Master of the Game

 Blood and diamond on dust jacket of “Master of the Game”
That’s a diamond dripping blood.

Sidney Sheldon begins and ends Master of the Game at the 90th birthday party of Kate Blackwell, a rich, powerful, controlling woman.

Between the first and last chapters, Sheldon retraces the Blackwell history since 1900.

Jamie McGregor leaves Scotland at age 18 to pick up a fortune in African diamonds.

Picking up diamonds turns out to be more difficult than he expects, but Jamie is a hard worker and fast learner.

He makes sure the people who took advantage of him as a greenhorn are amply repaid when he makes his fortune.

Kate, Jamie’ daughter, inherits her father’s business empire, his compulsion to have the power money brings, and the brains to get it.

Kate has identical twin daughters, Alexandra who is a decent human being, and Eve, who is as pathologically power hungry as her mother and grandfather.

Master of the Game is typical Sheldon. The plot is simple and colorful.

The leading characters are drawn and colored in broad, cartoon-like strokes.

They use money, sex, and murder as everyday control mechanisms.

None of them ever learns anything except how to be better at being despicable people.

The only surprising facet of Master of the Game is how quickly the novel can be forgotten.

Master of the Game by Sidney Sheldon
W. Morrow. 1st ed. ©1982. 495 p.
1982 bestseller #4. My grade: C-

© 2019 Linda G. Aragoni

Hotel New Hampshire: A family love story

Some novels create a fantasy world. John Irving’s novel The Hotel New Hampshire realistically depicts a family who live in one.

Dust jacket has light gray and white text on burgundy background, no art
No image could capture this novel.

John Berry, the third of Winslow and Mary Berry’s five children, tells the story.

Win and Mary grew up in Dairy, NH, but didn’t meet until both worked summer jobs in Maine after high school.

The Berry children’s favorite story was of their parent’s romance, 1939 marriage, and Win’s purchase of a bear, with which he paid for his Harvard education before coming back to Dairy.

When the private boy’s school at which Win teaches has to take girls, Win decides to buy the former girls’ school and turn it into a tourist destination the first Hotel New Hampshire.

He moves his family and their dog into the hotel.

It’s hardly an ideal place for children or dogs.

There will be two more Hotel New Hampshires, one in Vienna, Austria, the other at the hotel site where Win and Mary met.

Only the third one, the one that is a hotel in name only, is a success.

Irving reproduces the sibling interactions with perfect pitch. Their antics are laugh out loud funny at one minute and bring tears the next.

Visit The Hotel New Hampshire. You’ll be glad you did.

The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving
E. P. Dutton. © 1981.  401 p.
1981 bestseller #2. My grade A-

©2019 Linda G. Aragoni

Bloodline: Old themes revitalized

In Bloodline, Sidney Sheldon takes several tired themes, shakes them together, adds a most unusual detective, and serves up an entertaining, fast-reading mystery.

Couple embracing in front of Italian villa is image on dust jacket of "Bloodline" by Sidney Sheldon
Bloodline isn’t as sexy as the cover implies.

Elizabeth Roffe is the ugly duckling daughter of a wealthy pharmaceutical company CEO.

When her father is killed in a skiing accident, Elizabeth inherits control of the family-owned company.

Roffe and Sons is in financial difficulties and the other family members on the board of directors are clamoring for the company to be taken public.

Elizabeth wants to do what her father would have wanted.

She receives a confidential report her father had ordered which suggests someone has been deliberate sabotaging the company’s most promising projects.

Suddenly Elizabeth herself is in danger.

Elizabeth proposes to Rhys Williams, her father’s right hand man, and makes her new husband head of the company.

Into this romantic thriller, Sheldon inserts Max Hortung, an accountant, computer geek, and financial ferret whose goal in life is to be a police detective.

Max gets computers to tell him things and figures out who the villain is.

Sidney Sheldon has no great message for humanity, but it doesn’t matter.

Bloodline is fun to read and Max deserves to star in his own series of detective novels.

Bloodline by Sidney Sheldon
Morrow, 1978, ©1977. 444 p.
1978 bestseller #4. My grade: B+

©2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni

 

The Turmoil packs industrial-size wallop

In The Turmoil Booth Tarkington has crafted a novel about human and national ambition that illuminates while it entertains.

Abandoned clay factory

Sheridan — he’s called only by his last name — built his town into a city by hard work, business acumen, including some shady deals, and luck.


The Turmoil by Booth Tarkington

1915 bestseller #1. Project Gutenberg ebook # 1098 My grade: B+.


Sheridan’s long-range plan is to turn all his operations over to his sons. Jim and Roscoe are already in management.

His father has no luck getting son Bibbs, “the odd one,” interested in business.

Mary Vertrees’ family, once the city’s social leaders, have fallen on hard times. Mary must marry money to save her parents.

Mary sets her cap for Jim Sheridan. He is killed in an accident the same day Mary realizes she cannot marry him.

Mary and Bibbs become friends. Mary encourages his interest in writing, but Bibbs’ father wants him in the business.

Bibbs has to choose between his writing and his family —  and decide whether Mary is part of his future.

Tarkington’s characters are believable bundles of contradictions. The elder Sheridan is a tyrant, for example, but a tyrant who means well. Bibbs is sensitive and insightful, but has his father’s business sense.

This romance set against a begrimed backdrop of an Industrial Age city is one you won’t soon forget.


Tarkington planned a trilogy of novels about the American worship of Bigness and the money it brings. The Turmoil was the first of the set that he wrote, but when Tarkington collected the novels in a single volume called Growth in 1927, he placed it as the second novel in the set.

©2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Image: Abandoned clay factory photo by anafa