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Posts Tagged ‘William J. Locke’

Poem from frontpiece to The Red Planet superimposed on NASA photo of Mars

Poem from the front piece to The Red Planet

The Red Planet is a memoir narrated by Duncan Meredyth, a widowed Boer War veteran living in a small English country village in 1914. Duncan is cared for my his ex-sergeant who was disfigured in the same shell blast that took Duncan’s legs.


The Red Planet by William J. Locke
1917 bestseller #3. Project Gutenberg eBook #4287. My grade: A-.

As friend to his peers and “Uncle” to local young people, Duncan gets to know nearly every thing that happens in Willingsford.

As the story opens, Duncan’s neighbors, the Fenimores, learn their son has been killed in France.

Less than a year earlier their daughter had drowned.

No one had asked aloud why Althea was on the tow-path at midnight.

While Fenimores mourn, Duncan learns Betty Fairfax, who had been engaged to the heroic Major Leonard Boyce, is going to marry Capt. Willie Connor, whom Duncan thinks a nonentity.

Duncan is also surprised to see upper-crust Randall Holmes with his arm around Phyllis Gedge, daughter of a socialist builder.

As Duncan hears village gossip, observes who is with whom, and puts two and two together, William J. Locke develops and redevelops the novel’s characters.

By turns funny, morose, sympathetic, and dogmatic, Duncan always seems like a real person whose opinions on patriotism, heroism, and human nature need to be taken seriously.

©2017 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Septimus is another of William J. Locke’s rollicking tales of eponymous characters who knock the traditional notion of the fictional hero into a cocked hat.

The death of her husband from delirium tremens within six weeks of their wedding turned Zora Middlemist off marriage.


Septimus by William J. Locke

1909 bestseller #10. Project Gutenberg eBook #14395. My grade: B+.


Since Zora is well endowed physically and financially—and totally lacking in ambition—the widow’s a walking male-magnet.

Septimus Dix, an eccentric inventor, is the first to fall for her charms.

Septimus is a kind and honest man, totally incapable of remembering an umbrella or firing an incompetent servant. He tells Zora:

I shouldn’t like to pass my life without dreams, Zora. I could give up tobacco and alcohol and clean collars and servants, and everything you could think of—but not dreams. Without them the earth is just a sort of backyard of a place.

Next to fall is Clem Sypher, “friend of humanity,” and inventor of Sypher’s Cure in which he believes with religious fervor.

With Zora favoring neither, Clem and Septimus become friends.

Meanwhile, Zora’s younger sister has been dumped by a man who left her pregnant.

Septimus offers Emily the protection of marriage, with the understanding that after the baby is born she can divorce him and not even Zora need know the child’s origins.

As silly as the plot sounds, Locke makes the absurdities arise so naturally from the goodness and foibles of the characters that it not only seems plausible but also reveals some home truths about faith, love, and having a dream.

©2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Jaffery is an odd novel in which war correspondent Jaffery Chayne, a character better suited to a graphic novel than a literary one, appears only sporadically.


Jaffery by William J. Locke

Illus. F. Matania. Publisher, John Lane, 1915. Project Gutenberg ebook #14669. 1915 bestseller #6. My grade: B-.


Jaffery arrives back in England, escorting widow Liosha Prescott, just as Adrian Boldoro publishes a novel to great acclaim.

Liosha deals with loose cargo during a storm at sea

Loose cargo in the hold during a storm is no problem for Liosha Prescott

Liosha is Jaffery’s mate in appearance and temperament, but Jaffery is too besotted with Doria Jornicroft to notice her.

Despite her father’s opposition, Doria has gotten engaged to Adrian,  which skewers Jaffrey’s plan to fix Liosha up with Adrian.

Neither Jaffery nor Hilary Freeth would have been surprised had their deceased Cambridge pal, Tom, published a bestseller, but no one expected “precious, finnikin Adrian” to amount to anything.

When Adrian dies suddenly with a new book unfinished, Jaffery sees his chance to win Doria.

Jaffrey’s plan backfires.

Liosha has her own romantic contretemps.

Both sign on as hands on a tramp steamer, returning home in time to tie up the plot.

Liosha quiets a horse while Jaffrey talks to a native.

Liosha and Jaffrey are in the war zone in the Balkans.

William J. Locke packages the novel as Hillary’s memoir. Funny, loving and loveable, Hilary, together with his wife and daughter, provide a common-sense perspective for viewing the antics of others who seem be playing roles they scripted for themselves.

© 2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Close up photo of toad

Yes, my parents were a prince and princess.

The Fortunate Youth is far from a literary masterpiece, but William J. Locke knows how to spin a yarn so ideas worth pondering stick to it.

As the story opens, 11-year-old Paul Kegworthy  is living in a dirty industrial town with parents who are, in Locke’s tongue-in-cheek phrase, “not a model couple.”

A beautiful visitor to town says she’s sure Paul’s parents were a prince and princess. Paul thinks so, too. He itches to find his noble family.

A peddler gives Paul both a lift toward London, good food and good reading material.

Until he’s 23, Paul gets along on his good looks, first as an artist’s model in London, then as an actor in a rural touring company.

Every job that comes his way, Paul turns into an opportunity to develop noble behavior.

Paul has been selected a candidate for the House of Commons and as potential husband by the wealthy and lovely Princess Zobraska, when he discovers who is parents really are.

Needless to say, they weren’t of royal blood.

The candidate-suitor is revealed to be an imposter.

What can Paul do?

Locke keeps the story zipping along, slowing occasionally to let readers consider larger issues of determination, faith, and providence but never slipping into sermonizing.

The Fortunate Youth
By William J. Locke
Project Gutenberg EBook #4379
1914 bestseller #5
My grade: B

Photo credit: Toad by thegnome54

© 2014 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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eu-moi-rous.  you MOI rus.  adj.  happy because of being innocent and good 
 

Simon the Jester is an offbeat tale about a British M.P. with a highly developed sense of the absurd and the prospect of having no more than six months to live.

When Simon de Gex, 37, gets his death sentence, he decides it offers the ideal opportunity to become eumoiros.  (The word tickles Simon; he uses it every time he gets a chance), since he won’t be around “when the boomerang of his beneficence comes back to hit him on the head.”

He breaks his engagement to Eleanor Faversham, resigns his seat in Parliament, and throws his support to Dale Kynnersley to assume the seat. He also throws his support to Maisie Ellerton to become Dale’s wife.

Dale, however, won’t give up Lola Brandt, a ex-circus performer, even to win an election.

Simon meets the luscious Lola, whose intuition and kindness are as captivating as her looks. She tells Simon of her unhappy marriage; he reminds her she’s still married.

From that set-up William J. Locke weaves a zany story that affords Simon’s humor plenty of exercise.

Though the story is told primarily for laughs, Locke doesn’t let anyone forget that laughing at situations may make them more bearable, but doesn’t actually change the situation.

If you liked Kitty Foyle, Daddy Long-Legs, or The Melting of Molly, you’ll enjoy Simon the Jester.

Simon the Jester
by William J. Locke
1910 bestseller #6
Project Gutenberg EBook #3828 

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