong reasons

James Hilton’s bestseller Random Harvest is memorable only for its total absurdity.

Charles Ranier loses his memory and his dog tags in an explosion in the trenches of World War I.  Repatriated to England, in the excitement of Armistice Day,  Charles walks away from a hospital. A comedienne with an acting troupe befriends him. They marry, becoming  “the Smiths,” since Charles can’t yet remember who he is.

In Liverpool for a job interview, Charles  slips, hits his head, and loses his memory of everything between the battlefield and waking up in Liverpool.

Charles picks up his pre-war life. He runs the family businesses, takes a seat in Parliament, and makes a marriage of convenience with one of his firm’s secretaries — her idea, not his.

As the Germans invade Belgium 18 years later, he remembers the woman he loved before the Liverpool accident. Heedless of present wife and present responsibilities, he  and rushes back to the spot where they first declared their love.

The characters are as absurd as the plot. There’s no reason a crank like Charles Ranier would inspire the devotion Hilton alleges.

If you like this book, you need a knock on the head.

Random Harvest
by James Hilton
Little, Brown
327 pages
1941 #2
My Grade: C-

© 2011 Linda Gorton Aragoni