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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 5 (August 1, 1936)

Among the Books — A Literary Page or Two

page 54

Among the Books
A Literary Page or Two

I Have just finished reading Will Lawson's second novel, “When Cobb & Co. Was King,” and have enjoyed every line. There is no doubt about the popular New Zealand writer having mastered the art of holding his readers—his experiences as a newspaper man have taught him this. I could glimpse his pen gamely trying to keep up with the rush of his thoughts. For this reason another novelist, less temperamental, would have padded this novel to twice its length. In places the writer often dispenses with necessary paragraphs. All this gives the book that breathless pace in accord with readers’ tastes these breathless days. Will Lawson reveals, too, a great imagination.

But, I have not told you what the novel is about. Is there need? The magic name of Cobb & Co.! The romance of the coaching days; the lure of the bush, the lure of gold; bushrangers, wine, women and song. All the highlights of those brave, bad, bold Australian days, when the cavalcade of coaches run by Cobb & Co. rattled their romantic routes through the country.

Will Lawson has given us the first faithful picture of the part played by a great enterprise in an epic period.

Angus & Robertson (Sydney) are the publishers.

* * *

The annual poem competition held by “Art in New Zealand” has been won by “Robin Hyde.” Commenting on her poem “Aria With Insects,” the editor of the magazine (Mr. C. A. Marris) states that it is further proof of the poet's steady progress in the field of poesy. The article relating to this competition is only one feature of many in the latest issue of the quarterly. On the art side there are two beautiful colour plates by T. A. Mc-Cormack, and of the several reproductions in black and white four are by the same artist. Roland Hipkins and J. C. Beaglehole discuss his work in special articles. Other contributors to the issue include E. D. Gore and Alan C. Browne. There is also an interesting article on the monotypes of K. M. Ballantyne.

George Russell (the famous “A. E.”), who died recently, once paid a great compliment to Pamela Travers. “She is producing,” he states, “some of the most beautiful poetry in Ireland today.” He was also a great admirer of Fritz Hart who set many of his poems to music.

* * *

Steele Rudd, the well known Australian writer who died a few months ago, had a host of fanatic admirers. I heard of one Aussie shearer who had a fight in nearly every shed he worked because some dared to contradict his assertion that Rudd was a better writer than Shakespeare. He was killed in the war but admitted in hospital that he had never read either author, but that “Steele Rudd was a dinkum Aussie and the Shakespeare cow wasn't.”

It is amusing sometimes to observe how “gingerly” English novelists refer to New Zealand when the scope of their plot includes this part of the world. Obviously the vague references are made usually to conceal ignorance. In a book I read recently two of the characters were “crooks” from New Zealand, they lived on a “sheep run” but the author has made them arrive in England per the Aorangi!

* * *

There are only five poems in “End of Day,” a booklet written by R. A. K. Mason, of Auckland, but in them is thought that one would not find in five hundred poems by a poet of smaller mental stature. In his opening Prelude, Mason flourishes his new sword,—

This short straight sword
I got in Rome.

Oh no, the rebel soul of R. A. K. has not turned to Rome, but in this book we can glimpse his spirit seeking. There is new, strange complex music in his lines. The booklet left me wondering.

* * *


“Barren Metal,” by Naomi Jacob (Hutchinson, London; Whitcombe & Tombs, New Zealand agents) is one of the best novels I have read this year. I think it is Naomi Jacob's finest book to date. Two great characterisations, Rachel and Meyer Pardo, occupy the stage most of the time. Commencing life humbly as a tailor, Meyer Pardo builds up a huge fortune. Money obliterates his love for Rachel, his wife, who is one of the most lovable figures of recent fiction. Rachel, with her rich beauty of soul and body (and her fascinating lisp), captures the heart of Sholto Falk, but a tragic turn in her husband's fortunes keep her true to Meyer. It is a great character study of the Jews, and fringing the main story are graphic touches of their persecution.

* * *

“Death In The Bathroom,” by Sir Basil Thomson (Eldon Press, London; Whitcombe & Tombs, New Zealand page 55 agents), is another Eldon mystery novel. Here we meet once more that likeable sleuth, Superintendent Richardson. A corpse is found in the bathroom of a suburban bungalow, but although an early arrest is made the surrounding circumstances are so unusual that Richardson decides there are other hands in the business. He threads his way through a mesh of clues as complicated as a de luxe jig saw puzzle. The way all the pieces are fitted together in the last chapter would thrill even the world's champion jig saw expert. Incidentally, friend Richardson discovers something more than the murderer.

* * *

“Bubble Reputation,” by P. C. Wren (John Murray, London; Whitcombe & Tombs Ltd., New Zealand agents), sees the author of “Beau Geste” in new vein. It is a tale of Devonshire, of hidden treasure, convicts, mystery and humour. Even the most dramatic touches are retailed in a light inconsequential, yet effective style. The clue to the treasure is in the lines “seeking the bubble of reputation even in the cannon's mouth,” except that bubble must be interpreted as bauble. How Sir Giles discovered his treasure in (or on) another mouth provides a happy ending to an interesting and well told story.

The now famous Century Library of Short Stories (Hutchinson, London; Whitcombe & Tombs Ltd., New Zealand agents) would not be complete without a collection of Western yarns, hence the latest volume “A Century of Western Stories.” The editor of the volume, George Goodchild, explains in his introduction that a decade or so age the “Western Story” meant cowboys and Red Indians, with concomitant embroidery of scalp-hunting and wholesale lynchings. “Western” has ceased to be geographical in relation to adventurous fiction and designates a type of story rather than its location. Hence the volume is richer in material, and includes such writers as Jack London, Zane Grey, Bret Harte, Sir Gilbert Parker and Stewart Edward White. The book has over 1,000 pages and incorporates 38 stories by 33 authors.

* * *

Shibli” Listens In.

Although published only a few months ago, “Annals of a N. Z. Family,” by Mrs. Laura Jackson (A. H. Reed) is already a collector's item.

* * *

Eric Ramsden's historical work on Samuel Marsden will be shortly published by A. H. and A. W. Reed.

* * *

Due for publication shortly is a collection of sketches written for the Saturday supplements of two or three New Zealand papers by M. E. S., who, if I mistake not, is Mrs. Mary Scott, another of whose pen names is Martyn Stuart.

New fiction announced for early publication by Angus and Robertson includes the following: “Bridle Track,” by J. J. Hardie; “Everlasting Hurricane,” by R. W. Coulter; “Dirk Spaanders,” by Ernest Wells; “Boomtime Gold,” by G. W. Wicking; “The Third String,” by T. Stuart Gurr; “The Shearer's Colt,” by A. B. Paterson.

* * *

Two more Australian books have been considered worthy of separate English editions, “Lasseter's Last Ride” and “The Cattle King,” both by Ion Idriess.