Book Reviews

‘Ginger Rogers and The Riddle of the Scarlet Cloak’ by Lela E. Rogers ~Book Review


I found a copy of this tale while on a book hunt in dusty barn trunks on an old southern piece of farm land. Here’s the official information:


The plot of this book is a typical WWII children’s “patriotic” spy-ring mystery.  Ginger Rogers is a telephone operator in a swanky hotel, who gets involved in breaking a plot to steal American bomb technology.  Romance is just as much of the book as the mystery though…handsome and rich men abound and vie for the affection of the little telephone operator.


My thoughts on it fall into a couple of categories:


Writing quality: It was written by a movie star’s mother (not an official author), and I was curious to see how it would measure up to the average child’s mystery of it’s day. It started out nicely and had the charm I love in that old style. As I kept reading I noticed an abundance of adjectives and extraneous details which made the quality plummet quickly. There were a lot of extra sentences and words explaining things that the reader would have automatically picked up on. A stiff edit could have made it a very pleasant read. Of course, I’m by no means a qualified critic of writing! 🙂


The Story: A simple mystery, easy to guess in a few parts, but fun for it’s intended audience. The thing that I loved most about it, was Ginger’s attitude towards her work. She has what many folks would consider a dull and tedious job: eight hours locked in a tiny room working as a switch-board operator for a hotel. In the middle of the night. Day after day. Year after year. Yet she is cheerful and never complains. On the contrary, she find great joy in preforming her job to the best of her ability. She has the old-fashioned pride in her work that is consistent both in old children’s fiction, and among the old folks that I know from that generation. But it is lacking among the fiction and people of this generation.

To them it seemed the occupation never mattered. The pride was in how the job was tacklednot in what it was. The converse is what I find emphasized in today’s fiction: make sure that the job is good enough, “you need to do what you love,” “find a job that makes you excited to wake up and work everyday,” “Is this job fulfilling?,” don’t be satisfied until you find the job of your dreams” and so on.  Whereas the old books tend to whisper the message: “the secret is not in doing what you like, but in learning to love the job you have been given,” “cultivate an attitude that makes you grateful for your job, and a joy for others to be around,” and on and on. This is a topic I could use an abundance of adjectives on. And a few pages of proof and quotes from old books. 😉

The old books did encourage ambition and lofty goals, but not to the exclusion of quiet faithfulness, contentment, and pride in the ‘here and now’… The attitudes considered important stand in stark contrast to the “inspiring” Pinterest quotes and memes of today which sometimes are encouraging, but often tend to make people dissatisfied with their life instead of being grateful and tearing into the job with a ‘gung-ho’ attitude and a cheerful whistle ….


The romance and the mother/daughter relationship areas of the story, which made up most of it, weren’t good. Ginger is a Disney-princess “follow what your heart tells you about this man” sort of girl. She has a few good thoughts and evaluations (based on valuable listening to ‘intuition’ that would make Gavin de Becker proud), but mostly it’s unsubstantial. Not the sort of reading that turns little girls into strong or wise women.


The Vocabulary:

I was pleasantly surprised.  From these pages came unusual words such as:

  • ermines
  • surcease
  • mezzanine…


Overall I don’t think it’s a very worthy book. I was curious to read it mainly because of it being written by Ginger’s own mother. The historical aspect of this series had me curious as well, and I wanted to understand and study a few things about these Whitman books, their popularity, etc.  It was a fun study, and light reading. But not one I’d recommend searching out, or adding to little girl’s libraries.

The folks who might like it are book collectors, as well as historians and Ginger Rogers memorabilia collectors. And there’s a copy in at least one museum that I know of…



“We’ve just not been grateful enough lately,” Ginger said emphatically. “That’s what’s the matter with us.”

“I haven’t been, I know that,” Mary admitted.

“It’s not only you Mommie. It’s both of us. We’ve been too busy about our silly little affairs to be grateful for all our blessings. That’s why we’re all mixed up.” Ginger thought a moment, then went on, “What a thing for two people like us to do! Both of us know that gratitude opens the way to joy, yet here we are…!”



Both of the above books are currently available in the Box Thirteen Shop!


