Reviews by Richard Bohan

The Romance of Elaine

by Arthur B. Reeve

The success of the film serial the exploits of Elaine (turned into a bad novel by Reeve) let to two more serials--THE FURTHER EXPLOITS OF ELAINE AND THE ROMANCE OF ELAINE. These two serials were combined by Reeve into this novel

The FURTHER EXPLOITS concerned the efforts of two subordinates of "The clutching hand" to recover the loot taken by their boss before his death. This part is covered in four chapters in the book. This part is more readable than THE EXPLOITS OF ELAINE, because Reeve manages to get the cliff-hanger elements into the story without pretending that the reader will be kept is suspense, and he ignores a red herring from the serial (the possibility that the Clutching Hand has returned from the dead. The only major bluner by Reeve in this part of the story is the transition to the second story. He begins chapter ive with Kennedy, near death at the end of chapter four with the villains making further plans, sitting in his labratory with the model of a new torpedo he has invented. This is, Jameson explains, after the death of one of the villains and the capture of the other. But thoses events are not narrated until the end of Chapter five

Thelarger part of the book is taken up with preventing a German spy, Marius Del Mar, from stealing the model of Kennedy's torpedo. Kennedy as a character, however, largely disappears from the story. This is because Kennedy in this book is not a scientific detective but a master of disguise who shows up as various characters to thwart Del Mar and then disappears again. The end of the book shows that Del Mar knows he is being thwarted by Kennedy, but Jameson never seems to have a clue.

Bye the way, the "romance" of the book is beteen Elaine and Craig Kennedy. In the film version she is in love with the clueless Jameson.

This is not such a wretchedly bad book as THE EXPLOITS OF ELAINE, but it is not much better
The remainder of the book

Reviewed on 2007.04.15

The Deserter

by Richard Harding Davis

From 1890 until his death in 1916, Richard Harding Davis was considered the greatest American war correspondent. In World War I he travelled to Europe in 1914 and covered the conquesst of Belgium and the western front briefly, before leaving because "there is not place for a war correspondent in this war."

In 1915, he returned to Europe to cover the Serbian front from Salonika. On his arrival there, he shared a suite with John T. McCutcheon, the editorial cartoonist for the Chicago Tribune, and William G. Shepherd, an A.P. correspondent noted for his ability to find the humanizing details in massive tragedies.

I mention all of this because at least the first part of this story is certainly factual. The second part, the heart of the story, may not be factual in the sense of being based on a single event, but was certainly based upon facts as they were reported to Davis by the soldiers and the ambulance drivers.

The story uses an anonymous narrator who shares a room with a great war correspondent, called "uncle Fred" by his colleagues, an editorial cartoonist, called John, and a "human interest" reporter for a wire service, called "The Kid". The first part of the story deals with the conditions under which the reporters work and the difficulties of gathering facts and getting the facts past the censors.

The second part of the story is about an American who volunteered for the British hospital corps and who now wants to go home, not because of the danger and the pain, which are real enough, but because of the sheer discomfort, caused in part by the incompetence of the military.

It is a new departure for Davis who, as a correspondent and as a writer of fiction focused on the dramatic and heroic aspsects of war, sometimes in disregard of the facts.

Both Davis's writing and World War I are largely forgotten today. This is too bad, particlarly in the case of "The Deserter" in which Davis gives probably his most realistic portrait of war, and seems to question the part that the war correspondents played in endowing it with a spurious romanticism. Those two elements make if worth reading in the very different but equally war-torn world of the twenty-first century.

Reviewed on 2006.10.31

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

by Arthur Conan Doyle

Arthur Conan Doyle was always a better writer of short stories than of novels. This first collection of short stories of Sherlock Holmes has always been regarded as the best, although I suspect that is more because of its novelty at the time of publication than because of any lesser quality in the later short stories.

Present day readers will be surprised at the selection of advantures (and Doyle was obviously generous in his use of the term adventure. Five of the twelve stories in this volume do not involve crimes at all. Some of the others involve only minor crimes and, while Holmes does solve the mysteries to his satisfaction he very rarely "catches" the criminal in the sense of having him arrested or tried.

It says something about Doyle's perception of England that only three of the stories involve murder, and in each of the cases the murderer is either foreign or has spent much of his career abroad.

None of this is meant to disparage Sherlock Holmes of his creator. It is impossible to read this book without becoming involved with the characters of Holmes and Watson, or developing an admiration for Holmes'work.

Reviewed on 2006.10.22

Constance Dunlap

by Arthur B. Reeve

Arthur B. Reeve created an interesting woman detective, Clare Kendall, in The Ear in the Wall. Unfortunately, she was somewhat overshadowed by Craig Kennedy, and was never given a book of her own.

Constance Bennett is less a detective than an anti-detective, dedicated to helping criminals cover their tracks. This might have made her interesting, like Leslie Chaarteres's Simon Templar, if her actions let smaller criminals and naifs escape while punishing the people higher up. In a few cases, this is what she does, as in the case of a kleptomaniac who is being made the scapegoat for a systematic shop lifter. But for the most part her clients (like herself) are driven only by greed and resentment against somebody, not necessarily the person they are robbing. Constance herself starts as a successful forger and protects, among others, the treasurer of an import firm who is induced by his superiors to bribe customs inspectors and feels that this entitles him to embezzle from the company. She advises extortion by collecting the evidence of their involvement in the bribes. He, as a result, is not charged and keeps his position and goes on passing bribes and probably embezzling. She becomes driven by a dislike for a somwhat shady and very good private detective to get the criminals off. She finally ends by earning the grudging admiration of the detective and the love of a superintendent of a bank vault who has been looting the safe deposit boxes.

Not a bad book, but not a very sympathetic character. I found myself wishing that it were Craig Kennedy rather than Dillon on the trail.

Reviewed on 2006.10.20

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