Beggarman, Thief: Murder with a surprise ending

Beggarman, Thief is a sequel to Rich Man, Poor Man, but readers need have no acquaintance with Irwin Shaw’s 1970 bestseller to enjoy this 1977 follow-up.

cover of "Beggarman Thief" is all text
Complexity of “Beggarman, Thief” defies imagery.

Tom Jordache has been clubbed to death on the deck of his own ship in the harbor of Antibes.

After scattering Tom’s ashes, Tom’s sister, Gretchen, goes back to her Hollywood job.

Tom’s bride of five days goes home to England to bear Tom’s child there.

Toms 16-year-old son, Wesley, who had only shortly before come to live with his father, wants revenge.

Wesley vents his rage his loss on a man in a bar, nearly killing him. He’s released from jail on condition he leave France. He reluctantly goes to stay with his mother and her new husband in Indianapolis.

That leaves Rudolph, the brother Tom and Gretchen always disliked, to settle Tom’s estate in France and make sure Wesley doesn’t commit murder.

Handling unpleasant affairs is how Rudolph made his millions.

In Rich Man, Poor Man, Shaw presented a complicated family story. In Beggarman, Thief he adds both a murder and terrorism to a family story—and does it all with seeming effortlessness and an optimism missing in his 1970 novel.

When push comes to shove, the Jordaches are family.

Beggarman, Thief by Irwin Shaw
Delacorte Press, c.1977. 436 p.
1977 bestseller #7. My grade: A

©2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni

The Perennial Bachelor a portrait of senseless waste

The title character of The Perennial Bachelor, Victor Campion, is a virtual nonentity to all but his immediate family, including Anne Parrish’s readers.

Victor was his parents eighth child but first son.


The Perennial Bachelor by Anne Parrish

Harper & Brothers, 1925, 334 pp. 1925 bestseller #8. My grade: B.


Only three of the Campion girls lived past childhood. Victor was born the evening his father died in a riding accident.

Margaret Campion is a lovely but stupid woman. At her death, she makes Maggie, the eldest daughter, promise to take care of Victor.

Victor becomes his sisters’ life as he was their mother’s.

Parrish presents the story in not-quite-in-focus memories of various of the “three Campion girls” and Victor.

Readers see each sister trying desperately to conceal from the other sisters the pain of sacrificing her own dreams so Victor can have the best.

Details about the clothing, household habits, handicraft projects, and social activities of the family members from the Civil War period through the Jazz Age reveal the extent to which the Campion’s fortunes decline as they grow older.

The Campions are pathetic when they are young. As they get old, the senseless waste of four lives is painful to watch.

Readers will want a sunny novel as a chaser after The Perennial Bachelor.

© 2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni