Mr. Crewe’s Career shows politics is not kind

Mr. Crewe is not the hero of the Winston Churchill novel that bears his name, nor is he heroic.

While Crewe has a good brain, a fortune, and aptitude for hard work, he also has one serious handicap: Mr. Humphrey Crewe doesn’t have a lick of sense.


Mr. Crewe’s Career by Winston Churchill
1908 bestseller #1. Project Gutenberg Ebook #3684. My grade: B.

1800's era railroad train

Churchill’s real story is about lawyer Austen Vane, whose father is lobbyist for the Imperial Railroad, and Victoria Flint, daughter of the railroad’s CEO.

Predictably, Austen and Victoria fall in love.

The romance, however, is secondary to the young people’s relationships to their respective fathers.

Austen wins a case against the railroad, and Victoria starts asking her father embarrassing questions.

The railroad lobby, in the person of Hilary Vane, controls the state’s Republican Party and the statehouse.

Austen and Victoria both realize they need to set their own course without cutting off relationships with their fathers.

Meanwhile, Crewe, stymied by the railroad lobby in his efforts to pass reform legislation, declares himself candidate for governor.

Churchill uses Crewe’s career as a way to get an inside picture of the political machine.

It’s not a pretty picture.

Churchill wisely refrains from ending the novel with universal happiness. Too many of the characters have too many regrets for that.

© 2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Nan of Music Mountain gets her gunman

Set in a railroad town “almost within gunshot of the great continental divide,” Nan of Music Mountain is all action.

Nan and di Silva fight the bad guys from a rocky cliff on Music Mountain.
From a rocky cliff on Music Mountain, Nan and di Silva fight the bad guys.

At every juncture where he could have produced something other than a formula piece, author Frank H. Spearman backs out.


Nan of Music Mountain by Frank H. Spearman

N. C. Wyeth, Illus. Gross & Dunlap, 1916,.432 p. 1916 bestseller #8
Project Gutenberg ebook #29571.  My Grade: C+.


Gunman Henry de Spain, summoned to represent Sleepy Cat in a shooting contest, loses the contest—and his heart—to Nan, “the little Music Mountain skirt.”

So when William Jeffries asks de Spain to stay on to run the Thief River stage line, de Spain does.

Phone calls from the gambling hall and stagecoaches made by Studebaker hint at a cultural clash between Old and New West, but Spearman stops at hints.

By turns droll, dry, or ingratiating as a presidential candidate before the Iowa caucuses, de Spain could have been an interesting character. Unfortunately, readers can’t be sure which is the real Henry de Spain.

Di Silva goes hand-to-hand with thieves closed hotel killing two, wounding two others.
In a gunfight inside a closed hotel, Henry de Spain kills two of his assailants, wounds two others.

Spearman keeps de Spain on the gallop, with a blend of every plot line that was hackneyed by the time of the talkies except tying for the leading lady to the railroad tracks.

That’s fortunate.

Nan of Music Mountain has so little personality that tied to the tracks, she’d be mistaken for a cross tie.

©2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Never Victorious, Never Defeated Is Vintage Taylor Caldwell

cover of Never Victorious, Never Defeated (1954)Never Victorious, Never Defeated is a typical Taylor Caldwell novel: a good yarn with vivid characters against a backdrop of political and spiritual decay.

The setting is Pennsylvania during the years when America, aided by immigrants fleeing certain starvation in Europe for the mirage of banqueting in America, changed from an agricultural to an industrial nation.

Greedy men are vying for wealth: They must have markets for their goods.

Cornelia Marshall, granddaughter of a railroad entrepreneur Aaron deWitt, uses her brain and cunning to achieve power and wealth.

Like her father before her and greedy men around her, Cornelia is amoral, willing to use or destroy anyone who stands in her way, including her siblings, her husband, her children.

A few patriots and saints — including Cornelia’s brother-in-law and son — see the destructive force at work in the world and attempt to counter it.

They see American society being undermined by the rise of cities, the cultivation of war as a business tool, the growth of central government, the disappearance of moral teaching.

Nevertheless, they believe eventually men of good will and common sense will defeat evil at the ballot box.

Whether their optimism is valid remains to be seen.

Read Never Victorious, Never Defeated and draw your own conclusions.

Never Victorious, Never Defeated
by Taylor Caldwell
Mc-Graw Hill, 1954
549 pages
#9 on the 1954 bestseller list
My grade: B

© 2014 Linda Gorton Aragoni