Do And Dare by Horatio Alger Jr.~Book Review

Herbert Carr’s father died. His mother’s job was taken away by an ambitious storekeeper. With no means to live on, 16 year-old Herbert takes it upon himself to provide for the two of them. By his ambition he finds several jobs and works cheerfully–even under mean employers, until he finds a proposition that suits him perfectly. He hires on as an assitant and companion to a sick man who came west for his health. His new work brings prosperity to him and his mother, and also sends along all sorts of excitement: being tried for crimes he didn’t commit, attacked by robbers, waylaid by stage-coach bandits, fighting Indians, and like adventures as he “strives to succeed.”

Originally published in 1884 by Porter & Coates, it was one of Horatio Alger Jr.’s famous books for boys: tales of ambitious poor boys who persevere with grit and finally succeed financially by hard work and diligence. Many folks accurately call his stories classic “rags to riches” tales…

Compared to many similar and contemporary works:

It’s far easier to read than G. A. Henty novels, the story pacing is much quicker, and it is geared towards younger boys. It’s not as engrossing as R. M. Ballantyne’s tales, nor is the writing and development of the characters nearly as good. The writing style reminds me a lot of the Bobsey Twins Series by “Laura Lee Hope.”  The similarity is not really surprising considering the connection Edward Stratmeyer had with both series.

Do And Dare is a simple story, packed full of morals and character, some adventures, and old style vocabulary. It is a classic boy’s tale, nothing exceptional and not on my favorites list, but fun nonetheless.

The book Do And Dare is currently available in the shop HERE

The Zeppelin’s Passenger by E. Phillips Oppenheim ~Book Review

England. WWI. Philippa Cranston is living a normal life, as normal that is, as one can live when ashamed of your husband who is the only man not working in the war effort. She thinks him a pathetic coward. But when a stranger steps in though her parlor window when she is alone with her sister-in-law to-be, and locks it behind him, it quickly becomes apparent that he is a highly trained spy.  An enemy spy.

With his good looks, charm, and a piece of unusual information, he quickly convinces–almost forces–the two patriotic women to shield him and help him in his espionage. What started out as begrudging help quickly slips into affection between Philippa Cranston and Lessingham–the undercover agent. Tension follows as suspicions grow and time is running out…

This tale of espionage and romance is a quick moving and gripping tale. Filled with action, LOTS of dialogue, and narrow twists. I certainly cannot fault the book for any lack of ability to catch my interest and hold it.

It’s the first book I’ve read by Oppenheim, the famous, wealthy, writer of thrillers. I enjoyed his writing style and am not at all surprised that his works were so famous (if this tale is a good sample of his work).

There was one major flaw in the book that kept me from really enjoying it, and that was the main character’s lack of character. Philippa was not only a bad wife after she met the dashing, deceitful spy, but was before he ever appeared in the story. As the book went on, I kept expecting her to improve, but she only became more irritating as the tale plunged on. Near the end she does start to do what she should, but for the wrong reasons. It is merely a change in circumstances that make her decide to fulfill her duties and do what is right at the end—not a change of heart.

And that is very frustrating in a main character!

The story was wonderfully woven with a few delightful new angles and tangles and mysteries not typical to this sort of spy story. It made for a good distraction and a quick novel when I was feeling under the weather one day, and I had great fun tearing apart all Philippa’s poor decisions and coming up with what she should have done instead… Nonetheless, it missed being added to my favorites.

I do love the title, a perfect name for a mystery. 🙂 Zeppelins are airships, much like the blimps of today, and were used extensively by Germany during WWI. They were not a threat to be taken lightly…so when this book came out in 1918 the title carried a strong connection to recent history, especially to all British citizens…

The Zeppelin’s Passenger is currently available in the shop HERE.

Once-(Six Historically Inspired Novels) Book Review


“Six fairy-tales you thought you knew, set against a tapestry of historical backgrounds.”

I dove into this book with mixed feelings. On the one hand I was quite excited to read Elisabeth Grace Foley‘s story that I had been eagerly awaiting for many months.

On the other hand, I tend to gravitate towards old books whenever I’m looking for a fiction book to read. And though there are a handful of modern authors I enjoy tremendously, I tend to shy away from most modern fiction because it is usually lacking in either good craftsmanship, or in good plot/worldviews/morals/meaning/substance/etc.

On top of that, modern “retellings” are not a favorite of mine either, and I tend to be very wary of them. The reason being, that they tend to end up as no more than a watered-down, abridged, emotionalized, or in some cases”sanitized” retelling of what used to be a strong, rich story with good vocabulary and hidden meanings.

