The Drifters roots for the rootless

The Drifters is a big novel about six rootless young people and two much older men whose addresses are poste restante.

White, red and gold text on black are only elements on The Drifters dust jacket.
This copy of The Drifters has circulated.

Initially, it seems a surprising departure for James A. Michener, noted for big, place-based novels, such as Hawaii and The Source, but it becomes an exploration of how Vietnam-era youth became alienated from the societies in which they grew up and what it would take for them to put down roots.

The stories of the six young people are narrated by a 60-something financial deal maker for an insurance company. His work takes him around the world to find good investments.

Divorced and alienated from his own son, Mr. Fairbanks meets some of the youth in the course of his work and is introduced to the others through them.

Fairbanks introduces the young people to ex-Marine Harvey Holt, a communications technician who works in remote places, but comes every year to run with the bulls in Papaloma.

From the dust jacket descriptions, the young people bumming in Europe and North Africa sound like caricatures of ‘sixties figures. By showing Fairbanks’ efforts to understand them, Michener makes them feel very real.

Through The Drifters, I found myself understanding somewhat today’s right-wing youth who want their countries back.

The Drifters: A Novel by James A. Michener
Random House, ©1971, 751 p.
1971 bestseller #8. My grade: A

© 2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni

In 1926 Beau Sabreur foresaw Islamic State

Some novels deserve to be read despite all the author’s efforts to render them unreadable.  Beau Sabreur falls into that category.

Half of P. C. Wren’s Beau Sabreur is the fictional memoir of Major Henri de Beaujolais; the other half tells basically the same events from the perspective of two French Foreign Legion deserters.

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Beau Sabreur by Percival Christopher Wren

Grosset & Dunlap, 1925, 1926. 1926 bestseller #5. My grade: C+.


Henri’s uncle, who heads France’s war ministry, plans to build a French African empire.

He wants his nephew to be his tool.

Henri agrees.

He volunteers for military service, enters cavalry training, and in due course Henri is posted to Africa where he becomes a secret agent.

Henri receives orders from his uncle to negotiate a federation of tribal leaders that will align with France against a Islamic caliphate.

As jihadists strike Zaguig, Henri and his men smuggled two white women out with them.

Henri’s men are killed.

He and the women are captured by Arabs who want the women for their wives.

Henri wants Mary Vanbrugh for his wife, but does he love her more than he loves his county?

The romance is predictable and silly, but the split perspective actually ruins the novel.

Beau Sabreur is worth reading today only for its anticipation of 21st century jihaddists and the emergence of Africa as a economic force.

©2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni

The Sheik No Better Second Year on Top 10

In 1922 Edith M. Hull’s novel The Sheik placed second on the bestseller list, up from sixth place the year before. Except as an historical curiosity, The Sheik is not worth reading.

However, with its exotic setting in the North African desert and it’s scandalous story about a British woman kidnapped and raped by a swarthy tribal commander, the novel seemed tailor-made for the cinema.

In 1921, it was turned into a black and white movie staring Rudolph Valentino as Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan. The film version is available online from Black and White Movies.

If your computer supports frames, you can watch the flick here.
http://www.archive.org/embed/TheSheik
Free movies

© 2012 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Fast-paced Sheik blurs absurdities

Orphaned as an infant, Diana Mayo was brought up by a much older brother, who treated her as if she were a boy.

When she reaches adulthood and financial independence, the fearless and foolhardy Diana goes for a month  into the North African desert accompanied only by native camel drivers and servants.

She is captured by the eponymous Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan. He rapes her, subdues her, and commands her obedience.

Diana escapes.

Ahmed brings her back by force.

In her exhaustion, Diana realizes she loves Ahmed for his strength, brutality, and animality.  But horrors! Ahmed’s a different race and color.

Meanwhile, Ahmed’s jealousy of his long-time friend  Raoul de Saint Hubert  makes the Sheik  realize he loves Diana.

Raoul tells Diana that Ahmed is not an Arab at all, but half English, half Spanish. The news assures Diana she can live happily with her Sheik.  Apparently being raped is OK as long as the rapist is a European.

This  is ridiculous stuff, but author Ethel M. Hull keeps the story moving so you don’t realize how absurd it is until you’re read so much of the book that you might as well finish.

The Sheik: A Novel
by Ethel M. Hull
1921 bestseller #6
Project Gutenberg Ebook #7031 
My grade: C
© 2011 Linda Gorton Aragoni