Half a Rogue mixes romance, politics and bon mots

Harold MacGrath has the happy facility of producing novels that are better than they have any right to be.

In Half a Rogue, he does unexpected things with a predictable plot while keeping up a steady stream of commentary that makes a reader feel like MacGrath’s chosen confidant.

Times Square 190The New York Times building towering over nearby 4-story buildings as horse-drawn carraiges plod the street.s
                                              Times Square, 1905

Half a Rogue by Harold MacGrath
1907 bestseller # 10. Project Gutenberg ebook #4790. My grade: B.

Richard Warrington, a playwright newly come to fame, becomes close friends with Kate Challone, a young actress who stars in his plays.

When Kate announces she’s to marry Jack Bennington, a man in Dick’s hometown with whom he roomed in college, Dick is delighted.

With Kate leaving the city for Herculaneum, Dick decides he’ll move back home.

Herculaneum society is not happy its biggest employer has married an actress.

It’s also not happy that Jack’s younger sister prefers Dick to the local boys.

And, when Dick is tapped to run for mayor, the corrupt local political machine is not happy.

A private eye is sent to New York to dig up dirt on Dick.

Half a Rogue is a most unromantic romance.

Harold MacGrath has given a true story about fictional people in an imaginary town.

The story ends not with a “happily ever after,” but with a sigh and a terse, “Could have been worse.”

As, indeed, every life might have been.

© 2017 Linda Gorton Aragoni

So Little Time mourns what might have been

birthday cake

Jeffrey Wilson had started out as a journalist with aspirations of a literary career.  The one play of his that was produced, bombed. Now middle aged, Jeff has become a script doctor. Directors respect his ability to sharpen lines so they convey the playwrite’s intent.

Jeff wouldn’t need to work (His wife, Madge, inherited money.), but his self-respect demands it.

He knows he has an instinct for the technical aspects of theater, but feels he lacks the talent to write a good play. But, like everyone at mid-life, he wonders if he might not be successful if he only gives it one more try.

So Little Time is about what happens when Jeff tries one more time.

John P. Marquand paints a placid picture of middle age that roils with an almost adolescent angst beneath its surface. Jeff swings in a minute from feeling Madge doesn’t’ understand him to feeling she knows what’s he’s thinking. But unlike a teenager, he doesn’t let on.

Marquand makes Jeff and Madge very ordinary people, believable and forgettable, like most of the people we come across in our lives.

So Little Time is the story of every man and woman’s middle years. You won’t remember the plot, only the feeling of loss it leaves.

So Little Time
By John P. Marquard
Little, Brown, 1943
595 pages
1943 bestseller # 3
My Grade: B+

Photo credit: Happy Birthday by signalchao http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1305615

© 2013 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Bridge of Desire Needs Less Romance

Bridge of Desire is a bit of a departure for Warwick Deeping from the overdone sentimentality of his more famous works like Sorrell and Son.

Unfortunately, he reverts to sentimentality at a crucial point in the plot, giving a happy-ever-after ending to a story that demands less romance and more nuance.

Here’s the gist of the plot:

Martin Frensham has achieved success as a dramatist thanks in large measure to his wife, Nella, who created the home atmosphere in which he could write.

In the seventh year of a happy marriage, Martin gets restless.

Looking for new ideas, he leaves Nella for a rich American widow whose hobby is collecting men. Nella tells friends her husband is traveling for his health. She is sure Martin will come to his senses and return to her.

Deeping’s probing of the male mid-life crisis is observant rather than psychoanalytical, his prose incisive rather than lyrical. The novel gives the impression of saying something that has to be said, even if the telling gives pain.

Even though Bridge of Desire is not a great novel, it’s one whose story will linger in your memory longer than many better ones.

 Bridge of Desire
by Warwick Deeping
Robert M. McBride, 1931
303 pages
My grade B
©2011 Linda Gorton Aragoni