I needn’t have worried. 🙂 Each of these six stories was fresh and new, and mostly of top-notch quality. The stories had similarities to the originals, but were far more than your average adaption/retelling. Each one could have stood on it’s own merit and been enjoyed, without leaning on the readers’ knowledge of the tale it was based on.

I enjoyed reading this collection of novellas, they are the perfect length to read in one sitting and full of fun, mystery, revenge, plot twists, and quite a unique look at traditional folk lore.

Now a little bit about each of them individually:

I have a predilection for westerns (as you know if you’ve visited my artist site!), and The Mountain of The Wolf is an excellent little western novella. It’s a retelling of the 10th century folk-story Red Riding-hood, set in the canyons, wide open skies, and dusty lands of the American West.  It starts out in a leisurely way, with hints of the ominous purpose of Rosa Jean—a young lady who lives alone up in the mining country. A strange man, Quincy, rides up one day with a hidden agenda, and the suspense builds as his plans interfere with hers…It’s a delightful tale, with a great climax, and one of my favorites in this set.

I was not really fond of the story She But Sleepeth, but I found the historical note at the end fascinating. History and fiction were woven together seamlessly and with such talent, that I had no idea just how much truth there was to the story. The author makes dead royalty so real and alive I thought they were fictitious! And it does makes one want to visit Romania.

Rumpled was quite a change from my usual fare. I’d never read anything in the steam-punk genre, previously, but it was enjoyable and I thought it was far better than the original Rumpelstiltskin story. The ending is certainly more satisfying!   It’s a sweet story of trust broken and webs of deceit woven for personal gain, but the girl’s conscience will not be silent, and her slow-growing love for her husband only accentuates her agony…

Poignant and realistic. That is what describes the story of the girl with matches in A Sweet Remembrance. As an amateur historian, lover of WWII history, and historical reenactor I especially enjoyed this story. It is a story of a war torn country, and of families under Nazi occupation. The author doesn’t mask the sadness or the realness—and it reads like many of the true stories I’ve been told of the hard life during the war. Stories where agony and separation called forth little unexpected deeds of kindness, nobleness and generosity. Where beauty abounded in the midst of ashes and devastation…

Death Be Not Proud is a fast read. One of those fun thriller-mysteries that has you grinning and turning pages as quick as you possibly can. 🙂 I do love a good mystery, and this one was short and satisfying (not to mention that it made me so curious about a certain scientific medical-phenomenon that I just had to research it!). A mystery, an island, and the tale of a prohibition era jazz singer with a dark past….who could ask for anything more?  Suzannah Rowntree, the author, said that is was written in homage to Mary Stewart and Alfred Hitchcock.  Now, I must confess my ignorance of Mary Stewart, but it does capture the suspense, murder, mystery, and mayhem that makes it reminiscent of the 30’s and 40’s film noir, of which Alfred Hitchcock was the master. Great fun all around!

Rapunzel was never a favorite fairy-tale of mine, but this retelling, With Blossoms Gold, is a fine story of courage, love, heroes, and of conquering the selfish tendencies of isolation and safety—of a girl who challenges herself to strike out with courage and devote her life to others instead of herself. Of denying your feelings in lieu of your duty. It is the most traditional of the six, and takes place among the realms of knights, kings, and castles.

If you are looking for an evening of fun retellings of classic folk lore, take a look at “Once” over on Amazon!

Mrs. Miniver~Vintage Book Review


“…and realize that a day without a chunk or two of solitude in it is like a cocktail without ice.”~Mrs. Miniver

Not all great books are majestic, triumphant, outstandingly written, well-known, and follow a well-crafted plot. Or filled with action, adventure, thrills, or excitement.  Mrs. Miniver is none of those. And yet, it is a great book. It is like a cup of tea–warm, quiet, cozy, and filled with everyday moments recounted in a telling way– without being the least bit imposing.

It’s extremely seldom I come across a fiction book of this kind. Or rather, a fiction book of this kind with this kind of caliber. Of course, there is the famous Goodbye, Mr. Chips, which is also a simple, heartwarming tale of everyday life, but even that acclaimed book doesn’t measure up to Mrs. Miniver’s insightful loveliness–in my humble opinion.

Mrs. Miniver offers a glimpse of English life during the 1940’s, and it was said by the New York Herald Tribune at the time (1940)

“All that was best in English life is in this book.”

