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

Parasites Tops Unappealing Novel with Appalling Title

The Parasites is matter-of-fact tale about “those horrible Delaney children” who grow into what the husband of one calls “parasites.”

The Delaneys’ parents were celebrities, she a dancer, he an opera singer. The children are half-siblings. Maria is his, Niall is hers, Celia the only legitimate child of theirs.

Maria becomes a successful actress. Niall settles for composing popular ditties better suited to his talents than the great music he yearns to write. Celia foregoes an art career to care for Papa.

When Maria marries the Honorable Charles Wyndham she makes sure dear Niall and dependable Celia are always around. Before long, relations between the conventional Charles and the Delaneys reach a crisis.

Daphne du Maurier has Celia narrate some of the story, occasionally referring to herself in the third person. Du Maurier gives other parts to an omniscient narrator.  Flashbacks add to the confusion.

The shifts make it hard to know  what is going on among the Delaneys, but if it’s what I suspect, I am just as glad I don’t know for sure.

The novel’s most serious flaw is the Delaneys themselves: Parasites are not appealing creatures.

The Parasites
by Daphne du Maurier
Doubleday, 1950
305 pages
1950 bestseller #6
My grade: C
©2010 Linda Gorton Aragoni