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The American setting of The Definite Object allows Jeffery Farnol to diversity his usual cast of minor characters with immigrants, gangsters, slumlords, and professional pugilists.

The variety adds complexity to the novel without noticeably changing Farnol’s usual story line.


The Definite Object: A Romance of New York by Jeffery Farnol
1917 bestseller #9. Project Gutenberg eBook #16074. My grade: C+.

Half-English Geoffrey Ravenslee is “so rich that [his] friends are all acquaintances.”

He wants a wife who wants him more than his money.

When Geoff catches Spike Chesterton breaking into his mansion, he decides not to prosecute if Spike will take him to Hell’s Kitchen to meet his sister, Hermione.

Geoff gets a room in the same tenement as the Chestertons and proceeds to charm everyone except gangster Bud M’Ginnis.

Spike hangs around M’Ginnis hoping to break into fighting. He’s sure he could make a fortune to give Hermione the country home she wants.

Geoff’s courtly behavior wins over women.

Men, except M’Ginnis, are more impressed with his boxing behavior.

As English characters are thrown in with American characters, neither comes off as believable. The large cast allows ample time for the absurdities of the characterizations to punish the never-strong plot.

Farnol gets in some of his delightful wry observations, but they aren’t enough to raise this novel beyond the level of mediocrity.

© 2017 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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The Amateur Gentleman follows the adventures of Barnabas Barty, son of a champion prizefighter. Thanks to an unexpected inheritance, Barnabas has cash to “learn to be a gentleman.”

The Amateur Gentleman reads like a first novel, packed with episodes and characterizations drawn on the author’s reading in Dickens, Fielding, and Trollope. Had he been writing today, Jeffrey Farnol would have put in zombies and a werewolf.

The windfall in the opening chapter sets the direction Farnol takes in the remainder of the novel. Something unexpected happens in each chapter, and each unexpected occurrence is less plausible than the one before.

Barnabas is as implausible as the plot in which he’s tangled. Even before he begins his lessons in genteel deportment, Barnabas can tame a wild horse and charm an elderly duchess with equal ease.

Barnabas has all the manly virtues and roughly a quarter of the manly brain. His virtue is apparent to everyone except his enemies and the lovely heiress he wants to marry, all of whom are his intellectual equals.

Farro’s whimsical chapter titles are the only hint of the delightful light entertainment he went on to produce once he got his reading out of his system.

The Amateur Gentleman
By Jeffery Farnol
Illus. Herman Pfeifer
1913 Bestseller #6
My grade C-
Project Gutenberg EBook #9879
My grade C

© 2013 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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