It is certainly unassuming though. Each chapter is a short 3-4 pages. Nothing big happens. Buying a doll. Cleaning an old orchard. Purchasing a new planner for the year. An evening at dinner. A car ride. Listening to windshield wipers. Those are what the chapters are made up of. Life is quiet. The family small.

And yet, after reading it I found that it had touched me more than I first realized. I started becoming a Mrs. Miniver in my own life. For you see, the book leaves you with your eyes wide open to capture the simple pleasures that slip by everyday. Not that they are great discoveries you may have never seen before, because often you have seen them hundreds of times. But, as Holmes was always telling Watson, you can see something every single day of your life and never really observe it.

I found this book to be one of those that wakens you to observe, ponder, and really notice the everyday things and people in your life. To remember the little gestures, personalities, choices, pleasures, words, and memories you make with your family. The kind of things you will treasure and be so glad for should you ever lose a person close to you, or move away from your homeland and the familiar country and grounds. As a matter of fact, if I could journal like Mrs. Miniver I’d sit down and chronicle the treasures of all my everydays right away!

But here I am raising your expectations of the book to such heights that you will surely be disappointed and think “She got all that from those simple–plain stories!?!”  For they are simple and many may find them dull. But persevere with an open mind and you may surprise yourself with the fondness you will have for Mrs. Miniver, and your appreciation for her wisdom growing by the end of the book, as happened to me.


Book Details

Title Mrs. Miniver

Author Jan Struther

Date Originally Published: 1939 (from Newspaper articles published 1937-1939)

Book in Photos: published 1940

To read the great review on Goodreads by author Elisabeth Grace Foley that made me want to read the book click here.

One more note before I leave: Mrs. Miniver the book, and Mrs. Miniver the famous WWII film that was so highly acclaimed by Winston Churchill are not similar.  The film was good in it’s own right. So was the book. But there is almost no comparing them as they are only ever so faintly connected. So just enjoy each one separately and don’t worry about their differences and connections! Neither are perfect, but both are worth pursuing!

This book is a beautiful glimpse into old English life.  A book that sharpens your sense of gratefulness, wonder, and joy in everyday life.

“It oughtn’t to need a war to make us talk to each other in buses, and invent our own amusements in the evenings, and live simply, and eat sparingly, and recover the use of our legs, and get up early enough to see the sun rise. However, it has needed one (WWII in England): which is about the severest criticism our civilization could have.”
Mrs. Miniver

“Cabin Fever” by B. M. Bower Book Review


Cabin Fever

By B. M. Bower

Cabin fever is one of those diseases that plague folks all over the world, and Bud Moore is no exception. An ex-cowboy turned stage-driver (of an auto stage!), he has been married just over a year, and lives in a nice, sturdy house with his wife and baby. Now, the bad news is that Bud is not the only one in the house to have “cabin fever,” his bride Marie has a severe case and is even closer to committing a desperate act than he is…

This book is a “light-reading” type of story that follows the wanderings of Bud as his marriage breaks apart and he is thrust out in the world with only a ten-spot to his once-prosperous name. Taking a job working for another man, he innocently ends up deep in the midst of a crime…and wanted by law officers in several western states.

The characters in this book have been developed more fully than many in Bower’s western adventures. It is a stand alone story, and has no connection to her more famous series. It is simple in plot, yet original enough to be interesting. Her writing style is simple as well, but she usually has a point that she makes with the story—in this one it has to do with the issues of compassion, understanding, the utter silliness of pride and it’s damaging repercussions, and the theory that “change is as good as rest” (as a side note; Winston Churchill wrote an excellent little book on that subject titled “Painting as a Pastime”).

The book starts with these ominous and intriguing words:

There is a certain malady of the mind induced by too much of one thing. Just as the body fed too long upon meat becomes a prey to that horrid disease called scurvy, so the mind fed too long upon monotony succumbs to the insidious mental ailment which the West calls “cabin fever.”

True it parades under different names, according to circumstances and caste. You may be afflicted in a palace and call it ennui, and it may drive you to commit peccadillos and indiscretions of various sorts. You may be attacked in a middle-class apartment house, and call it various names, and it may drive you to cafe life and affinities and alimony. You may have it wherever you are shunted into a backwater of life, and lose the sense of being borne along in the full current of progress. Be sure that it will make you abnormally sensitive to little things; irritable where once you were amiable; glum where once you went whistling about your work and your play.

