The Partridge Family (Michael Avallone, 1970)

The Partridge Family, a burgeoning rock band, are traveling across the country in their multicolored bus to a gig in Reno. Along the way, an airplane flies over and drops a small tube containing a number of cassette tapes. Shirley, matriarch of the family, picks them up, thinking they’re a message from their manager, Reuben Kincaid. However, the tapes were actually intended for the two men in the car following not far behind the Partridges’ bus. The men are spies for “Red China” and the tapes are encoded message. Except they aren’t. They’re actually from the US government and the men are being used as false flag agents, but of course, they don’t know that. All they know is that the Partridges have the tapes and they’ve got to get them.

When I picked up these books (yes, there’s more than one — I’ve got seven), I fully expected them to be awful, but I could have had no idea just how awful they are. I’m no snob when it comes to books — I’ll as happily read dreck as I will a masterpiece — but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get through this after I’d read the first chapter. Thankfully, it’s less a “novel” than it is a long-ish short story of barely a hundred pages. Remove the endless repetition, single word paragraphs, and the random blank pages that are scattered throughout the book, and it would probably be 20 pages shorter.

I haven’t seen it in years, but I remember liking the TV show this book is based on. Avallone probably saw the pilot, but I imagine that’s where his familiarity with the material ended.

The Sapphire Bracelet (Edward Salisbury Field, 1910)

A young woman is staying at a resort hotel in New Jersey with her aunt. The place is no longer fashionable and she finds it rather dull. A young man appears, and for no other reason than to amuse herself, the woman concocts the story that a sapphire bracelet had been stolen from her room and that she was glad the detective had arrived so quickly. He, for no other reason besides having immediately fallen in love with her, plays along. The woman goes home and thinks nothing more of the event until a package arrives at her door containing a sapphire bracelet. She then must find a way to return the bracelet to its actual owner, who she’s sure is the disreputable woman with dyed hair she saw at the hotel, and get back at the man who got her into this situation — a man that, try as she might to hate, she’s also beginning to fall in love with.

Red Eagle Island (Kenneth Payson Kempton, 1925)

A 16 year old boy lives with his cold and repressive stepfather in a small Maine town. He watches the fishing ships in the harbor and dreams of a day when he might be aboard one. He makes an off-hand comment regarding nearby Red Eagle Island one evening and, to his confusion, finds himself thrown out of the house. As the story unfolds, the boy discovers a great deal about his stepfather he didn’t previously know — namely, that he seems to be embroiled in a plot to cheat at a high-stakes fishing boat race in Nova Scotia by substituting the boat that’s been entered into it with an identical looking yacht secretly being built on Red Eagle.

I tend to pick-up books at random and generally have not the slightest idea what they’re about before reading them, and there’s always a weird joy when I find one that starts to describe a familiar landscape, then mentions the name of a town I know, and then… yay, it’s Maine, I’m from there! It’s probably the same with anyone from places not brought up that frequently.

Lilac Time (Guy Fowler, 1928)

During WWI, a fleet of British airmen are billeted at a house in the French countryside. One of these is Captain Blythe, the son of General Blythe. He falls in love with the girl who lives in the house, Jeannine, but his father intends for him to marry Lady Iris, an Englishwoman of his own social standing. Romeo and Juliet with a WWI backdrop and a happy ending.

I’m not sure exactly when it was published. The earliest copies I can find are all photoplay editions tying into the 1928 film starring Colleen Moore and Gary Cooper. The story was previously dramatized as a stage play in 1917, but I don’t know if the book came before or after that. It reads rather like a novelization. My guess is that the play came first, then the film and novel were released concurrently in 1928.