Posted by: billpurdue | August 28, 2011

A novel by Frances Parkinson Keyes

I’ve been delving into my small collection of Companion Book Club titles from the 1950s again, still searching for another of what I call “forgotten gems”. The only one so far which qualifies is Deliverance by L A G Strong. So I wondered if Larry Vincent by Frances Parkinson Keyes (1885 – 1970) might come up to the standard.

As you might expect, this is the life story of one Larry Vincent: he seems to lead a charmed life, if you take away the fact that his parents died when he was very young. The story begins at the very end of the 19th century, when Larry is brought up by his wealthy grandfather, Clyde, in Louisiana (the setting for quite a few other novels by Keyes) on a sugar and tobacco plantation. The first part of the book is mainly concerned with Larry’s upbringing, the question of who might inherit what , his step brother Bushrod’s uneasy relationship with Clyde and the visit of relatives from France. When the First World War breaks out, Larry enlists, but not before he takes time to see through some business projects to fruition. Larry sees little, if any, action in France, but as soon as the war is over he takes the opportunity to visit his relatives in France and immediately falls in love with a girl who just happens to be staying with them. Within a few days it seems that marriage is on the cards in spite of objections from his fiancee’s family.

It is at this point that there is some kind of bizarre episode in which Larry gets lost in a network of caves , but is rescued by his bride to be. I can’t help feeling that this is rather contrived, perhaps to inject some element of suspense into the story. After their marriage, they return to the USA, take over the plantation, his grandfather having died recently, and to put it in a nutshell, live happily and prosperously ever after.

So if you want a spot of intrigue, some suspense or mystery, then you won’t find it here. There is some romance, but not that much. I know next to nothing about American literature of the period, but I suspect that this kind of novel is just the thing that was popular at the time and might well have been considered as a subject for one of RKO Radio Pictures’ films. After all, F P Keyes (pronounced to rhyme with “skies” apparently) did write rather a lot of novels and many were set in Louisiana. The novel, Larry Vincent is actually the second part of a longer novel called  Steamboat Gothic, but can be read on its own. Having said all that, Keyes’ most popular novel was a murder mystery called Dinner at Antoine’s,  of which there are quite a few copies available second hand.

(The cover illustration is not the one for the Companion Book Club edition).

Greyfriars Bobby – a new book

There have been many books about the little dog who stayed by his master’s grave in Edinburgh for 14 years, and now there is a new one by Jan Bondeson: Greyfriars Bobby: the most faithful dog in the world [ Amberley Publishing, £20 978-1445603940] came out in June. This book claims to tell the true story of Greyfriars Bobby for the first time, no historian, according to the blurb, having separated the facts from the myth and legend to reveal the truth. Mr Bondeson’s previous books have tended towards the macabre and odd (such as Animal Freaks  and Buried Alive ), but he has written about animals before. I’ll reserve my judgement until I see the book

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