It is the crystallizer of character, the acid test of friendship, the final seal set upon enmity. It will betray your little weaknesses, cut and polish your undiscovered virtues, reveal you in all your glory or your vileness to your companions in exile—if so be you have any.

If you would test the soul of a friend, take him into the wilderness and rub elbows with him for five months! One of three things will surely happen: You will hate each other afterward with that enlightened hatred which is seasoned with contempt; you will emerge with the contempt tinged with a pitying toleration, or you will be close, unquestioning friends to the last six feet of earth– and beyond.

All these things will cabin fever do, and more. It has committed murder, many’s the time. It has driven men crazy. It has warped and distorted character out of all semblance to it’s former self. It has sweetened love and killed love. There is an antidote– but I am going to let you find the antidote somewhere in the story.

Her antidote is is comprised of several things, which I will also leave you to discover in the story. 🙂 The resolution of all the problems wasn’t quite satisfactory to me.

Least you get the idea that Bower turned from her traditional western novels and started in on moralizing, preaching, and making profound social observations, let me put your mind at rest. “Cabin Fever” is just like her other books: full of dialogue, a fun story, humorous moments, and a little action (though not as much in this one as her other novels). This tale has quite a surprising twist at the end! I thought I could pretty well predict the way the story would end, but I didn’t anticipate how the plot would spin at the last minute!


Cabin Fever” details:

Originally published in 1918

Written by B. M. Bower

The book in these photos: published in June 1945 by Triangle Books

291 Pages in length


We all realize keenly, one time or another, the abject poverty of language. To attempt putting some emotions into words is like trying to play Ave Maria on a toy piano. There are heights and depths utterly beyond the limitation of instrument and speech alike.”~Cabin Fever

“Towards Zero”~Agatha Christie Book Review


Mysteries are my favorite type of pleasure reading. Anytime I want a relaxing and delightful jaunt into the world of crime and detectives I find myself reaching for a mystery novel. Agatha Christie is among the first authors I reach for.

I appreciate her mysteries for many reasons, among them are; a fresh story every time, lovely character studies, unique plot twists, unpredictable endings, and crispy dialogue all tossed into a charming location full of deadly murder and mayhem.

She specialized in writing the “manor mystery” where a group of strange folks from all walks of life are thrown together in a location and forced to stay there. It is a common story setting and one of the best no matter whether it takes place among a group of stagecoach passengers, passengers on a ship, an island out at sea, a snowbound train depot, or the ever suspenseful English manor.

Toward Zero, is very much like that. A group of unusual characters all convene in an elderly lady’s house on seaside cliffs during the month of September, and the suspicious thoughts quickly turn into hard tension, and then murder. Everyone is a suspect. And I dare the reader to guess the culprit before it is revealed!

In reading many Agatha Christie novels I’ve thought a lot on what makes her books so appealing. I think a large portion of it can be attributed to her wide knowledge of people. From reading her books it is clear that she must have watched and studied the people around her until she had a vast resource of realistic characters. Couple that with cleverness and her excellent craftsmanship with words, and you get the people and their amusing characters that make her books stand out. When trying to solve her mysteries, it usually comes down to trying to get an understanding of personalities, how each of the people think, their reactions, and what makes them tick. If you can figure out the people, you can figure out the mystery!

Towards Zero is full of fascinating people that makes a jolly good read. Among them are:

  • An 80 year old specialist of criminology, who knows too much; he could never write a memoir—and live.
  • An eccentric old lady who is royalty in her own domain—the mansion. And who has a secret delight that her guests don’t realize they are fodder for…
  • A flashy, stunningly beautiful girl who is dissatisfied with life and her husband. And jealous. And money hungry. Pure dynamite.
  • An intelligent reader who would do anything to have some adventure or travel, but is housebound taking care of an old lady…or so she thinks until a squad of guests descend on the grounds one September.
  • A handsome, athletic young man who has been trailing his old sweetheart for year after year—despite the undeniable fact that she is married.
  • A quiet lady with a scar…a hidden past…a mysterious manner…a reserved passion no one would ever guess, with the one possible exception of her ex-husband
  • The ex-husband. A wealthy man who has to live for two weeks in the same house with his first and second wives.
  • A farmer from Malay. A quiet man with a hidden purpose…deliberate enough to cross an ocean to carry it out.
  • A suicidal gent on a secret mission in South America, who just stops by to visit the place where once he tried to take his life, a man who would lose his job, wife, and friends rather than tell a lie, but who had a unique exception for one kind of deceit…

Put all of those folks together in a party, start having them be mysteriously murdered, and the result will be neither predictable nor calm!

