Richard Bohan

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Richard Bohan

Richard Bohan’s book reviews

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
04/15/2007
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.
10/31/2006
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.
10/22/2006
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.
10/20/2006
A railroad Vice President and and his chauffeur have sudden and mysterious seizures on the way to work; a family in New York city undergoes an epidemic of beri-beri; the American consul in the Virgin Islands collapses and dies for no apparent reason; a Wall Street speculator is apparently stabbed to death--with a rubber dagger. Who other than Craig Kennedy, armed with his knowledge of chemistry, technology and Freudian psychology could solve these mysteries.

This is another colloction of Craig Kennedy short story, most of them well up to Reeve's standard. The author goes a little beyond the practical science of the period (for example in his creation of a World War I version of a stealth bomber. But there is no doubt that sceintists at the time were trying to create such a machine, probably along the lines that Reeve inicates.

One of the things which strikes one in these stories is growing cynicism of the author. Thus Kennedy allows some criminals to escape justice, sometimes apparently on the grounds of true love, sometimes possibly on the grounds that a conviction could not be obtained. Thus a railroad president remains untarnished and a prominent doctor goes free. Murder, of course, Kennedy never pardons. This is not a bad collection with plenty of action as Kennedy thwarts spurious doctors, gun runners, fanatical pacifists and playboy lotharios.

Note to Agatha Chrisite fans. You might be interested in the title story, since Christie used the basic plot elements (her story involves a steamer rather than a train) in one of her stories a few years after this was published. Don't worry. In terms of plot complexity, lower level of violence and overall writing ability, Christie comes out clearly better in the comparison.
10/18/2006
While the poltical machine controlling New York City is making its deals with criminal gangs and Wall Street plungers, a telephonic device is in the wall. At the other end of the line is Betty Blackwell, who transcribes the plans and places them in a black book.

Now both Betty and the Black Book have disappeared, the the crusading district attorney recruits Craig Kennedy to find both before. Kennedy and Jameson, aided by a tough but compassionate woman detective start a race with Tammany Hall to recover the Black Book and to save Betty.

This is an interesting book, not for the technology, which is simply what was then the telephonic and photographic technology available rather than new Craig Kennedy inventions, but for the picture of New York and the relationship of criminal gangs and the political machine at that time. The book discusses the protection payments from the prostituion and dope rings to the police, the role of the upper classes in profiting from politrical graft, and the starvation of city services under he entrenched political power of Tammany. It also shows the qualities which make some of the corrupt politicians lieable even to thos who fight them and the mutual loyalty of the machine and those who support it. Particularly interestting in terms of the provision of city services is the harrowing (and accurate) account of conditions at the City Morgue.

At the time this book was written, the actual (teemporary) breaking of Tammany's hold, under a real crusading district attorney (Thomas Dewey) and a real reform minded mayor (Fiorello LaGuardia) was still a dozen years in the future. It should be noted that the real reformers, like Reeve's characters) also allowed some of their targets to escape to Europe.

This is a pretty good adventure/mystery. Reeves literary effort and presumably his work as a reporter, probably contributed to the change in pulic attitudes whice allowed the reformers to take control of the city. I would rate this about 3 1/2
10/18/2006
Stewart Edward White, who was known primarily as a conservationist and writer of westerns, and Samuel Hopkins Adams, who was known mainly as a muckraking journalist collaborated on this novel. Uncharacteristically for both of the authors, the story is a venture into science fiction and sea story.

There is more than one mystery in the tale, which seems to have been based on the story of the Mary Celeste. A naval vessel discovers a derelict schooner in the south seas. Everything aboard the ship appears and order, but the craft is completely deserted. The mysstery deepens when not one but two salvage parties put aboard the craft also disappear.

It appears the mystery might be solved when a survivor from the schooner is found adrift in a dory. The survivor gives an account of mutiny, murder and piracy, but can only hint at an even greater mystery.

A number of good to very good authors have given their attention to creating a literary solution for this mystery of the sea. This is possibly the best.
10/14/2006
This is one of the great books of all time for pre-teen boys. The author is a two-time winner of the Pulitzer prize. In this book he has managed to present the adventures of a twelve year old boy, presented entirely from the boy's point of view. That is a major accomplishment. Penrod is a boy--not a "good boy" and not a "bad boy--but simply a boy engaged in experimenting with his place in the world. The overall story has a gentle humor to it, interupted by a few slap-stick chapters. The fact that these chapters usually revolve some black boys who are friends of Penrod's has led some to accuse Tarkington of being a racist. This overstates the case, but as a novelist he was not above using current stereotypes to please his readers.
10/14/2006
This is a very good but very short story. The protagonist is Hammett's "other" great detective, "The Continental Op." In this story, he called upon to find the murderer of a fellow Continental detective, one whom he trained and whom he regarded as a friend. In thirteen pages, he clears up the mystery. It is worth reading for fans of the hard boiled detective, for the short stories are where Hammett perfected his craft, and where he first developed ideas which later appeared in his novels.
10/13/2006
I do not know anything about this author or any other books he may have written. I wish I did, because this is ALMOST a very good book. I wonder if the author ever realized his full potential.

Bobby Blackburn can remeber the first part of the evening when his grandfather was murdered. The problem is, he cannot remember what happened the rest of the night, or how he ended up in the neighborhood of his grandfather's house the next morning.

This is a good locked room mystery , for the most part. The cast includes Bobby, his extremely unpleasant grandfather, his beautiful cousin, a lawyer who gives bad advice, a superstitious doctor who gives the mystery its properly eerie overtones, a somewhat shady Panamanian friend of Bobby's, and a mysteriuous woman in black, along with with two cocksure but not very competent detectives and the District Attorney.

The are some things which detract from the story. That the protagonist is egregiously stupid is part of it, since he never thinks to ask who would benefit if he is successfully framed for the murder. A second problem is that the author suddenly changes the relationships between all of the characters three-quarters of the way through the book. A third is that, in the final pages the author suddenly adds a new supernatural aspect to the story, which is just too much. The final complaint might be that the solution to the locked room problem is somewhat of a let-down, but I have found that this is almost always true in this type of mystery, even those written by masters of the form.

Despite my complaints, I think this is enjoyable light reading. I hope that anyone who knows of more works by this author will let me know.

10/13/2006