Towards Zero is one with of her lesser-known books, it has neither of her famous detectives; Poirot or Marple, but is one of the five “Superintendent Battle” cases. It was originally published in 1944.  For a delightful couple of hours dig into this old mystery and you will be surprised at the sudden twists! Agatha Christie could make her readers sympathize with and love a character, and then turn bitterly against him in a matter of seconds. Such was her talent, and…but that is for you to find out in this classic whodunit. Below are a few quotes from the book.


‘I like a good detective story,’ he said. ‘But, you know, they begin in the wrong place! They begin with the murder. But the murder is the end. The story begins long before that– years before sometimes– with all the causes and events that bring certain people to a certain place at a certain time on a certain day.’

“You’ve no idea what horrors most companions are. Futile boring creatures. Driving one mad with their insanity. They are companions because they are fit for nothing better. To have Mary, who is a well-read intelligent woman, is marvelous. She had really a first-class brain–a man’s brain. She has read widely and deeply and there is nothing she cannot discuss. And she is just as clever domestically as she is intellectually. She runs the house perfectly…”“

“I suppose, like most young people nowadays, boredom is what you dread most in the world, and yet, I can assure you, there are worse things.”

“It’s extraordinary, the amount of misunderstandings there are even between two people who discuss a thing quite often – both of them assuming different things and neither of them discovering the discrepancy.”


This book is very entertaining and fun (Does anyone else relish the descriptions of the guests rooms, wardrobes, and the state of neatness or disarray like I do? I love it when detectives search a room, and Agatha Christie catches all the details that would be the logical state considering that persons mind, worldview, and character, for one’s mind does affect one’s room…) 

For a chilly fall evening nothing beats a good mystery and a steaming cup o’ tea. Treat yourself to a couple of Agatha Christie’s books this autumn season and give your deducing powers a little exercise! It might make you want to don your suit and hat for a visit to an old country house…

Have you read Towards Zero or any of the Superintendent Battle series? Let me know in a comment below!

This review was written for The Agatha Christie Blogathon hosted by Christina Wehner and Little Bits of Classics

Vintage Book Review~David Harum

David Harum

By E. N. Westcott

David Harum Book

John Lenox, a promising man in his 20’s, is suddenly cast into two life-changing situations. His father dies, and with his passing John no longer has any money with which to live on or to pursue his training as a lawyer. The second situation is more pleasant, but even more difficult; John has fallen in love with a sweet girl—but does not have the finical means to offer her marriage even if he could otherwise make a successful winning of her heart.
This story follows his trials and moral tests of character through 6 years in New York State.

The title of the book; “David Harum”, comes from the employer and mentor of John— Mr. David Harum, an old country banker and sharp horse-trader who is filled with stories of his own life and struggles which he willingly shares with all who are interested. He’s a likable old fellow and has every bit as much (if not more) to do with the story than John himself. As the book progresses he becomes a mentor type of figure in John’s life…

I found this book to be quite enjoyable and a charming story. It is, a story of American life in New York during the 1800’s and also a character study of an old banker. And what makes it so fascinating is when in was written. It’s not some modern fiction set back in history, but is a fictional story written about the times that the author lived in and experienced first hand. The author, Westcott, wrote the book and finished it while on his deathbed. It was published posthumously that same year: 1898.

The characters and dialogue are quite real and show that the author understood human nature well; and the story, while moving at a slightly slower pace in some parts, manages to stay interesting throughout and leave you quite interested in how everything will turn out in the seemingly unsettling end.

The book in these photos is from 1898, the original publication year, and is a fine hardcover with a frontice-piece by an uncredited artist (although you can almost make out his signature in the corner…).

I currently have an 1898 copy available for purchase in the shop here!

If you’ve read David Harum, drop me a comment and let me know your thoughts on the book!

Vintage Book Review~West Is West by Eugene Manlove Rhodes

West Is West by Eugene Rhodes

West Is West Eugene Rhodes

Published in 1917 by Grosset & Dunlap, this is one of the vintage books written by the renown western author Eugene Manlove Rhodes.


West is West is a collection of 8 short stories that are loosely tied together—they all take place on roughly the same range land, with many of the same characters. The stories are as follows:


A range war is at a momentary standoff between Ben Morgan and Clay Mundy, when MacGregor, a man on the run from the law, stops in to hide at Clay Mundy’s spread. He stays on as a hand and starts finding out that fishy things are happening between enemies Clay Mundy and Ben Morgan’s daughterr–and he feels it necessary to intervene.

Once Upon A Time

Emil James, the main character of this story, takes a young tenderfoot (John Sayles) on a journey across the Malibu Flat and through the mountains, to reach the N 8 ranch. Emil tells the history of the land—the stories of the conquistadors to the young man–meanwhile several key bits of information for later stories in the book are exposed.

The Spring Drive

John Sayles is now a full-fledged cowboy on the N 8 spread. One day an old family friend and ex-cowboy drops by to take John back east so he will stop “wasting” his life on the range when he could be getting rich. What follows are some lively and interesting debates between the two about the character, habits, work ethic, and prospects of the range man vs. the “business” man— which lead to an interesting discovery of his friend’s past, which in turn, is put to the test in a life-or-death test of moral courage.

Meanwhile a cowboy’s humorous and wise ways of dealing with unpractical and slightly corrupted government officials like tax collectors, inspectors and such is portrayed as Steve comes head to head with various officials and try to make their points about freedom and reasonableness.

The Fool’s Heart

This story’s name fits perfectly. A man’s character is put to the test when a perfect opportunity arises for him to “bump off” a man and take his fortune with no consequences or chance of discovery. Cleverly woven, this tale is one of the best in the book and has a predictable, yet masterful ending.

I love stories that end with a short, meaningful last sentence.


This is a tale of Crooknose, an unlikely looking character, who, under his rough exterior is a man of honor who fights injustice, defends the innocent and sets wrongs right wherever he comes across them. An observant man with a hatred of those who take advantage of folks, he ends up in quite a few scrapes in all manner of places– from a gambling hall to a brothel.


A crooked scheme by the main stockholders of a mine is taking place in the town where Dick Rainboldt lives. This story introduces the bad men of the scheme, Dick Rainboldt, and the girl he loves; Judith Elliot. It is practically a “part one” of the next story: The Bells of San Clemens.

The Bells Of San Clemens

This story tells of the big crooked mine scheme and how Dick Rainboldt started out to solve the mystery and get proof against the thieves. Using cleverness he tackles the job in a difficult and surprising way…

Over On The Malibu

A railroad is coming through, and with it come the main characters in a finale as the loose ends get wrapped up, and we bid farewell to the folks in the lovely valley and mountains.

Eugene Rhodes

Although West Is West is a fun book, the stories and characters are slightly hard to keep up with, which can make it difficult to read.

It is not an exceptional book in that sense, but for any Gene Rhodes fan (like myself) it is a treasure and well worth adding to your collection. It has one black and white illustration by Harvey Dunn, which is is poorly done, and it does not match the story, as the girl in it not only looks terrible, but also doesn’t even have the slightest resemblance to a western girl or any of the characters in the story. She would look more at home in ancient Greece or Rome. The cowboy in the illustration looks alright, but in general it is poor art. There is a lovely little cactus silhouette on the spine!


Below are a few excerpts of dialogue from the book to whet your appetite and give you a taste of his writing style:

On a cowboy’s work ethic…

That is exactly the point. These fellows [cowboys] sacrifice everything else so that they can go their own way just as they please and keep their so-called ‘independence’–with no provision for the future. They will not accept orders—.”

I have been here two months and I have not heard an order given yet,” said John Sayles dryly. “Every man knows what to do and when to do it. He does it without orders. And every man-jack of them tries to do it first! Is that a fault? Why, if you had men who would do that, you would hold them invaluable. And Independence? Since when has that been a crime? Isn’t self-respect — even exaggerated self-respect — better than the cringing obsequiousness of our tip-takers?

On keeping the law…

You’ll get yourself in trouble, Steve,” warned the inspector. You don’t want to defy the law. A good citizen ought to uphold it.”

Don,” said Steve, more seriously, “a man that keeps a foolish law is only a fool—but a man who doesn’t break a wicked law is a knave and coward, or both, and a fool besides.”

A humorous meeting of a girl and a cowboy meeting out in the middle of nowhere…

And you’ve had an accident ? Not hurt I hope?” he held out the canteen, first unscrewing the top.

Thank you. No, I’m not hurt a bit. Except my feelings. They’re ruined. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll drink first and tell you afterward. Dear me, what a jerky conversation!”

That’s because I’m afraid– my part of it,” said Dick gravely. “Not of you, you know. Of girls.” He waved a hand to explain. “Any girls. All girls. I suppose you’re afraid of men. Girls are.”

Not!” supplemented the girl, and wrinkled her nose at him. Then: “Oh, my soul!” she sighed. “What would poor, dear mamma say if she knew I’d make a face at a perfect stranger?”

Me, too,” echoed Dick, mournfully sympathetic. “I’ve never behaved this way before. I don’t know what is getting to be the matter with me—unless, as Topsy said, it’s my wicked heart. But my perfection was not shocked when you made the face. It was very effective. Not the nose so much– the dimples.”

Upon my word!” said the young lady.

Why don’t you drink? You must be thirsty/”

Look the other way, then. I haven’t learned to drink from a canteen yet—not gracefully.”

Dick looked the other way. “Why, drinking from a canteen is easy,” he said. “The first rule is, you mustn’t laugh–.”

The girl laughed promptly, with disastrous results. There was a sound of spluttering and gurgling and of splashing water. “There! See what you’ve done! You made me choke myself—you made me spill it!”

I didn’t want to do it.” observed Dick, with a decidedly musical effect.

The young lady shot a suspicious glance at him, and frowned slightly; but the young man’s eyes were fixed on a distant hill with a gaze so innocent, so guileless, and so unswerving straightforward that she broke out into dimples again.

That wasn’t a song, however it sounded,” she remarked. “Now you keep still till I drink.”

(for the 21st century folks who don’t know, the last couple of sentences are making reference to the 1913 hit song by Al Jolson “You Made Me Love You” that was wildly popular at the time)

Gene Rhodes had an excellent way of capturing his way of life on the range for us all with such realistic characters and dialogue that can never be equaled for authenticity by most other western writers. He also had a strong code of honor and firmly held principles that always show up in his stories—sometimes obviously in the print, and at other times hidden under the surface and not directly visible. He was not a man to change those deeply held principles for a story, as was evidenced when he turned down a handsome offer as a scriptwriter in Hollywood because he wouldn’t write a scene the Script Department insisted upon.¹ 

His love for the land and culture of the south-west, and the personality of the people permeates his writing. If any man had a first hand knowledge of the territory and land, it was Gene Rhodes. When he writes about the land out west, it is as if you were writing about your own backyard. He knew every mountain, every waterhole, every hidden valley, every town . . .and by reading his works you can feel in his descriptions that he has touched the mesa, tasted the dust, and been down the adobe streets of the town and knows them with the same familiarity that you have for your house and garage.

The realistic-ness of Rhodes books are unequaled in western fiction to my knowledge, and a real store of wealth to be treasured and savored.

¹ Cleavland, Agnes Morley, No Life For A Lady University Of Nebraska Press ©1977

“In The Camp of the Black Riders” by Capwell Wyckoff ~Review

Black Rider#1 DSCF0940

Synopsis:  Ted and Buck are a couple of “clean cut, manly boys” who agree to go on a month long camping trip with 18 younger boys.  Stepping up to their responsibilities manfully they come across some mysterious doings that calls out their resourcefulness.  Camping in the middle of nowhere, on a historic piece of land where a group of Patriot guerrilla fighters once met clandestinely during the Revolutionary War. They come across many unusual occurrences and become the victims of some “haunted” tricks by an unknown antagonist. Then the tricks become more than play and start to become dangerous…and if that weren’t enough, one of the boys in their group is becoming hard to handle…



Capwell Wyckoff

This little-known book was written by Campwell Wyckoff (1903-1953), author of the Mercer Boys series. It is a children’s mystery story probably aimed at the age range of 10-15 year-olds, though younger boys may enjoy it just as much. It follows the tradition of the Hardy Boys series and the countless others of the time: a simple clean mystery, with manly boys who shoulder responsibility, take risks, and whose ingenuity and braveness pulls them out of many a scrape.


Title: In The Camp Of The Black Riders

Publisher: The Saalfield Publishing Company

Original Publication Year: 1931

It’s a fun, lighthearted story that would make a nice gift to your little man (and help him start a fine antique library), a easy-to-read story to pull out on his sick days, or a great book for summer reading in the tree-house.

It’s Currently Available in the Shop! In The Camp of The Black Rider